The entire Madras Bar seems to be elated with the fact that in less than a month, one of its very own would hold the highest office in Indian judiciary.
Many remember Justice P Sathasivam, who will on July 19 become the first Tamil to occupy the seat of the Chief Justice of India, as a meticulous lawyer who gave much importance to even insignificant details while presenting his cases.
But none would know him more than Senior Advocate Muthumani Duraisamy, under whom Justice Sathasivam started his career as a cub lawyer in 1973.
Duraisamy told Express that Justice Sathasivam hailed from small village and got married even before he took admissions at the Government Law College in Chennai.
Even as a student, Sathasivam began to frequent Duraisamy’s office and showed a keen interest in writ cases.
Duraisamy says he had such confidence in Sathasivam that he allowed him to manage his office during his absence when he took over as public prosecutor during MGR’s regime.
“He was quite an all rounder. But he was particularly keen in working on writ appeals, which many of us consider the toughest,” says Duraisamy.
In preparation for cases, Sathasivam was “very meticulous” and dealt with cases of all clients with the same sincerity. During arguments, Sathasivam had the habit of putting forth arguments both for and against the matter at hand and then try to convince the judge as to why his side was right in law.
“Judges in fact liked him because he never misled the court for the sake of winning a case,” says Duraisamy.
Providing an interesting anecdote, which serves as an example to how sensitive Justice Sathasivam was to people’s issues, Duraisamy said his junior had the habit of closing water taps whenever and wherever he saw them open.
“He was very sensitive about wasting water and would keep advising people not to do it. Whenever he saw a tap open, he would immediately go and close it unmindful of the place,” Duraisamy recalls.
As a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sathasivam has been part of several landmark judgments, including the Reliance case involving the Ambani brothers. He famously observed that in a democracy like India, national assets belong to the people.
Another sensational case was the one pertaining to the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts, in which the bench he was part of, in a 2,000-page judgment, commuted death sentence to many and confirmed the conviction of actor Sanjay Dutt.
Justice Sathasivam was also known for his sensitive handling of issues relating to women and children. In a historic pronouncement in the Childline Foundation case, he elaborated on the rights provided to children in the Constitution and harped on the need for dealing with cases relating to crimes against children seriously.
Lawyer N L Rajah says that as someone hailing from this part of the country, he hopes Justice Sathasivam would help issues from the south of India have more representation in the apex court.
“Statistics point that just one per cent of cases from Madras High Court go on appeal to the Supreme Court whereas this figure is 12 per cent for Delhi High Court. We hope this scenario would change and he would do something about it,” he says.