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Justice Surya Kant, Judge Supreme Court of India

In the summer of 2013, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul took over as Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court. We had an Annual Action Plan introduced to eliminate decades old cases in District Courts. This new plan met with resentment amongst leading lawyers practising in the District Courts as it meant that they would be unable to appear simultaneously in multiple Courts.

Ludhiana Sessions Division, in particular, became the epicenter of this resentment. The strife amongst the lawyers led them to forming three separate Bar Associations. Their differences devolved into physical brawls leading to registration of cases against one another. The Bar went on an indefinite strike. In an unprecedented move, the leading lawyers also joined hands to protest against the pressure put on them to wind up their old cases.

With the chaos growing every moment, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul took the reigns in his own hands.

Being the largest Sessions Division in both the States, Ludhiana had always been administered by a Senior High Court Judge. Going against the set convention, Chief Justice Kaul decided to appoint me, a Judge then placed at 8th/9th number in order of seniority, as the Portfolio Judge of the said Sessions Division. I remember being apprehensive and vividly recall him saying, “seniority alone sometimes does not work”. His conviction rang true and I was able to meet his expectations. His grit, mettle and incredible insight left an indelible impression on me. His intrepid stewardship of the matter solidified in me that we had a true pioneer to lead us.

Another lasting memory of his perspicacity was the time when as In-charge of the Chandigarh Judicial Academy, I proposed to organise a National Conference on Women Rights. Chief Justice Kaul fervently acquiesced to the proposal and ultimately played a seminal role even in the smallest activities. He offered his rarified observations on all matters including the selection of resource persons, the various topics for the technical sessions, the housing of the participating Judges and even the menu itself from breakfast to dinner. His tenacity and fastidiousness served him so well that he could go above and beyond his gruelling schedule and still have the vigour and passion to go over the Conference arrangements. Under his aegis our Court became an unassailable force and a shrine to industriousness, conscientiousness and dogged determination.


Justice Rajiv Shakdher, Judge, Delhi High Court

I had the privilege of sitting with Justice Sanjay Kaul as a puisne judge in the Delhi High Court for nearly one and a half years primarily for the reason that direct tax was part of the melange that he had to handle. Given his trajectory in the Service, the then Chief Justice was keen that Justice Kaul should also deal with tax matters among other jurisdictions. This period was a steep learning curve for me.

In the ecosystem in which the Indian judiciary operates, one of the skills that the judge needs to learn is how to manage one’s board and engage with the members of the bar. Justice Kaul was a master of both. For him, time was of the essence.

His sage-like advice on things small and big helped navigate what appeared to be impregnable roadblocks.

One piece of advice that he gave me, which I carry with me to date like a talisman, wherever possible, albeit within the confines of the law, grant relief to the litigant because often the Court is her last recourse.

Justice Kaul is a person who is secure in his skin; he would encourage puisne judges to dictate in Court and make suggestions vis -a vis his draft judgements if he thought they had it in them. At times, we disagreed on issues concerning law and society, but it never came in the way of our personal interaction. A bad hand dealt by fate didn’t dampen his zest for work or life; a part of the credit for this goes to his incredible life partner, Shivani.

How history would judge Justice Kaul, I do not know, but one thing I can vouch for is that he always backed his beliefs to the extent that some labelled him as an obstinate person.

That said, even his detractors would accept that he said what he meant and he meant what he said. His stint at the Madras High Court as Chief Justice, a part of judicial folklore, testifies to this attribute in his personality.



Tushar Mehta, Ld. Solicitor General of India

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul is one of the most pleasant judges to appear before. He has always decided cases as per law without being pedantic about the letter of law and keeping his robust common sense and concern of a common man in mind. His judgments always had a signature style of writing which is crisp and focused. He had championed the cause of justice particularly with regard to the liberty of citizens languishing in jail by laying down several guidelines on this subject. His contribution in the field of law, not only in Delhi High Court but two High Courts which he presided over and the Supreme Court of India will long be remembered and will serve as a beacon for future generations.

Justice Kaul’s tenure on the bench has been marked by wisdom, integrity, and a commitment to justice that has left an indelible mark on our legal system. Throughout his distinguished career, he has exemplified the highest standards of professionalism and impartiality. His dedication to upholding the law and ensuring a fair and just legal process has not only earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues but has also had a profound impact on the lives of the litigants.

The legal community, as well as the broader society he has served, is undoubtedly better off for having had the privilege of benefitting from his expertise, guidance, and unwavering commitment to the principles of justice. His legacy as a fair and compassionate jurist will undoubtedly endure for years to come.

Beyond the courtroom, Justice Kaul has been a mentor, a source of inspiration, and a pillar of support for many within the legal community. His colleagues have benefitted from his guidance, wisdom and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice. The impact of these qualities reverberates not only within the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court but also in the countless lives touched by his dedication to the law.

As we bid farewell to a remarkable career, let us not only reflect on the achievements but also on the legacy that Justice Kaul leaves behind. His retirement marks the end of an era, but it also heralds the beginning of a new chapter filled with well-earned rest, adventure, and the knowledge that his contributions have left an indelible mark on the legal landscape. On behalf of the legal community, I extend my deepest gratitude. May your retirement be as rewarding and fulfilling as your career has been and may this next chapter of your life be as extraordinary as the one you so brilliantly penned within the pages of our legal history.

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Jurist; third term sitting MP; Chair, Parliamentary Standing Committee; Former Addl Solicitor General, India

Justice Kaul has consistently followed best case management practices for a disciplined discharge of his judicial board. From his high court days, he has given dates which are not illusory but real in terms of genuine and far reaching efforts to dispose of the pending case. His indefatigable attempts to fill up judicial vacancies and his openness to constitutionally provided and yet hardly used innovations like appointment of ad hoc judges is notable and highly creditable. He has been fearless in his conduct yet extremely open, social and amiable by nature. He has always avoided ivory tower approaches and his entire career is marked with a huge pragmatic streak which is always result oriented. He has never allowed frustration or bitterness to touch his career and has shown magnanimity and grace of a high order.

Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Former Judge Supreme Court of India

I have known Sanjay from 1979. Despite our differing backgrounds I found him to always be amiable and even tempered. As colleagues in the Delhi High Court and later in the Supreme Court we found ourselves most often sharing similar views. I sat with him for a few weeks in the Supreme Court. He was very collegial in his approach with colleagues and reasonable in his views on the issues before the bench. During the end of our careers we would discuss issues concerning legal services, prison reforms and similar concerns. He has always displayed willingness to consider and try newer ways to these issues.

At a personal level I feel that his understanding of the vastness and diversity of our society and the plurality which exists in it deepened with his stint as Chief Justice of Madras High Court: a court and whose legal system he transformed with his dynamic leadership. I feel he has genuine fondness for Tamil Nadu, its people and traditions where he and his family are showered with affection.

As a contemporary I have seen Sanjay being a loyal friend and a generous leader.

Unlike High Courts where judges are gradually groomed to perform administrative functions with increasing complexity, and the Chief Justice discharges overall decisional authority, the wealth of experience of most judges who had been chief justices and senior judges is untapped. Sanjay shared my view that there would be greater efficiency in administrative functions and decisions if such experience were to be utilised. However this remained only our common view.

His retirement leaves a legacy that will be difficult to fulfill.

Justice Sikri, Former Judge Supreme Court of India

First thing first. My deep appreciation and heartiest congratulations to Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on his glorious judicial career. The legacy he is leaving behind will always be cherished. This memory will not fade away and would remain imprinted in the hearts of all of us. Let me adopt cricket analogy to describe his personality. He has been an all-rounder — ace batsman, fierce bowler, flawless fielder and even an impeccable wicket keeper. It translates into an outstanding judicial mind, indefectible administrator (in the capacity as Chief Justice of High Courts, Executive Chairperson of NALSA, Chairperson of MCPC, etc. etc. etc.), prolific speaker and a brilliant writer, who has rendered some masterpiece judgments exhibiting his literary talent at the same time. Probably, an Indian Judge, particularly of Supreme Court, would be the busiest judge in the world who is not only overburdened with judicial work but has to perform many other tasks and functions at the same time. Justice Kaul did all these with ease. He has mastered the art of balancing. Precisely because of this reason, he could easily steal time for his pleasure as well. Balancing work and pleasure is a trait which came to him as a natural habit and ensured that he not only experiences his life but also enjoys what he does.

As your habit self regulates, routine becomes the pathway to “flow” and you find pressure in your work as well. That is a distinctive trademark of Justice Kaul’s personality. Coming back to cricket terminology — Justice Kaul has excelled in all forms of the game — be it test match, one day match or T20 match. In other words, he could handle with ease all types of judicial work, be it hectic SLP day (T20 match) or short-hearings on non-miscellaneous day (one day match) or final hearings even when going for days together (test match). Another traitof an all-rounder he exhibits is his IQ (Intelligent Quotient) of all types as he has perfected Emotional Quotient (self-awareness and emotional self-control), Adversity Quotient (ability to face and overcome adverse situations), Social Quotient (as he is culturally fit and social awareness is par excellence), Cognitive Quotient (as he utilises his intelligence traits in perfect harmony). Keep enjoying your happiness of excellence in your post-retirement pursuits as well, with your sheer art of balancing, Mr. Justice Kaul!

Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, Former Chief Justice Bombay High Court and Rajasthan High Court

Justice Kaul, a dear friend, administered justice with the approach : Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Justice Jayant Nath, Chairman, DERC, Former Judge, Delhi High Court

Congratulations to Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul for the grand innings on the Bench for more than two Decades. His Court never hesitated to grant relief to those who were suffering injustice from any quarter. His absence from the Court will be missed by all.

Justice Ajay Tiwari, Former Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court

I had the privilege of sharing the bench with Chief Justice Sanjay Krishan Kaul (as his Lordship then was) and what struck me about him, apart from his quick grasp of the crux of the matter was the compassion and empathy with which he approached every case.

Arvind Datar, Senior Advocate

“As the Chief Justice of the Madras, High Court, Justice SK Kaul has earned the eternal gratitude of the bar at Chennai. He put an end to the chronic strikes that resulted in huge loss of judicial time. Further, he was instrumental in ensuring that Madras High Court had excellent new judges. he also delivered several landmark judgments and initiated suo motu proceedings to check illegal beach sand mining.”

Parag Tripathi, Senior Advocate

Justice Kaul can be best described through this couplet of Meer Taki Meer,

“mat sahal humein jaano firta hai falak barson

tab khaak ke parde se insaan nikalte hain”

Arvind Verma, Senior Advocate

Courteous but firm in the court with an uncanny knack of putting a counsel addressing the bench at ease be it a front rank senior counsel or a junior member of the bar are some of the qualities which make Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul an extremely popular judge across the bar. A strong administrator in his tenure as chief justice of the two high courts he made substantial improvements in court infrastructure. A voracious reader he has stood tall in every way. He will be missed.

Chander Lal, Senior Advocate

How do you describe a person like Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul ? Let me make an attempt to do just that. A proud Modernite, and equally proud Stephanian, a charismatic member of the Delhi Bar, a stern but compassionate Judge of the Delhi High Court, an extremely popular Chief Justice of P&H High Court, a man who changed the very ethos of the Madras High Court and finally, a bold and courageous Supreme Court Justice who now retires as J1. I personally knew Sanjay from his days at the Delhi Bar. He and I then got actively involved in Modern School affairs and I really got to know him really well. When on the Bench, he was no friend, but off it, there was no better friend than him.

Mr. Arun Jaitley said about him and his brother, “I am so glad you both are boys, otherwise we would have had to refer to you both as Kaul Girls.” Being a Judge was his calling, or should we say Kauling….. and “boy” did he make a mark. His presence on the Bench will be sorely missed by the nation, but his friendship I shall always cherish.

Gaurav Agarwal, AOR, Supreme Court of India


Rarely do we come across a person who is so humble, kind and generous. His commitment and passion for the growth and betterment of the institution is unmatched.

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