Justice M N Venkatachaliah is adjudged the most erudite and urbane judge, who has adorned the Supreme Court of India. A judge with a deep knowledge of the philosophy of law and the ways of men, he provided moral and intellectual leadership. While being not wedded to any ‘ism’, he is devoted to constitutionalism and pragmatism, which makes for judicial statesmanship which has truly been his hallmark. During his term of seven years at the Supreme Court, he authored 90 judgments and was a part of 482 benches. His commitment to reducing the pendency of cases and making the judiciary more and more accountable was unwavering. During his tenure, the pendency fell to below 19,000. He served as the Chief Justice of India between 1993-1994.
He authored the Constitutional Bench judgment in the Bhopal Gas Leak tragedy case. Another landmark judgment was in Joginder Kumar vs State of UP, also known as the “guidelines for arrest” case, for the first time set standard grounds for arresting any individual. Justice Venkatachaliah did splendid work as the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. He continues to work on anti-corruption and human rights issues. He is a Man and a Judge for all seasons. He is a personification of ‘sweetness and light’, verily a living legend.