About Rajinder Sachar’s Autobiography

I believe that no one is privileged enough to not face struggles in life and every person has different struggles in their life. The difference has been stated in crystal clear words by Siddhant Chaturvedi 

“Jahaan hamare sapne poore hote hain, wahaan inka struggle shuru hota hai.”

On my behalf it would be harsh to say but this autobiography seemed to be captured by some agenda. Anyways this autobiography helps you to understand how politics and judiciary works and what is the influence of politicians on Judiciary. It also helps in understanding the qualities required to become a good judge and how to be impartial while giving judgments.

Interesting Anecdotes from autobiography– 

-Sachar filed a Second Appeal which could be heard only on a question of Law. In spite of arguing hard, the Hon’ble Judge was not inclined to accept his Appeal. In a spur of a moment he said- “My lord, what is this? Three matters of senior advocate have been admitted, but my matter, a junior’s matter, has not been admitted”. Justice kapoor took it in a sporting way and allowed the Appeal.

-He was arguing an appeal in a grievous hurt case where there were two Accused Persons. Accused no. 1 was represented by Sachar, who was imprisoned for seven years and the Accused no. 2 was represented by a Senior Advocate who was imprisoned for six months. Accused no. 2 was granted bail till the time of disposal of appeal. Subsequently bail was filed for accused no. 1 by Sachar and while arguing the same, Sachar argued that the accused no. 2 may be granted bail on the ground of parity but chose not to disclose that his client was awarded seven years of imprisonment, luckily the Judge did not enquire. His client was also granted bail.

Qualities according to Rajender Sachar which a Judge must possess-

-Judges must not be rigid. A judge who keeps his vanity intact and refuses to change his opinion even if it deserves so much on merit, is, according to him, a bad Judge.

-Judges must not accept any presents from lawyers on any festivals or otherwise. He believed and rightly so that no matter what the motivation of the lawyer may be, it sends the wrong marriage. (it reminds me of a recent case where a lawyer was jailed for sending birthday wishes to the lady judge

-A judge who is able to give a feeling to the members of the public and the Bar that in his discharge of duties nothing but merit of the case counts, would triumph in his duty.

-A judge must always remember that he is not a mere machine.

-When it comes to the appointment of judges to Hon’ble Court, honesty and legal integrity at the Bar are factors that cannot be ignored. 

-He was a firm believer that Judges must not take part in any political events directly or indirectly.

Beginning

Rajender Sachar was born in the pre-independence era(1923) in Pakistan and was fortunate to witness the independence and partition of two nations(out of which one nation has become chinese colony). He was a hardcore socialist and I do not blame him as he was born in a time where whole world was convinced that socialism is the way out but it is a fact that not one country was able to survive with socialism. 

He admired his father and followed his advice obediently. His father was a staunch Arya Samaj follower and a lawyer who later on became Chief Minister of Punjab and then governor of some state. He grew up listening to our history i.e. Ramayana and Mahabharata and was very fond of it. His father was very active in the freedom struggle and was jailed for a couple of times. While in jail, his father interacted with the Great Bhagat Singh just sometime before he was to be hanged. Sachar’s father tried to convince Bhagat Singh to not give in to the britishers but Bhagat Singh politely refused and said “the country will be served better by my sacrifice”. 

Later on in life his father left his law practice to join the non-cooperation movement. His father was jailed during the emergency period(1975) while Sachar was serving as Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court. 

Rajinder Sachar was raised in a joint family. He did not believe in spirituality and claimed that he never visited any temple but he used to do pooja regularly. He even dropped his last name in school as he did not wish anyone to know who his father was. 

He had a very enthusiastic college life and was active in politics and sports. In no time he became captain of the college tennis team and was also elected as vice president of the students’ council. He became a committed socialist by the time he graduated in 1943. He became eligible to practice law in 1946. He did not like the short term pleasures of alcohol and cigarettes.

Initially he was confused as to whether to practice law or work as an active socialist. This dilemma stayed in his life till eternity. Early in his practice he used to often visit workers associations to help them in whatever capacity he could.

PARTITION

He narrates that the debates regarding partition used to be heated debates. Muslim students were overwhelmingly pro-pakistan but Hindus were very much convinced that it was not a viable idea(it has become true now). Muslims believed that their demand for pakistan was justified.

I believe he explained the partition in detail but eventually missed the incident of dead bodies of Hindus arriving in India in trains from Pakistan until we responded in their language but mentioned the incident where the same thing happened from India’s side.

By his version it is India who did violence and not Pakistan. This version would not be tenable and acceptable to many. Similarly while explaining the incident of exodus of Kashmiri Pandit from Kashmir, not even once he criticised the Islamist but twisted the event by saying that it was the Governor of that time who forced the Pandits to leave kashmir. He evidently ignored the event of brutalities committed on Pandits at that time by the Islamic militants and how they were supported by the local population of Kashmir. 

As life progressed, he became an active member of Socialist party and was selected as executive member of the committee, which was responsible for the selection of members for contesting elections. At that time elections were to be held in Punjab and his father was the Chief Minister candidate. He faced dilemmas while making political decisions as he was fighting elections against his fathers party. His father was very supportive to him and never interfered into his public and political life. 

The relationship of Sachar and his father can be a good example for today’s generation.

Alongside he was continuing his legal practice. After completing two years at district courts he moved to Punjab and Haryana High Court(PHC). At that time PHC was in Shimla. While his father was the Chief Minister of Punjab, he used to file a lot of cases for human rights violations in Punjab Courts against the Government of Punjab but it never affected their personal relationship. 

In the 60s a couple of his juniors were elevated as judges of High Courts but not him, which really disappointed him but he took it in a good spirit, consoled himself and made up his mind that he would never become a Judge. But who can fight the destiny, in 1970 he got an offer from Justice HR Khanna to become a Judge in Delhi High Court which was backed by Justice SK Sikri. Pursuant to this he took oath as a judge of the Delhi High Court. 

In 1975, he was assigned the task to set up the High Court of Sikkim and be the Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court as Sikkim was scheduled to become the 22nd state of India. He resisted it as he did not want to leave Delhi but then due to pressure went there only on one condition that he would be working there only for six months. The six months stretched to a long period as he was not called back as per promise. He wanted to return to Delhi High Court as the work in Sikkim was not satisfactory as there were less number of cases

It is believed that if a Judge is being transferred to a High Court in a state which has less population then they are being demoted. 

He had to stay as Chief Justice of Sikkim for a couple of years as his plan for returning to Delhi High Court got delayed due to politics and an unfortunate event of Emergency(Allahabad High Court declared the election of Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister illegal) in India. Most of the leaders including Sachar’s father were jailed after the emergency was imposed. He fought hard to get his father out of jail and got filed a Habeas Corpus Writ Petition for the production of his father. 

As all the decisions in Indian politics in the emergency period were taken by Sanjay Gandhi. Sachar described Sanjay Gandhi as a spoilt son. He was trained by Indira Gandhi to create a dynasty. He was given free hand to make critical decisions, like family planning and ordering the arrest of political opponents or one could say he became an extra-constitutional centre of power who was running the government. 

Many judicial officers lost their permanent seat of a High Court Judge as they gave decisions which were not in favour of the government and Justice HR Khanna lost the seat of Chief Justice of India. He shares the incident where he went to meet HR Khanna a day before the pronouncement of judgement which cost HR Khanna his seat of Chief Justice of India. HR Khanna said ‘I have written my judgement. That judgement is going to cost me my Chief Justiceship because I am the only one(out of the judge bench) who is holding the government action to be illegal.

(I remember one incident of emergency narrated by my grandfather. He says that everything became strict, even people who never used to buy bus tickets started buying tickets regularly).

In 1976 Sachar was betrayed by the government when he was relieved from his duties as Chief Justice of Sikkim and transferred to Rajasthan High Court(Jodhpur) instead of Delhi High Court. He got so angry that he thought of resigning but was convinced otherwise by his friends, Tarkunde and Soli Sorabjee

During his tenure at Rajasthan High Court he used to travel by car pool and sometimes on bicycle(today can we imagine a judge travelling on a bicycle?) as in those times the waiting period for a car used to be two to three years. . On his first cycling trip to High Court, the guard did not allow him to enter and questioned his identity. 

During his tenure a circuit bench of the High Court was set up in Jaipur.  

In 1977 the emergency was lifted and as feared by everyone, HR Khanna was superseded by Justice Beg. Therefore, Khanna sir resigned and to mark his respect his portrait was placed in Court no. 2. Sachar says that “had Chandrachud and Bhagwati shown moral stamina to have agreed with Khanna, the emergency would have ended a lot earlier.

In 1978, the Janata Party government was formed. This government was not willing to make Chandrachud as the Chief Justice of India. It was Sachar who convinced the officials of the political party not to supersede Chandrachud and explained to them the dangers of supersession. Later on Sachar went on to meet Chandrachud where Chandrachud said ‘I don’t care whether I am made Chief Justice or not. I did it because Gokhale told me, “If you do not decide, we will change the High Court Chief Justices and I will appoint Antulay as the Allahabad Chief Justice.’

Sachar was even appointed as Chairman of a few committees like ‘the High Powered Committee on Companies and the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Acts’ and ‘Social, Economic and Educational status of the Muslim community in India.’

We all know about the influence of politicians on the judiciary and the same is affirmed by this autobiography. Sachar shared an incident which shows how much power a PM has over the appointment of the judge. A senior most district judge was appointed an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court in 1979 for two years. He was supposed to be made a permanent judge but by that time Indira Gandhi was back on the seat of PM. Subsequently, he was not made a permanent judge because while he was a sessions judge he sentenced two years imprisonment to Sanjay Gandhi in the Kissa Kursi ka case.

Sachar further shares the case ‘SP Gupta vs. President of India’ also known as First Judge Case. In this case it was held that in the matter of appointment of judges, the primary power over appointment of judges is with the constitutional functionaries and not the Chief Justice of India. 

He points out the weakness of the judiciary in clear and express words. His words written in his autobiography are produced here for your convenience- “Whenever judiciary loses its power somewhat, it has a great deal to do with its own weak responses to the arbitrariness of the executive. As to why judges come under political pressure, I would say it is a question of temperament and one’s own needs. If you are weak, have ambition and want to take advantage of a situation for future benefit, you naturally succumb to political pressure. Otherwise, judges have no reason to be under pressure.”

He shares his experience of 1984 Sikh Riots. An advocate who was sikh used to appear before him regularly but after during riots he cut off his beard and hair and even removed his turban, therefore Sachar was not able to recognize him. He was reminded and informed about this advocate by his court staff. Such was the fear at that time. I wonder why he did not take suo moto cognizance of the situation. You and I both would agree that if the higher judiciary would have shown guts and taken strong action at the right time, many sikh families would have been alive today. He did not fail to criticise the BJP government wherever possible but failed to praise the BJP government who reopened this case and served justice to sikhs by prosecuting the accused person guilty of killing sikhs in large numbers.

Sachar and Supreme Court

In 1985, Sachar was the senior most judge of Delhi High Court and he was to become the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court but his name was not being cleared by the Ministry. With some delay and well wishers he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court just four months prior to his retirement.

He says that Justices Krishna Iyer and Desai wanted to bring him to the Supreme Court from Delhi High Court but Bhagwati was of a different opinion. 

He further gave an example where he showed the significance of lobbies of the judges and how they work. It matters when the appointment of judges to the Hon’ble Supreme Court is in question. There has to be equal representation of states in the Supreme Court. 

As he was not appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, he retired as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on 22.05.1985 and got back to practice. Later on he thanked Bhagwati for not appointing him as Supreme Court Judge because he was very happy with his legal practice after retirement. 

He beautifully answered the question ‘Why do judges take a different view of the same point/proposition?’ He says that it’s a fallacy to think of judges as machines and expect them to deliver the same results in a particular situation. That cannot be so, for every judge’s decision is influenced by the major inarticulate premise that plays a role in his/her thinking. A person’s philosophical thinking, which is developed even before he becomes a judge, has a great deal to do with how he arrives at his judgment.

In his autobiography he also raises an issue that how litigants always look for some weakness that can be used to soften a judge. Example-a party did not abide by the direction of Justice Sachar and to avoid any adverse order, the party hired a very close friend of Sachar to get away with it. 

He discussed the Kashmir issue in detail wherein he stated that the reason for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandit was due to Jagmohan’s order wherein he sent them to Jammu and forced them to live like beggars in their own country. But then he forgot to bring them back to Kashmir and settle them. Surprisingly in his autobiography there was no mention of mass rape, murder, warnings to Hindus and destruction of their temple. I feel this as another attempt to dilute the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits. 

At last he was called to take his consent to honor him the Padma Award which he very politely declined. He was against the political connection of judges and judges should never accept any government postings after retirement. 

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