BENGALURU: Quoting scripture from the Bible, “The day of death is better than the day of birth”, Justice John Michael Cunha paraphrased it for his retirement, saying, “The day of retirement is better than the day of swearing-in as judge”.
Justice Cunha was speaking at his farewell ceremony at the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, after attaining superannuation. Born on April 7, 1959, Justice Cunha was appointed Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court on November 14, 2016. As a judge of the trial court, Justice Cunha, who hails from Mangaluru, was known for historic judgments, like the conviction and sentencing of former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, her aide Sasikala Natarajan and two others, for their involvement in the disproportionate assets case.
Though the Karnataka HC reversed this judgment, the Supreme Court intervened, and confirmed Cunha’s judgment. Recollecting this, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka said, “The judgment of the trial court has become history. But the important observation made by the Apex Court was that ‘the trial court was meticulous, sensitive, vigilant and judicious in appraisal of evidence’, thus, the Apex Court summed up the judicial quality of Justice Cunha in one line.”
The Chief Justice also noted that Justice Cunha had disposed of 216 criminal cases within a short duration as Special Judge, after he was assigned cases involving MPs and MLAs.To quote a few recent major judgments, Justice Cunha declined relief to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in land denotification cases, he granted relief to IPS officer Hemant Nimbalkar in the IMA ponzi case, and KPCC president DK Shivakumar in cases registered by the Income Tax department for evasion of tax.
Sharing his views, Justice Cunha narrated how 2001 became a turning point for him. “For the first time in the history of the High Court of Karnataka, a written examination was conducted for selection of District Judges in 2001. It is only because of this examination that I could get into the judiciary. Otherwise, I couldn’t even have dreamt of it,” he said.
The exams, besides having transparency and objectivity in the selection process, also paved the way for representation of diverse sections of society, he added. Justice Cunha concluded by stating that he did not have any regrets. “I have the highest satisfaction of serving the institution without fear or favour. I have never done anything to damage the image of the judiciary and served the cause of justice to the best of my ability,” he said.