Late Chief Justice J.S. Verma (2009 – 2013): retired as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Earlier he has been a Judge and Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan High Courts respectively.
He was born on 18 January 1933. He obtained the degrees of B.Sc. and LL.B. from the Allahabad University and then joined the Bar in 1955; became a Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1972; its Chief Justice in 1985; the Chief Justice of Rajasthan in 1986; a Judge of the Supreme Court of India in 1989; and was the Chief Justice of India from 25 March 1997 to 18 January 1998. He was also the Acting Governor of Rajasthan, twice between 1987 and 1989.
He was Chairman of the One Man Commission to inquire into the security lapses leading to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination (1991-1992); and the Chairman of the Committee to suggest operationalisation of the Fundamental Duties (1998- 1999). He was the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission from 4 November 1999 to 18 January 2003.
Justice Verma is known for judicial creativity in the field of gender and social justice, probity in public life, judicial accountability, sustainable development and human rights. Some of his pronouncements in Vishaka-AIR1997 SC 3011, Nilabati Behra-AIR1993 SC 1960, Srilekha Vidyarthi-AIR1991 SC 537, Ayodhya-AIR1995 SC 605, Hawala-AIR1998 SC 889, relating to entry of dalits in the Nathdwara Temple-AIR1989 Rajasthan 99, and TNGodavarman-AIR1997 SC 1228 relating to environment, are landmark in innovative interpretation of the Constitution.
As Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Justice Verma widened the horizon of human rights, giving special thrust to economic, social and cultural rights along with group rights of the marginalized and minorities. He focused on public health and social security as human rights issues to cover HIV/AIDS, and other critical issues, including the ‘right to food’ or the ‘right to be free from hunger’, abolition of child and bonded labour.
Among the several honours conferred on him, are included the Honoris Causa degrees of LL.D. by the Banaras Hindu University and the Universities of Allahabad and Jabalpur; the Honoris Causa degree of Vakpati (D.Litt.) by the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi; and the Honoris Causa degree of D.Sc. by the G.B. Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar; the ‘Distinguished Alumni Award’ by the Allahabad University Alumni Association; Shri Gulzarilal Nanda Birth Centenary (Naitik Diwas) Award, 1998; National Law Day Award, 2001; and Dr. B.R.Ambedkar National Award for Social Justice, 2002.
His publications include two Miscellanies titled the ‘New Dimensions of Justice’ (2000) and ‘The New Universe of Human Rights’ (2004) containing speeches and articles relating to law, human rights and public affairs apart from many later lectures, speeches and articles on similar topics. After demitting office of the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice Verma continues to engage himself in pursuing matters of national and public concerns, and advocating measures for amelioration of the of the polity.