Justice KV Viswanathan

Justice K.V. Viswanathan, a well-known and respected former Senior Advocate and eminent member of the Bar, started a new journey on 19-05-2023, which now places him on the other side of the equation- the Bench. Justice Viswanathan was elevated as the Judge of the Supreme Court of India along with Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra earlier in May.

*Did you Know? Justice K.V. Viswanathan is the 10th advocate to be directly elevated as Supreme Court Judge1.

Early Life and Career as an Advocate

Justice K.V. Viswanathan was born on 26-05-19662 to K.V. Venkataraman (a public prosecutor in Coimbatore). Justice KV. Viswanathan did his schooling from Pollachi Arokia Matha Matriculation School and went on to study at Sainik School Amaravathinagar and then at Udhagai Susaiyappar High School3. Furthermore, Justice Viswanathan did his five-year integrated law course at the Coimbatore Law College, Bharathiyar University and started his professional journey in 1988 by enrolling with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu.4

*Did you Know? During his initial years in Delhi, Justice Viswanathan stayed in a central government housing society in RK Puram Sector 1 with a friend on INR 200 monthly rent. The area had a significant Tamil population, so he had no difficulty finding a place to live. Justice Viswanathan lived near a Murugan temple in the area and used to eat at the nearby Mahalingam mess5.

Justice Viswanathan started working as a junior under eminent Senior Advocates K.K. Venugopal and C.S. Vaidyanathan between 1988 -1995 and after 20 years of practice, Justice Viswanathan himself was designated as a Senior Advocate in 20096. In 2013, Justice Viswanathan was appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India. Furthermore, Viswanathan has also been an eminent member of the Editorial Board of Supreme Court Cases (SCC).7

Notable Case appearances as a Counsel/ Amicus Curiae

During his tenure as an advocate, Justice Viswanathan appeared in a varied range of cases on diverse subjects including Constitutional law, criminal law, commercial law, the law of Insolvency, and Arbitration in the Supreme Court and High Courts. His stature as an eminent member of the Bar has been recognised by the Supreme Court in numerous cases where he was appointed to assist the Court as amicus curiae.8

As a Counsel

SEBI v. Sahara India Real Estate Corpn. Ltd., (2017) 15 SCC 523– Matter concerning recovery of illegal money collected by Sahara India.

Arushi Jain v. Union of India, (2020) 18 SCC 585– Matter concerning high risk exposure of doctors and medical professionals while treating Covid-19 patients.

Ravindra Shah v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 434– Matter regarding a ‘bona fide’ mistake by an Advocate-on-Record’s clerk where one of the advocates of the petitioner was recorded as “Mr. Put Mine, Advocate”.

Aam Aadmi Party v. Union of India, (2014) 16 SCC 396– Matter regarding power of Lieutenant Governor to keep State Legislative Assembly in suspended animation.

Karmanya Singh Sareen v. Union of India, (2019) 17 SCC 689– Matter concerning privacy and regulation of data protection in view of a rapid growth in digital economy.

Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, (2018) 14 SCC 115– Matter regarding CBI investigation in Coal Block Allocation Scam.

Advocates Assn. v. Union of India, (2013) 10 SCC 611– Matter regarding demand of CBI investigation into police excesses inside court premises when a State Government minister was produced before the Court.

Union of India v. Faculty Assn. of AIIMS, (2014) 14 SCC 151– Matter regarding reservation in superspeciality posts in AIIMS.

As Amicus Curiae

Pranay Kumar Podder v. State of Tripura, (2017) 13 SCC 351– Matter regarding admission procedures and eligibility of candidates suffering from Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) in medical colleges.

Bar Council of India v. Bonnie Foi Law College, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 130 — Matter regarding Bar Council of India’s (BCI) power to conduct pre-enrolment examination i.e. All India Bar Examination (AIBE).

Moser Baer Karamchari Union v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 547 — Matter regarding striking down Section 327(7) of the Companies Act, 2013 as arbitrary and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Sushila Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2020) 5 SCC 1– Matter concerning important aspects of Anticipatory Bail like- Time limits; Points to be kept in mind by courts, dealing with applications under Section 438, CrPC.

SBI v. V. Ramakrishnan, (2018) 17 SCC 394– Matter regarding moratorium under Section 14 of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

Subramanian Swamy v. CBI, (2014) 8 SCC 682– Matter concerning constitutional validity of Section 6-A of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 and Section 26(c) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.

Bar Council of India v. Twinkle Rahul Mangaonkar, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1055– Matters concerning provisional enrolment with the Bar Council of India; ethics of the legals profession; accountability of law colleges; negative marking in the Bar Exam etc.

Salem Advocate Bar Assn. (II) v. Union of India, (2005) 6 SCC 344– Matter concerning awarding of realistic costs as general rule so as to avoid frivolous litigation. In this case, Justice Viswanathan appeared as amicus curiae alongside Senior Advocate, C.S. Vaidyanathan.

From the Bar to the Bench9

The Supreme Court Collegium while deliberating over their next recommendations for elevation to the Supreme Court of India, considered the name of Justice Viswanathan. The Collegium took into consideration Justice Viswanathan’s sound understanding of law and his integrity and his wide experience and profound knowledge will provide a significant value addition to the Supreme Court. The Collegium also took note of the fact that at present there is only one Judge who was directly elevated from the Bar (Justice P.S. Narasimha), therefore, inclusion of Justice Viswanathan in the folds will enhance the representation of the Bar. Thus, on 16-05-2023, Justice Viswanathan’s name was recommended for elevation, which was expressly approved by the Law ministry on 18-05-202310 and on 19-05-2023, Justice K.V. Viswanathan started a new innings in his professional life.

*Did you Know? Justice Viswanathan is slated to become the 58th Chief Justice of India in 2030, thereby making him only the 4th lawyer who went on to become the Chief Justice after being directly elevated to the Supreme Court11.

Notable Judgments

In K.P. Khemka v. Haryana SIIDC, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 846, an appeal arising from the judgment of a Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana where the High Court dismissed the writ petitions and rejected the contention of the appellants herein that if a debt is time-barred under the Limitation Act, 1963, the same cannot be recovered by resorting to the Haryana Public Moneys (Recovery of Dues) Act, 1979 (“Recovery of Dues Act”) read with the State Financial Corporation Act, 1951, a division bench comprising of Surya Kant and K.V. Viswanathan,* JJ., referred to a three-judge Bench the question of whether time-barred debts be recovered through remedies other than civil suits as per special laws.

In New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Tata Steel Ltd., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 684, an appeal challenging the NCDRC’s order partially allowing the insured’s complaint and awarding Rs. 13,15,27,000/- with 10% interest per annum, a division bench comprising of Surya Kant and K.V. Viswanathan,* JJ., held that “the claim was rightly settled by the NIACL letter dated 03.01.2003 which determined the loss amount payable at Rs.7.88 crores after applying 60% depreciation.”

In Supreme Court Bar Assn. v. B.D. Kaushik, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 960, matter concerning the Supreme Court Bar Association (‘SCBA’) elections, the division bench of Surya Kant and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ. has allowed the Election Committee to count votes on 16-05-2024. The result is to be declared on 19-05-2024. The Court noted that the Members of the Election Committee have suggested deleting the first line of Clause (v) of paragraph No.8 of the order dated 02-05-2024. Under this clause, the Court has directed that the counting of votes to be commence on 18-05-2024, and the result to be declared on 19-05-2024.

In Naeem Ahmed v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2024 SCC OnLine SC 220, a criminal appeal filed against the order passed by the Delhi High Court, wherein the Court refused to grant of default bail to the accused under Sections 21, 29, 61 and 85 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (‘NDPS Act’), has been turned down, the division bench of Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, JJ. while considering the totality of the circumstances, especially the period of custody the accused underwent, the Court granted him bail subject to certain conditions.

In Ramji Lal Jat v. State of Rajasthan, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 217, a civil appeal against the Rajasthan High Court’s decision, whereby the appellant’s challenge against rejection of his candidature for the post of police constable on grounds of having more than two children was refused to interfere with, the three Judge Bench of Surya Kant, Dipankar Datta, K.V. Viswanathan, JJ. dismissed the appeal and upheld the Rajasthan High Court’s decision.

In Sharad Pawar v. Ajit Anantrao Pawar, Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 4248 of 2024, a Division Bench of Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, JJ., questioned Ajit Pawar faction for using the pictures of former supremo of Nationalist Congress Party (‘NCP’) Sharad Pawar in their campaigning materials. The Court also directed Ajit Pawar faction to file an undertaking to reflect that they will not directly or indirectly use Sharad Pawar’s name and discussed the use of ‘clock’ symbol.

In Prabhu v. State, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 137, an appeal filed Madras High Court’s refusal to criminal proceedings initiated under Sections 417, 306 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) read with Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 2002 (‘TNPHW Act’), the division bench of Vikram Nath and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ. while setting aside the impugned judgment quashed the criminal proceedings against the accused. Further, it said that the accused, by breaking up the relationship with the deceased and by advising her to marry in accordance with the advice of her parents had not intended to abet her suicide. Hence, it held that the offence under Section 306 is not made out.

In Ravindra Kumar v. State of U.P., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 180, a civil appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s decision, the Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan*, JJ., allowed the appeal and held that non-disclosure of the criminal case in the verification form, which ended in acquittal, is not always fatal to the candidate’s employment. The Court said that each case will depend on the facts and circumstances, and the Court will have to take a holistic view.

In Sharad Pawar v. Ajit Anantrao Pawar, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 167, an appeal against Election Commission of India’s (ECI) judgment and order dated 6-02-2024 which recognized Ajit Pawar’s faction for using Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) symbol, the Division Bench of Surya Kant and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ., issued notice to Ajit Pawar faction and directed continuation of operation of ECI order dated 7-02-2024 for using name “Nationalist Congress Party — Sharadchandra Pawar”.

In Hydha Muslim Welfare Masjid-e Hidaya and Madarasa v. N. Dinakaran, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 204, a special leave petition filed by Hydha Muslim Welfare trust (‘Trust’) against the Madras High Court Judgment and order dated 22-11-2023, wherein the Court directed the demolition of a mosque and Madrasa located in Koyambedu, Chennai after concluding that the structure was illegally constructed without any building sanction plan, the division bench of Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, JJ. said that the directions issued by the High Court warrant no interference by this Court in exercise of powers under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. Further, it granted time to the Trust till 31-05-2024, to remove the structures.

In Radhey Shyam Yadav v. State of U.P., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 10, an appeal against Allahabad High Court’s decision wherein the appellant-teachers’ appeal against non-payment of their salaries was dismissed, the Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan*, JJ., directed the State to pay the appellant teachers their unpaid salaries.

“The situation of the appellants in the present case is no different from the individuals whose appointments were protected in the cases cited hereinabove. They had no blameworthy conduct. They were bona fide applicants from the open market. The alleged mischief, even according to the State, was at the end of the School and its Manager. It will be a travesty of justice if relief is denied to the appellants. Enormous prejudice would also occur to them.”

In Vashist Narayan Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 2, an appeal against Patna High Court’s decision, whereby an aspiring Police Constable’s petition to consider his appointment for the said post, as he was declared failed for an inadvertent error of wrong date of birth in the application form, was dismissed. The Division Bench of J.K Maheshwari and K.V Viswanathan*, JJ. held that the trivial error in the date of birth had no bearing on the selection and the appellant himself being oblivious of the error produced the educational certificates which reflected his correct date of birth. The Court directed the respondent-State to treat the appellant as “passed”, in the selection process with the correct date of birth as 18-12-1997.

“A reading of the prayer clause in the writ petition indicates that the appellant did pray for a mandamus directing the respondents to consider the candidature treating his date of birth as 18.12.1997 and also sought for a direction for issuance of an appointment letter. A Writ Court has the power to mould the relief. Justice cannot be forsaken on the altar of technicalities.”

In Ram Lal v. State of Rajasthan, (2024) 1 SCC 175, a writ petition seeking to quash the dismissal order and reinstatement to service, a division bench comprising J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ., held that the order of termination dated 31-03-2004; the order of the Appellate Authority dated 08-10-2004; the orders refusing to reconsider and review the penalty, are all illegal and untenable. Further. It directed for reinstatement of the constable with all consequential benefits including seniority, notional promotions, fitment of salary and all other benefits. It also awarded 50 percent of the backwages to the Constable.

“The acquittal in the criminal proceeding was after full consideration of the prosecution evidence and that the prosecution miserably failed to prove the charge can only be arrived at after a reading of the judgment in its entirety. The court in judicial review is obliged to examine the substance of the judgment and not go by the form of expression used.”

In Rajendra Bihari Lal v. State of U.P.,12 a Special Leave to Appeal against the Allahabad High Court Order, whereby a FIR lodged against 7 accused persons, the Vice Chancellor (Dr.) Rajendra Bihari Lal (Baba ji), Director Vinod Bihari Lal and five other officials of the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture Technology and Science (‘SHUATS’) for persuading a woman to adopt Christianity by offering her a job and other allurement was refused to quash, the vacation Bench of Aniruddha Bose and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ., allowed the application and granted interim protection to the accused persons against the arrest.

In Sikha Ghosh v. Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1609, a special leave petition challenging the Division bench judgment and order passed by Calcutta High Court, wherein the Court overturned a Single Judge judgment, and molded the relief on the issue of mesne profits while relegating the matter to the Civil Court (alternative remedy), the division bench of J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan, JJ., issued notice to the oil companies and directed them to file a counter affidavit within 6 weeks and directed the petitioners to file the rejoinder within two weeks thereafter.

In Aditya Khaitan v. IL & FS Financial Services Ltd., (2023) 9 SCC 570, appeals challenging Calcutta High Court’s dismissal of applications seeking to allow filing of written statements beyond 30 days, restricting benefit of Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, In re, (2020) 19 SCC 10 and Sagufa Ahmed v. Upper Assam Plywood Products (P) Ltd., (2021) 2 SCC 317, since the limitation period for filing written statements expired on 8-03-2020, the Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan*, JJ. allowed the same clarifying that the suspension of limitation during further orders passed after COVID-19 lockdown was for outer limit and included period for condonation of delay.

In SBI v. A.G.D. Reddy, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1064, a civil appeal filed by the State Bank of India (‘SBI’) against the Judgment of Karnataka High Court, whereby SBI’s appeal was dismissed and confirmed the Single Judge’s order, allowing the respondent’s petition and quashed the Appointing Authority’s decision imposing a punishment of reduction of the salary of the respondent, the Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan*, JJ. allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment of the Single Judge and Division Bench. For onus of proof, the Court reiterated that

“It is well settled that, in a disciplinary proceeding, the question of burden of proof would depend upon the nature of the charge and the nature of the explanation put forward by the respondent. In a given case, the burden may be shifted to the respondent depending upon the explanation.”

1. Senior advocate K V Viswanathan’s name recommended by Collegium, in line to become 58th CJI in Aug 2030 — ThePrint — PTIFeed

2. 16052023_111822.pdf (sci.gov.in)

3. Supreme Court Judge KV Viswanathan’s Journey From A Rented Room In Delhi To The Top Court (ndtv.com)

4. 16052023_111822.pdf (sci.gov.in)

5. Supreme Court Judge KV Viswanathan’s Journey From A Rented Room In Delhi To The Top Court (ndtv.com)

6. K.V. Viswanathan – Supreme Court Observer (scobserver.in)

7. Chambers and Partners- Asia-Pacific (chambers.com)

8. 16052023_111822.pdf (sci.gov.in)

9. 16052023_111822.pdf (sci.gov.in)

10. Order of appointment of Shri K.V. Viswanathan, Sr. Advocate as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India (18.05.2023) | Department of Justice | India (doj.gov.in); | Department of Justice | India (doj.gov.in)

11. Senior advocate K V Viswanathan’s name recommended by Collegium, in line to become 58th CJI in Aug 2030 — ThePrint — PTIFeed

12. Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No. 16557/2023, Order Dated: 19-12-2023.

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