20, Jul 2020 | Mihir Desai
It is indeed highly laudable that Citizens for Justice and Peace is creating an archive of post retirement documents of Justice Suresh. That it is being launched on his birthday is doubly gratifying.
There have been a few instances in the past when judicial orders of highly respected judges are analysed and published. This must be one of the rare cases where what is being brought before the public is not the judge’s contribution while he was on the Bench, but his influence and involvement in public service after his retirement. This is not to belittle his achievement as a judge, which by itself was phenomenal. Judgments and important orders of any judge are already in public domain through court websites, newspaper reports and court reports which are many. What the archives signify is the tremendous public work done by Justice Suresh post his retirement.
Justice Suresh, especially post retirement was known as the man of the masses. Throwing himself into the deep end whenever and wherever there were human rights violations, doggedly participating in fact findings, people’s tribunals, and enthusiastically travelling to distant places including Kashmir, Manipur, Tamil Nadu to name just a few. He insisted on meeting victims of violations directly and interacting with them with compassion and empathy.
Soon after retirement Justice Suresh along with Justice Daud conducted a public tribunal concerning the communal violence in Mumbai post Babri Masjid demolition. After that virtually every year he participated in some fact finding or peoples tribunal till his unfortunate demise. He was a man of tremendous courage with conviction. Disregarding threats, he intervened in various instances of human rights violations including in the tribunal concerning sectarian violence in Gujarat in 2002 which led to a monumental report documenting the state complicity in the carnage.
Not only was he the author of many such reports, but even otherwise he leaves behind a body of outspoken writing which reflects his keen insight into human rights violation, people’s jurisprudence and the state of the society. Not just the reports but also his writings are of great contemporary and historical importance which need to be preserved, collated and made available to the public at large.
This is precisely the exercise which CJP has undertaken, for his writings are not just personal reminiscences but chronicle the state of human rights in India over a period of more than 25 years.