New Delhi: With Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala taking oath as a Supreme Court judge Monday, the top court is set to get a future Chief Justice of India, a Manna Dey fan, a cricket lover and a judge known for going the extra mile for sparring couples and for adding a “human touch” to his judgments.
Making his way to the apex court after just eleven years of being elevated as a judge, Justice Pardiwala superseded several senior judges and chief justices of high courts to become the latest entrant as a judge to the Supreme Court.
The addition of Gujarat high court judge and Gauhati high court chief justice Sudhanshu Dhulia to the court takes the number of judges in the Apex Court to its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges — after a gap of 30 months. Their appointment was formalised by the Union ministry of law and justice within just 48 hours after their nomination by the collegium.
Justice Pardiwala is also only the fourth member of the Parsi community to make his way to the Supreme Court and is in line to become the Chief Justice of India in May 2028, with a tenure of two years and three months.
Over the course of his 11 year long tenure as a high court judge, Justice Pardiwala’s judgments made headlines several times– from his appeal to scrap the marital rape exception, and a call to bring in a uniform civil code, to several orders pulling up the government over its management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a midnight hearing refusing permission for the Jagannath Rath yatra in the State. He is also one of the few judges to have escaped an impeachment motion for his anti-reservation remarks in one of his orders.
From ‘Japu’ to Justice Pardiwala
Fondly called ‘Japu’ by his family, Justice Pardiwala comes from a family of lawyers in Valsad in South Gujarat. His grandfather, Cawasji Navrojji Pardiwala began practicing law in 1929 and continued till 1958. His father, Burjor Cawasji Pardiwala, a lawyer, was also the Speaker of the seventh Gujarat Legislative Assembly from December 1989 to March 1990.
Justice Pardiwala began practicing in 1988 and was elevated as an additional judge of the high court in February 2011. He was confirmed as a permanent judge in January 2013.
Senior advocate Jal Unwalla, a friend of Justice Pardiwala since 1992, told ThePrint that the judge used to be a good tennis player before he started practicing. He, however, remains an “avid cricket fan”.
“Since the last five to seven years, he wouldn’t follow any team as such, but at the same time, he would always be updated with the scores if India is playing.”
Unwalla also told ThePrint that Justice Pardiwala is a fond of music, “especially old Hindi songs…spending whatever little free time at his disposal listening to Kishore Kumar, Muhammad Rafi, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshwar and Asha Bhosle”.
He added that Justice Pardiwala “is a very religious and God Loving man, believes a lot in destiny”.
The transition from “Japu” to Justice Pardiwala, however, came with him being “away from social circles after he became a judge”. Unwalla said that “he believed in the old school of law and old school of justice, that judges cannot mix much and should avoid socializing much, and thereby keep their standards of judging very high.”
‘The human touch’
Young lawyers who ThePrint spoke to, called him their “favourite judge”, and spoke about his humour, command over language and the “human touch” he adds to his judgments.
A senior advocate, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint “when it comes to the reunion of couples who have children, he would always call them in the chambers and plead with them to not let their children suffer”.
Another young lawyer, who did not wish to be named, said that Justice Pardiwala seemed like a “family man”. She says Justice Pardiwala took time to personally sit with a couple in his chambers after court hours to speak to them after the wife claimed that she did not want to be with the husband anymore, but the husband did not want to let go. “He took that personal interest to deliver justice, and not just justice in the eyes of law, but to do justice to both the humans as two individuals,” she added.
The lawyer said that when it came to divorce cases that involve children, “he gets emotional and tells them (husband and wife) how the kids are getting affected because of the parents. He seems like such a family man.”
In April 2018, Justice Pardiwala had also spoken against marital rape, observing that the “destructive attitude” that promotes rape in a marriage can be removed only by making marital rape “illegal”.
“The total statutory abolition of the marital rape is the first necessary step in teaching societies that dehumanised treatment of women will not be tolerated and that the marital rape is not a husband’s privilege, but rather a violent act and an injustice that must be criminalised,” the judge had written.
From Jagannath Yatra to Uniform Civil Code
Another young lawyer, who has been appearing before Justice Pardiwala for over two years now, spoke about how holistic his judgments are. “Whenever he is pronouncing a judgment, he has an empathetic, logical angle, and he gives regard to the facts as well,” she said.
In 2015, Justice Pardiwala was appreciated for his observations “questioning well-established orthodoxies” — from Bal Diksha among Jains to polygamy among Muslims. On Bal Diksha or the practice of renunciation of the world at a very early age among the Jains, he had asked, “Why children of tender age being encouraged to renounce the world by taking ‘diksha’. Is it for their own spiritual gain or because the religion says so or for the benefit of the community at large?”
He had called polygamy among Muslims a “heinously patriarchal act”. On Muslim personal law allowing girls over the age of 15 years or those who have attached puberty to marry, Justice Pardiwala had said that “those who have not allowed to change the Muslim Personal Law have done a great disservice to the community”. In both these orders, he spoke about a Uniform Civil Code.
Justice Pardiwala was also a part of the bench that held a midnight hearing on 23 June 2020 and refused to recall its earlier order barring the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad. The hearing, in this case, began post-midnight and the order was pronounced at 2:00 AM.
During the pandemic, he was a part of a bench that passed several strictures against the state, central government, and private hospitals for their management of Covid-19. For instance, on 22 May 2020, he made headlines with a strongly-worded order that came down heavily on the state government for the condition of the “dungeon-like” Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. In another order, the bench called the Covid-19 outbreak a “critical war-like situation”, warning private hospitals to either regulate their “exorbitant fee” or face cancellation of their licenses.
Besides his judgments, lawyers also appreciated his interactions with the litigants in court.
“When he is pronouncing a judgment in which, say, the people are really poor or they don’t understand English, he goes an extra mile to explain the judgment in court in Gujarati, to let them know the repercussions of the order,” a lawyer practicing in the high court told ThePrint.
However, on 18 December 2015, Justice Pardiwala found himself in the eye of the storm when 58 Rajya Sabha MPs submitted a petition to Chair Hamid Ansari seeking to move an impeachment motion against him.
The reason for this step was over a remark Justice Pardiwala had made in a judgment dated 1 December 2015. The judgment, while quashing the sedition charge against Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel over Patidar quota stir, had said, “If I am asked by anyone to name two things, which has destroyed this country or rather, has not allowed the country, to progress in the right direction, then it is, reservation and corruption.”
The verdict had gone on to say that it is “very shameful” for any citizen to ask for reservation after 65 years of independence, and that “reservation has only played the role of an amoeboid monster sowing seeds of discord amongst the people.
“The parody of the situation is that India must be the only country wherein some of the citizens crave to be called backward,” it added.
Facing the possibility of impeachment, Justice Pardiwala had then, within hours, expunged the remarks, saying that they were not ‘relevant’ or ‘necessary’ to decide the petition. The application to remove the remarks at the time was made by the state government.
(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)