Former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati, who has been ailing for some time, passed away on Thursday at the age of 95. It was Justice Bhagwati who introduced the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to Indian judicial system.
However, the former Chief Justice is also associated with the infamous Habeas Corpus case. The case was heard in 1976 in the context of the Emergency. What was under question was whether a person could file Habeas Corpus writ if he has been subjected to unlawful detention. The bench comprising Bhagwati said that he/she could not in the judgement, which was interpreted by many as undermining a Fundamental Right. Notably, Habeas Corpus is one of the six writs that comes under the Right to Constitutional Remedies – a Fundamental Right.
However, Bhagwati called this judgement “an act of weakness” 30 years later, adding that “it was against my conscience… That judgement is not Justice Bhagwati’s.”
Justice Bhagwati was the 17th Chief Justice of India. He served from July 12, 1985 to December 20, 1986.
His wife Prabhavati and their three daughters survive him.