Former Judge Ramesh Chandra Lahoti took his last breath on March 23, 2022. He was the 35th Chief Justice of India, and served from 1 June 2004 to 1 November 2005.
He joined the Bar in Guna district in 1960 and enrolled as an advocate in 1962. In April 1977, he was recruited directly from the Bar to the State Higher Judicial Service and was appointed a District & Sessions Judge. After functioning as a District & Sessions Judge for a year, he resigned in May 1978 and reverted to the Bar for practice mainly in the High Court. He was appointed the Additional Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on 3 May 1988 and made permanent Judge on 4 August 1989. Lahoti was transferred to Delhi High Court on 7 February 1994. He was appointed a Judge of Supreme Court of India on 9 December 1998. He retired on his 65th birthday giving him a term of 17 months. His predecessor had a term of just 1 month.
On May 03,1988, His Lordship was elevated to Judgeship in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. In February 1994, His Lordship was transferred to Delhi High Court. In 1995, the Supreme Court of India appointed His Lordship as One-Man Enquiry Commission to investigate into claims of frustrated buyers of flats from M/s. Skipper Construction Company Ltd. More than 800 claims were investigated into and decided within a period of 12 months. On 5.11.1996, he was appointed One-Man Court of Enquiry to investigate into causes of mid-air collision between Saudi Arabia Boeing-747 and Kazakhastan IL-76 at Charkhi — Dadri (near Delhi) and make recommendations for avoiding such accidents in future. The Enquiry Report was submitted on 15th July, 1997 by accomplishing the task of magnitude and international significance within a record time of 8 months. Both the commissions were conducted without suspending the judicial work in the High Court. [Source: Samskrit Promotion]
In his distinguished career as a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Lahoti gave many important judgements. Some of the insightful quotes from his judgments are mentioned below:
“Every citizen of India is fundamentally obligated to develop a scientific temper and humanism. He is fundamentally duty-bound to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievements.”
R.C. Lahoti, J. in AIIMS Students’ Union v. AIIMS, (2002) 1 SCC 428, para 58
“The dignity of the ocean lies not in its fury capable of causing destruction, but in its vast expanse and depth with enormous tolerance (on scurrilous statements by a party against a Judge of the Supreme Court).”
R.C. Lahoti, J. in Anil Panjwani, In re, (2003) 7 SCC 375, para 10
“Courts can declare the law, they can interpret the law, they can remove obvious lacunae and fill the gaps but they cannot entrench upon in the field of legislation properly meant for the legislature.”
R.C. Lahoti, J. in P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 4 SCC 578, para 27
Justice Lahoti touched the lives of many people through his stellar contribution to the field of law and the administration of justice. Editors at EBC had a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact with him during the book launch of Anomalies in Law and Justice by Justice Raveendran published by EBC. In the book launch, Justice Lahoti spoke about his experience with online hearing since the lockdown. He said that we need not be apprehensive. He gave his own example that 17th March, 2020 was the last physical hearing he took part in, and ever since 100% of his hearings for ADR have been virtual, including asking the most complicated questions, have taken place online without any hiccups. The entire panel discussion can be seen here.
Tributes poured in from all over the country on his demise. Some of them are listed below:
President of India, Ram Nath Kovind shared a tweet to express his condolences:
Pained to learn that former CJI Justice RC Lahoti is no more. An eminent jurist, Justice Lahoti rose from the ground to reach the pinnacle of Indian judiciary. My condolences to his family, friends and associates.
Condoling the death of Former Chief Justice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
“Anguished by the passing away of former CJI Shri RC Lahoti Ji. He will be remembered for his contributions to the judiciary and emphasis on ensuring speedy justice to the underprivileged. Condolences to his family and well-wishers. Om Shanti.”
Mr. Surendra Malik, Editor in Chief, Supreme Court Cases shares his condolences:
Extremely sad to learn of the demise of Chief Justice Lahoti. In him I have lost a benefactor who bestowed upon me his friendship and affection in abundance. Alongside his profound learning and clarity on every branch of law, was his deep humility in expressing his views and suggestions. Shall miss him immensely. I pray eternal peace for his soul and solace to his family.
Mr. Sumeet Malik, Associate Editor, Supreme Court Cases shares his condolences on the demise of Justice Lahoti:
“One of the finest Chief Justices, India has seen. He was not only a great Judge but also an academic. He was great friend of Supreme Court Cases (SCC) and will be deeply missed.”
Ms. Nilufer Bhateja, Associate Editor, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd expressed her condolences on his death
“RIP Justice Lahoti. My very small interaction with you left a deep impression. Thank you for your words of appreciation. You didn’t have to but you did it anyway. The nation salutes your massive contribution to the field of law. Om Shanti.”
While remembering Justice Lahoti, Ms. Bhumika Indulia, Associate Editor, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd. writes
“Rest in Peace Justice Lahoti! You have always inspired the legal fraternity through your knowledge and outloook. Your motivation and appreciation at the Book launch meant a lot to me. It felt more like a personal loss to me. The country needs more Judges like you .”