12, Jun 2020 | CJP Team
Justice Hosbet Suresh (retd), who had set new standards for human rights jurisprudence in the country with his unwavering commitment to justice for all, passed away on June 11, 2020. The beloved former judge of the Bombay High Court was best known for being part of several key Public Commissions and Tribunals post retirement, investigating some of the most heinous human rights violations including the Kaveri riots, the Bombay riots, the Gujarat pogrom and many others.
Early life and legal career
Justice Suresh was born in Hosbet, Surathkal in Karnataka on July 20, 1929. He obtained his B.A from Mangalore University and M.A from Visvesvaraya Technological University in Belgaum. He obtained his LLM from Bombay University. In November 1953, he enrolled as an advocate in the Bombay High Court. Subsequently, he also started teaching part-time at Government Law College and KC Law College.
Between 1967 and 1968, Suresh was Assistant Government Pleader in the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court. He was appointed a judge of the Bombay City Court and Additional Sessions Judge, Greater Bombay on November 29, 1968. In October 1979 he was promoted to Second Additional Principal Judge of the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court. But on June 23, 1980, Suresh resigned and began to practice as an advocate at the Bombay High Court. In 1982 he was designated Senior Advocate of the High Court.
He returned to the judiciary, on November 21, 1986 taking office as Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court. On June 12, 1987 was appointed permanent Judge of the Bombay High Court. Justice Suresh retired from the High Court on July 19, 1991.
Human Rights work post retirement
After his retirement Justice Suresh was appointed along with Justice Tewatia in December 1991 to investigate the Kaveri riots that took place in Bangalore. Thereafter, he was appointed by the Indian People’s Human Rights Commission to investigate the Bombay riots of December 1992 and January 1993 along with retired senior advocate SM Daud. They published their findings in a report titled The People’s Verdict. He also investigated, along with SM Daud and Rajinder Sachar, the forced eviction of slum-dwellers in Mumbai in January 1995. They published their findings in August 1995 in a report titled Forced Evictions – An Indian People’s Tribunal Enquiry into the Brutal Demolitions of Pavement and Slum Dwellers’ Homes.
But perhaps his most significant investigation was when he was a part of an Indian People’s Tribunal fact-finding team along with former Supreme Court justice PB Sawant looking into the 2002 Gujarat genocide. The team led by former SC judge V. R. Krishna Iyer went to Gujarat in March and April 2002, and gathered over 2,000 oral and written testimonies. The team also met with several senior police officers and government officials and documented their findings in a report titled Crime Against Humanity.
In subsequent years, Justice Suresh made several shocking revelations and key observations about the Gujarat genocide. For example, in February 2012, he said that it was slain former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya who told the fact-finding team that it was none other than Narendra Modi, who was the Gujarat Chief Minister at the time of the carnage, who told top police officials not to restrain Hindus engaging in anti-Muslim violence.
Writing exclusively for SabrangIndia’s predecessor Communalism Combat in May 2004, after the Supreme Court ordered fresh investigation into the Best Bakery case and trial outside Gujarat, Justice Suresh observed, “The Supreme Court’s judgement in the Best Bakery case, ordering fresh investigation and trial outside Gujarat, is not only a severe indictment of the prevailing administration of criminal justice in Gujarat, but also a trend-setter to indicate as to what can be done by concerned citizens and a pro-active apex court in such a situation. What happened in Gujarat was nothing but fraud — fraud on law. It was a farce of a trial. The investigation was deliberately dishonest and faulty, and perfunctory.”
Suresh was also involved in drafting the proposed Prevention of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity Act 2004.
Justice Suresh will always be remembered as one of the brightest lights of the legal fraternity and a true defender of human rights.