Tribute to Justice JS Verma

Justice JS Verma

Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma, who headed the government-appointed committee to frame a tough law to tackle crime against women in the wake of the December Delhi gang rape incident, passed away on 22 April 2013. He was eighty years old.

He had set several new benchmarks for judicial activism and accountability, and shook the conscience of the nation towards protecting and preserving dignity and rights of the working poor, women and other vulnerable social groups.

He stated that the country must account for the tears of its people and all wings of the state must protect the rights and dignity of the women, the children and the marginalised.

The late JS Verma also had a deeper understanding of the rights deprivation of the street vendors and he had written that the street vendors make the bus stops and footpaths safe for communities and pedestrians, in addition to providing basic social services for the common people. The informal workers should not be subjected to harassment and terror of authorities.

Justice Verma was the 27th Chief Justice of India and served from March 25, 1997 until his retirement on January 18, 1998.

He had headed the committee formed by the government to give recommendations for a stringent anti-rape law after the brutal Delhi gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedic student on December 16, 2012. Most of the recommendations of this committee, which also had Gopal Subramanian and Leela Seth as its members, were accepted by the government.

The government passed an ordinance based on these suggestions and an anti-rape law was passed by Parliament in the first half of the budget session this year.

Justice Verma was born on 18 January 1933.  He obtained the degrees of Bachelor of Science and Legum Baccalaureus, or LLB, from the Allahabad University, and subsequently enrolled at the Bar in 1955.  He was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in 1972, its Chief Justice in 1985, and was subsequently appointed the Chief Justice of the High Court of Rajasthan in 1986.

Justice Verma was twice the Acting Govenor of Rajasthan between 1987 and 1989.

In 1989, he was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of India, and was on 25 March 1997 appointed the Chief Justice of India. Justice Verma was also the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India from 4 November 1999 to 18 January 2003.

During his time on the Bench, Justice Verma was known for his judicial integrity, intellect and progressiveness, particularly in the field of Constitutional law.