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HomeIndiaJustice Nazeer, noted theatre artist & people’s judge, retires | India News

Justice Nazeer, noted theatre artist & people’s judge, retires | India News

NEW DELHI: “Anything for the country” was Justice S Abdul Nazeer’s refrain as he smiled when told that he could have given a dissenting judgment to be a hero of his community without disturbing the outcome of the Ayodhya verdict in November 2019, which awarded the disputed site to Hindus and a five-acre land to Muslims to settle a litigation that fomented communal passions for over a century.
Born with a wooden spoon in a remote village in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, he almost cracked up after being saddled with a huge family burden as his father passed away when he was still in school. Undeterred, he completed graduation and then joined a law college.
The inspirational words of his law teacher — “If anyone does not fit into the legal profession, he would not fit into any” — kept motivating him to build a huge practice in the courts of Karnataka.
But he did not let it come in the way of his other passion – theatre. He composed plays, wrote dialogues and was even the lead ‘female’ singer for one of the plays directed by him. You read it right. Dearth of female singers had required him to double up as one. After becoming a judge, he noticed that the judicial side too faced a dearth of women judges.
At his farewell function by the SC Bar Association, Justice Nazeer said, “Indian judiciary suffers from gender inequality. Representation of women in the judiciary is still very low. As Kofi Annan rightly said there is no tool for development more effective than women empowerment.”
He was appointed a judge of the Karnataka HC in 2003, exactly 20 years after he started practising law. In 2017, he was appointed a judge of the SC. At the function, CJI D Y Chandrachud said, “Justice Nazeer is a people’s judge who had expertise in all branches of law, especially in civil law and had an excellent demeanour as a judge.”
Justice Nazeer ended his last address to lawyers as an SC judge by quoting the popular Sanskrit ‘shloka’ — “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshita”, which he said relates to him the most. “Everything in this world is founded on Dharma. Dharma destroys those who destroy it and Dharma protects those who protect it,” he said.
His first brush with a Constitution bench was being part of the 9-judge bench that ruled that the right to privacy is an intrinsic part of right to life in K Puttaswamy case. But the most famous and arduous adjudication was that of the century-old litigation between Hindus and Muslims claiming ownership over a disputed 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya, regarded as the Lord Ram’s birthplace by Hindus and where the Babri Masjid stood till 1992 prior to its demolition.
Though Justice Nazeer did not utter a word during the 42-day long charged hearing in the Ayodhya case, in the background , he played a pivotal role in framing of the unanimous verdict that awarded the disputed site to the Hindus and ordered the government to provide a five-acre land to Muslims at a prominent place in Ayodhya. He and his family faced security risks, but he worked with a smile. A large-hearted man, Justice Nazeer prefers to credit the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Chandrachud for striking unanimity in the 5-judge bench.
He was part of the dissenting judgment in the triple talaq case, in which three judges termed this practice of instant divorce among Muslims as unconstitutional. Then CJI J S Khehar, with whom Justice Nazeer agreed, had said that since triple talaq was part of Shariat and not a state legislation, its constitutionality cannot be tested on the same touchstone, which is applied on state laws.
He headed 5-judge benches which recently by 4-1 majority validated the 2016 demonetisation exercise and refused to read in more restrictions to the right to free speech in order to restrain ministers and public servants from delivering hate or disparaging statements.



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