Know Thy Judge | Justice Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale: A stalwart jurist’s journey from Nippani to the Supreme Court of India

Justice Prasanna B. Varale

Born on the 23-06-1962, in the quaint town of Nippani, Belgaum, Justice Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale has traversed a remarkable path in the realm of law and justice. His journey, marked by dedication, scholarly pursuits, and a commitment to public service, has earned him accolades and respect in the legal fraternity.

Early Life and Education

Justice Prasanna B. Varale pursued his schooling and degree level studies at various places in Maharashtra, such as Shahada, Shirpur, Nashik, Sangli, Buldhana, Latur and Nanded. His higher academic journey commenced at Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, where he pursued a degree in Arts and Law.1 This early foundation laid the groundwork for a career that would later see him rise to significant heights in the judiciary.

Legal Career

Enrolling as an Advocate on the 12-08-1985, Justice Varale embarked on his legal career with determination and zeal. He started practicing in the High Court of Bombay, Aurangabad Bench. He joined the chamber of esteemed Advocate S.N. Loya, where he honed his skills and expertise on both the Civil and Criminal sides of the legal spectrum.2 This early exposure to diverse legal matters would prove invaluable in shaping his future as a well-rounded jurist.

Academic Pursuits and Public Service

Demonstrating a commitment to legal education, Justice Varale served as a lecturer in Law at Ambedkar Law College, Aurangabad, from 1990 to 1992.3 This role allowed him to share his knowledge and insights with the next generation of legal minds.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Justice Varale expanded his legal horizons by taking on roles in public service. He served as the Assistant Government Pleader and Additional Public Prosecutor at the High Court Bench in Aurangabad. His proficiency in these roles led to his appointment as the Additional Standing Counsel for the Union of India, showcasing his versatility and commitment to upholding the rule of law.4


In a career marked by continuous growth and excellence, Justice Prasanna B. Varale reached a significant milestone on 18-07-2008, when he was elevated to the bench of the High Court of Bombay.5 His years of dedicated service and legal acumen were duly recognized as he assumed the responsibilities of a High Court Judge.

Justice Varale’s career reached another landmark on 15-10-2022, when he took oath as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka.6 This appointment7 was a testament to his years of service, his deep understanding of the law, and his unwavering commitment to upholding justice.

The Supreme Court Collegium comprising of Dr Justice DY Chandrachud, the Chief Justice of India, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice BR Gavai, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose, on 19-1-2024, unanimously resolved to recommend the name of Justice Prasanna B Varale to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.8 While recommending his name, the Collegium also considered the fact that among the High Court Judges, Justice Varale was senior-most Judge belonging to a Scheduled Caste and the only Chief Justice belonging to a Scheduled Caste among the Chief Justices of High Courts across the country.

Justice Varale, reached the pinnacle of his career when he sworn in as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 25-01-2024.9

*Did you Know? Justice Prasanna B. Varale’s elevation to the Supreme Court was a significant marker vis-à-vis representation of Judges belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the Supreme Court of India.10.

Notable Judgments

Supreme Court

In a plea filed by Delhi Government for release of surplus water to the national capital from Himachal Pradesh, the Vacation Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ., while raising concerns about the loss of water in Delhi due to several factors like Tanker mafia, said that if water is coming from Himachal, then where is the water going in Delhi.

In a plea seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to conduct re-polling in Munger parliamentary constituency in Bihar in the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections, the Division Bench of Satish Chandra Sharma and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ., refused to entertain the plea. The Court said that “without going to High Court, you are blaming the High Court. Please go to the High Court. We shall dismiss it else you go to the High Court. This is the not the way.”

In Sanju Rajan Nayar v. Jayaraj, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 582, a criminal appeal against Karnataka High Court’s decision, whereby under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), the High Court quashed the First Information Report (FIR) for the offence under Section 7(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, pending before the Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge, Bengaluru, the Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Karol and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ., allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned decision, quashing the FIR. The Court viewed that the Court’s approach in quashing the FIR was legally unsustainable, as it ventured into an inquiry, unwarranted at this stage, holding that there was no direct evidence that the present Accused 1 had demanded any money and that there was no material to proceed against him, completely forgetting the material which had surfaced during the course of investigation, indicating his complicity in the crime.

In Abhishek Yadav v. Army College of Medical Science, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 505, a civil writ petition, regarding the payment of stipend to doctors undergoing their MBBS internships the Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ., directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to furnish the details of the stipend paid to interns of the entire medical colleges in the States.

In Raju Krishna Shedbalkar v. State of Karnataka, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 200, a criminal appeal against Kerala High Court’s order whereby, the appellant’s petition under Section 482 of the CrPC was partly allowed and criminal proceedings for offence under Section 417 was refused to be quashed, the Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ. allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order.

“There can be multiple reasons for initiating a marriage proposal and then the proposal not reaching the desired end. It may in a given case involve cheating; it is possible theoretically yet in order to prove an offence of cheating in such cases prosecution must have reliable and trustworthy evidence in order to first prosecute such a case. There is no such evidence before the prosecution and therefore no offence under Section 417 is also made out.”

In Subhash v. State of Karnataka Ministry of Home Affairs, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 524, an appeal challenging the Karnataka High Court’s judgment which upheld the conviction and sentence of the appellants under Section 302 of the IPC and sentenced of life imprisonment by the trial court, a division bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Prasanna B. Varale,* JJ., dismissed the appeal, finding no error in the High Court’s judgment. The Court held that the appellants’ actions were intentional and disproportionate, negating the claim of private defense.

High Court

In Attikaribettu Grama Panchayath v. Ganesha, 2024 SCC OnLine Kar 2, an appeal filed under Section 4 of Karnataka High Court Act, 1961 praying to set aside the order of reinstatement by a Single Judge Bench of the High Court; the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale, C.J.* and Krishna S. Dixit, J., opined that an employee cannot be dismissed on the basis that a criminal case was registered against him. Dismissal from service cannot be ordered without holding an enquiry. The Court opined that snatching away a job offends the pith and substance of fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

“In a society like ours, job more often than not, happens to be predominant source of livelihood and therefore snatching away a job (in public employment), like the one that has happened in the case at hand, virtually amounts to taking away the means of livelihood of the employee.”

While considering the instant appeal challenging the decision Single Judge’s order upholding the annulment of appellant’s election in H.V. Ashok v. H.N. Gopal, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 98, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale, CJ.*, and Krisha S. Dixit, J., refused to interfere in the matter on certain grounds, where one of the grounds being that Single Judge after examining the matter had recorded a finding that the appellant had criminal antecedents and the same were not disclosed in the affidavit accompanying the nomination papers. In the process of ensuring purity of elections, the Supreme Court in plethora of decisions had declared that the disclosure of such antecedents is a matter of right of the electors who can form an informed decision about the candidates in the electoral fray and that non-disclosure therefore is a ground for setting aside the election of Returned Candidates. The Single Judge has rightly framed the impugned order keeping in view the existing Supreme Court decisions.

“It is pertinent to note that the law relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents of the candidates in the Electoral fray has further marched from April to May and now to the June of life.”

While deciding the instant petition seeking a Writ of Quo Warranto against the private respondents who have been appointed by the State Government as Political Secretaries, Chief Advisor and Media Advisor to the current Chief Minister of Karnataka in Umapathi S. v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 59, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale, CJ*., and Krishna S. Dixit, J., dismissed the petition stating that the respondents have been appointed to assist the Chief Minister and they are not functioning as the Ministers in the literal sense hence these appointments do not attract Art. 164(1A) of the Constitution of India.

While deciding the instant appeal challenging the Single Judge bench decision whereby which the appellant was directed to explore his remedies under S. 70 of Karnataka Cooperative Societies Act, 1959 in B. Srinivas Rao v. BDA, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 97, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale, CJ.*, and Krishna S. Dixit, J., in the context of the instant matter reiterated that, disputes of the kind which require both oral and documentary evidence are not ordinarily taken up for examination in writ jurisdiction; it is more so when the remedy provided under S. 70 of Karnataka Cooperative Societies Act, 1959 happens to be alternate and more efficacious one.

In Pallavi G.M. v. Karnataka Power Transmission Co. Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 61, an appeal filed by the appellant challenging the dismissal of her claim to her deceased brother’s job on compassionate grounds, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B Varale,* CJ., and Krishna S Dixit, J., dismissed the appeal on the ground that sister does not fall in the definition of Rule 2(1)(b) of 1996 Rules.

“Courts through the process of interpretation cannot expand the contours of a statutory definition. When the Rule Maker in so many words has specified the persons as being the members of family of an employee, we cannot add one to or delete one from the definition of family. An argument to the contrary if accepted, would amount to rewriting the Rule, and therefore, cannot be countenanced.”

In Karnataka Power Transmission Corpn. Ltd. v. S Kiran, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 99, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B Varale,* CJ., and Krishna S Dixit, J., upheld an order of a Single Judge which directed the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited to reinstate an employee who was dismissed from service due to unauthorised absence of 632 days (about 1 year 9 months) on account of suffering from mental depression.

“Distress and depressions are the byproducts of modern life, whichever be the calling. Stress is the product of the psychological or emotional pressure that we experience both in our personal and occupational lives. Often it is difficult to insulate the stress, and to determine its impact on day to day activities. There may come a point that the ‘stressors’ encountered in the work place lead to the inability to function in a work environment. A decision to lay an employee off work, with or without just cause, may well escalate the level of depression.”

In High Court of Karnataka v. State of Karnataka,11 where the Court took suo-motu cognizance of the news articles published in Daily News Papers namely, ‘Deccan Herald’, Bengaluru edition, dated 12-12-2023 under the caption ‘Woman beaten up, paraded naked after son elopes with girl’, a Division Bench comprising Prasanna B. Varale, CJ., and M.G.S Kamal, J., directed to not telecast the video of interviews of the victim who was paraded naked.

“Though the print media has at least displayed some sensibility and sensitivity while publishing the photograph by blurring the image of the victim and her associates but the disturbing factor is the said photograph reveals that some persons apparently from the electronic media or its representatives are photographing and vediographing the victim’s reaction and narration. Thus, on one hand, where there is a reflection of sensibility, on the other hand there is stark contrast wherein the media persons are seem to be acting most irresponsible and insensitive manner.”

In Mahalakshmamma v. Department of Rural Development and Panchayathraj, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 100, an appeal by second wife pertaining to family pension, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B. Varale,* CJ., and Krishna S Dixit, J., held that “family Pension is payable to the “wife”, and not to those whose marriage is ‘no marriage’ in the eye of law, the limited status of legitimacy of children begotten therefrom, by virtue of Sec.16 1955 Act, notwithstanding.”

In Chamarajpet Nagarikar Okkuta (R) v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 103, a writ petition seeking directions against the respondent 2 to consider the petitioner’s request to allow them to celebrate Karnataka Rajyotsava at the Idga Maidan at Chamarajapet, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B. Varale,* CJ., and Krishna S Dixit, J., observed that the celebration of secular events are not objected to in a welfare state, subject to certain just exceptions.

In Narendra Babu G.V. v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 101, a case pertaining to notification inviting applications for the recruitment of Graduate Primary School Teachers in government and aided institutions in Karnataka, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B Varale, CJ., and MGS Kamal, J., held that the post of a primary school teacher is a “civil post”, and therefore, the jurisdiction to deal with issues pertaining to it belongs to the Administrative Tribunal, not to the High Court.

“the primary school teacher post of which recruitment is sought is a ‘civil post’ governed by the Karnataka Education Department Services (Department of Public Instruction) (Recruitment) Rules, 1967 and Amendment Rules, 2017 … the matters involving recruitment or matter concerning recruitment are to be dealt with adjudicated and determined by the Administrative Tribunal in terms of Section 15 of the Act, 1985.”

In Girish Bharadwaj v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 102, a writ petition seeking direction to conduct a fresh investigation through CBI or any other premier independent investigation agency or by forming a Special Investigation Team with regards to investigation of crime like rape, murder etc. registered during golden hours, a division bench comprising of Prasanna B. Varale,* CJ., and Krishna S Dixit, J., dismissed the petition being devoid of merits. The Court held that the reason to decline interference in the matter is that “ordinarily, in criminal cases, it is the State which is the custodian of prosecutionary rights, subject to all just exceptions, and therefore, it is for the State to prefer the appeal against the acquittal order. It is not that in the event, State decides not to prefer one, that will be end of the road.”

While deliberating upon the instant writ petitions for quashment of FIR registered in connection with the suicide of prominent tribal leader Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar (MP, Dadra and Nagar Haveli) in Sharad Darade v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1841, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale* and Shrikant D. Kulkarni, JJ., exercised their powers under Section 482 of CrPC and quashed the FIR filed against Praful K. Patel (Administrator, Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and others by Mohan Delkar’s son Abhinav Delkar.

In Nauman Suleman Khan v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1148, where the applicant was accused of an offence registered under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), a Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., quashed the FIR filed for an offence on noting that the dispute was settled and that the applicant and the victim were in love with each other and decided to get married after settling in life in their respective careers.

In Amol Kashinath Vyavhare v. Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1000, wherein a journalist sought to quash proceedings against him for publishing news items regarding the rift between the officers of the police departments, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., expressed that “if we will say that any news article pertaining to two Sections of any Department will fall within the purview of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, in that case, we are interpreting the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code too far and it is not expected by legislatures.”

While deciding whether declaration of reciting religious verses at someone’s residence is an act of breaching personal liberty of another person in Navneet Ravi Rana v. State of Maharashtra,12 a petition was filed for quashment of an FIR registered for the commission of an offence under Section 353 of the IPC, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., while stating that, “Great power comes with greater responsibility”, expressed that the expectation of responsible behaviour or responsible conduct from those persons who are active in public life cannot be an extra expectation but would be a basic expectation. The Court stated that the second FIR was registered against the Petitioners attracting of Section 353 of the Penal Code, in case the State Government was desirous of initiating any action including the action against the Petitioners in pursuant to the FIR, the Officials of the State Government shall issue 72 hours’ notice to the Petitioners before taking such action.

While deciding whether Aadhaar the only criteria for identification of beneficiaries under National Food Security Act in Ganpat Dharma Mengal v. Tehsildar Office, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 13720, a Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and Madhav J. Jamdar, JJ., expressed that, “it is disheartening situation for us when we the fortunates are eagerly awaiting as the festive season is approaching and the festival of lights would spread joy and happiness in the society throughout the State or the whole nation, here are the few petitioners who are the members of the marginalised section in general and tribals in particular who have approached this Court on a grievance that they are deprived of the basic requirement of human life, i.e., food, only on account that the State machinery is not technically equipped to give them the benefits flowing from the scheme formulated and floated by the Union of India and to be implemented and executed by the respective States.” The Court stated that it is unable to find any logic, reason or rationale for denying the benefits of distribution of foodgrains to the petitioners and alike persons raising certain technical ground by the respondent authorities, hence by way of interim direction Court directed respondents 1, 2 and 3 to distribute the foodgrains to the petitioners and similarly circumstanced persons — the tribal beneficiaries under the PDS as well as the provisions of the National Food Security Act and the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

While deciding whether husband be convicted based on him being last seen with dead wife, in Sandip Baburao Waidande v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 560, a Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., held that in a matter of circumstantial evidence, the law doesn’t require a particular number of circumstances to establish the chain, it only depends on nature. The Court stated that it has almost been 5 years since the accused was behind the bars. Further, even if the circumstance of the last seen together was considered, the Court did not think that other circumstances were sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused. The Court opined that prejudice was caused to the accused.

“Law does not require a particular number of circumstance so as to establish the chain. It altogether depends upon the nature of the transaction.”

In Imran Shabbir Gauri v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 511, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., held that the finding that electronic evidence also needs to be proved just like any other evidence. Further, the Court stated that the present set of facts and circumstances warrants that there are certain materials suggesting sexual intercourse, but the hands of the Court are tied due to the provisions of law. The Court expressed that relationship in between brother and sister, relationship in between mother and son, relationship in between father and daughter and so on were considered as sacrosanct. However, due to passage of time, these relationships have no more remained sacrosanct and there are various instances of overstepping the sacrosanct relationship by the near relationship.”

“We hope that legislatures will also consider the practical realities of the life which the victim has to face. The trauma which victim has to undergo, after the incident does not stop there and when it comes to facing real-life issues, there may be occasion for the victim to forego all the trauma which she had undergone and to take U turn.”

While questioning the blanket ban on door-to-door delivery of newspapers in High Court of Bombay v. State of Maharashtra,13 a single-judge bench comprising of Prasanna B. Varale, J. took cognizance of the amendment made in the Government Order whereby door-to-door delivery of newspapers has been completely prohibited in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and in all containment zones as may be decided by the District Magistrates.

In State of Maharashtra v. Shatrughna Baban Meshram, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 5052, a first sentencing of its kind, a bench comprising of Bhushan Gavai and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ. confirmed double death sentence and double life imprisonment in a case of rape and murder of a two-year-old girl by her uncle. The sentence was awarded under Section 376-A of the IPC which was brought through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2014 after the gruesome Nirbhaya case. This section provides for death sentence for an offence of committing rape and inflicting injury which causes death or causes the woman to be in a persistent vegetative state.

While deciding on the question whether a couple having their native place in particular city or state can file for divorce in Family Court situated in another city or state in Kalpana Dhone v. Gorakhnath Govinda Dhone, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 4709, a division bench comprising of V.M. Naik and Prasanna B. Varale, JJ., ruled that when such a question is raised, the Family Court must first address the issue of jurisdiction, before proceeding with the case.

* Judge who has penned the judgment.

1. Justice Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale, Supreme Court of India.

2. Former Justices, High Court of Bombay.

3. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Prasanna B. Varale, BENGALURU URBAN COURTS


5. Former Justices, High Court of Bombay.


7. President appoints Justice Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale and Justice Ali Mohd Magrey as the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court and Jammu & Kashmir High Court respectively, SCC Times.

8. Supreme Court Collegium recommends appointment of Justice Prasanna B. Varale as Judge of Supreme Court of India, SCC Times

9. Justice Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale takes oath as Judge of Supreme Court of India, SCC Times.

10. In a first, Supreme Court to have 3 Dalit judges as Centre clears name | Latest News India – Hindustan Times

11. order dated 12.12.2023.

12. WP No. 1286 of 2022, decided on 25-4-2022.

13. Suo Motu PIL (St.) No. 10567 of 2020, dated 27-4-2020

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