THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Kerala’s very own iconic centenarian, the messiah of people’s rights, a relentless voice for justice, he was the one who has seen it all, be it the Indian freedom struggle in the last century, shaping of the first ever Communist ministry in the world or the Emergency during the mid 70s.
While elaborating on his judicial experiences in the Indira Gandhi case, he often loved to recollect Indira Gandhi’s simple yet confident utterance at that time: “I have done nothing wrong!” It was Justice Iyer, as the Supreme Court judge, who had issued the historical verdict in the case.
Both as a politician and jurist, Iyer was instrumental in engraving a humane face onto the system he was part of. He had diligently opposed ‘third degree’ torture methods adopted by certain police officials and was never part of any violent protests.
Always at the forefront of massive public movements, never did Justice Iyer lose his cool. During his ministerial tenure, many people-oriented legislation were implemented. Though he was initially reluctant to be a judge, he finally took up the offer after his former Cabinet colleagues, the legendary E M S Namboodiripad and K R Gowri persuaded him to do so.
“When Krishna Iyer speaks, the nation listens,” said lawyer Fali S Nariman once. The last two decades witnessed him don the role of a jurist-turned-social activist in many of state’s socio-political issues such as the fight by the displaced victims of the national highway development projects, the people’s movement for setting up of the Kochi Cancer Centre and the like.
An eminent jurist, Justice Iyer was never reluctant to point fingers at his own clan. In September 2011, when reports came out about the involvement of a few judges in the ice cream parlour case, he demanded that all the allegations against the judges in the case be thoroughly investigated.
“Any allegation against members of the judiciary, whether serving or retired, should not be brushed aside.’’
He had lashed out against the judge who recused himself from hearing the Abhaya case calling the move highly deplorable and ridiculous. “Once he becomes part of the judiciary, he should adhere to each and every clause of the Constitution. If not, he should submit his resignation. There are many core values ingrained in the Constitution and it cannot be compromised at any level, “ he said.
And the series of recusals by the High Court judges from hearing the revision petition in the Lavalin case saw him shooting letters to the then Governor Nikhil Kumar as well as Manjulla Chellur, the then Chief Justice of Kerala, pointing out serious repercussions. Expressing a sense of shock, he had pointed out that every judge is obliged by his oath of office to hear every case posted before him.
Always willing to approach the highest echelons of power if he felt it right, Justice Iyer once wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding probe against a former CJI caught in the eye of a storm.