The Supreme Court: A story of ups and downs

Print edition : September 01, 2017

A view of the Supreme Court building at Tilak Marg, New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan

January 28, 1950: The inaugural sitting of the Supreme Court of India. In the top row are the judges of the Supreme Court (from left), Justices S.R. Das, M.C. Mahajan, S. Fazl Ali, H.J. Kania (the first Indian Chief Justice of India), M. Patanjali Sastri and B.K. Mukherjea. In the bottom row are the Chief Justices of High Courts (from left), B. Malik, M.C. Chagla, P.V. Rajamannar, B. Ray, Thadani, Vivian Bose, Eric Watson, H.V. Divatia, Teja Singh, Meddappa, R.S. Naik, P.K. Kaul and Kunhiraman. Photo: The Hindu Archives

M.C. Setalvad, India’s first Attorney General. He said that the Supreme Court’s foremost task was to interpret the Constitution. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Justice H.R. Khanna. His was the sole dissenting voice in the A.D.M. Jabalpur case when he said that the right to life and liberty existed before the Constitution and therefore could not be taken away from the state under any circumstances. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. He was one of the judges who made effective use of PIL in the post-Emergency period. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Justice P.N. Bhagwati. His creative and expansive interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution gave people many new unenumerated rights. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy. With reference to the power of superintendence over High Courts that the Supreme Court has assumed to itself, he says in his memoirs: “The stature of the High Courts has automatically reduced in the eyes of the public, which it never should be.” Photo: The Hindu Archives

The Supreme Court of India, whose jurisdiction and powers are wider than those of the highest courts of other Commonwealth countries and the United States, has a chequered history.
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