Profile: First Chairperson of Lokpal, Justice PC Ghose

Profile: First Chairperson of Lokpal, Justice PC Ghose

Murali Krishnan

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose has been appointed the first Chairperson of Lokpal.

Justice Ghose was elevated to the Supreme Court on March 8, 2013. After a tenure of more than four years, or 1541 days to be precise, Justice Ghose retired on May 27, 2017.

Justice Ghose enrolled at the Bar in 1976. Born to Justice SC Ghose, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, he went on to practise on both the original as well as the appellate side at the High Court.

He made the switch to the Bench in 1997, when he was elevated as a judge of the Calcutta High Court. He was then transferred to the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad, where he became the Chief Justice in December 2012.

During his tenure at the apex court, Justice Ghose was involved in a total of 190 reported orders and judgments. He authored 85 of these.

Justice Ghose’s most productive year was 2015, during which he made 68 rulings. His least productive year was his penultimate year at the apex court, 2016, during which he made a mere 22 rulings. To put that in perspective, he managed just three fewer rulings in 2017 even though he was in office only for half the year.

At the apex court, Justice Ghose established himself as a specialist in Criminal Law. This translated into his being given criminal rosters quite often, which in turn meant that he was involved in 104 rulings relating to criminal appeals. By comparison, he was involved in 72 orders and judgments relating to civil appeals. He also passed rulings while sitting on Benches that heard 6 civil writ petitions and 1 Special Reference.

Justice Ghose will probably be best remembered for his judgment in the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case. The judgment, which was passed after the death of the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, restored the trial court verdict in toto.

Along with Justice KS Radhakrishnan, he ruled that the practices of Jallikattu and bullock cart races to be violative of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

He was part of the 3:2 majority along with then CJI HL Dattu and Justice FMI Kalifulla that held that the state government has no suo motu power to remit sentences of persons who were convicted under a central law in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Justice Ghose also ruled on cases involving political leaders. He was part of the Constitution Bench that restored status quo in Arunachal Pradesh after President’s Rule was imposed in the state last year.

Along with Justice RF Nariman, he directed the trial court to frame charges of criminal conspiracy against BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and others involved in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

He was also part of the Bench that laid down guidelines for publication of government advertisements.

There were two major blots on his tenure.

One was the inordinate delay in delivering the verdict in the case against late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

The judgment in the case was reserved on June 7, 2016. However, it took eight long months before the judgment was eventually delivered in February 2017. By then, the appeal against Jayalalithaa had abated due to her death.

Another particularly unenviable instance was when the Supreme Court sought to pass a resolution demanding “respect” for lawyers “at the hands” of Justice Ghose and then CJI Dattu. This was eventually called off after the discussions between SCBA and CJI.

Read more about the tenure of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose in Supreme Court here.

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