Thursday, November 09, 2006

Justice M.F. Saldanha

64 summers old Mr. Michael Francis Saldanha was born in Belgaum. His early education at St. Aloysius High School, Mangalore, laid a firm foundation for the distinguished academic record that followed thereafter. He graduated from the famed St. Aloysius College at Mangalore; the University of Mysore awarded him a gold medal for having secured a first class in English. Mumbai beckoned him for his higher studies, a first class LLB degree from the Government Law College in 1964 and a course in journalism where he excelled again, culminated in he being honoured with the coveted President’s gold medal by the then President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnna.

Being a champion athlete, he has won numerous prizes in sports and games.

He began his apprentice-ship with a specialisation in criminal law, under late Rajni Patel.

In 1974, he was appointed as assistant government pleader in the writ cell where he handled a number of cases in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court on behalf of the government of Maharashtra. It was here that he achieved a reputation both with judges and with the Bar for having displayed total fairness and integrity in the conduct of cases which finally entailed speedy disposal of cases and thereby imparting justice to innumerable persons.

On 30th July 1990 he was elevated to the bench as the judge of the high court of Bombay. It can be said that his stint at the judiciary has been a trail blazing one; Justice Saldanha has been rated as one of the most innovative and high profile judges on the bench.

The high degree of speed and efficiency into the disposal of proceedings in his court has won him unqualified admiration. As his contribution towards clearance of arrears (backlog of cases), Justice Saldanha has ensured that the time factor in case-disposal is reduced to the barest minimum and in order to set an example, he has systematically maintained a high disposal rate by completing the 29000th judgement on merits as on 10th December 2003. The last of reported judgements is even more impressive covering 22 fields of law and numbering 3750 as per the computer analysis.

It was exactly a dozen years ago that Justice Saldanha was transferred to the Karnataka High Court at Bangalore. After coming over to this State, Justice Saldanha has continued to deliver several innovative decisions, the most noteworthy of which is a recent one under the Contempt of Courts Act. In an extremely hard-hitting judgement, he has held that the role of law is being subverted by government and public authorities who disregard court decisions; he has held that in case of disregard of a judicial decision, the authority concerned will be personally liable for action. Castigating the situation prevailing in Karnataka, where court decisions are habitually and mechanically disobeyed and disregarded there by giving rise to a further round of litigation, the learned judge observed that with over three thousand contempt petitions pending in the High Court of Karnataka that it has created a national record and sending the wrong impression in the public mind that the law has not only lost its teeth but also its gums.

Justice Saldanha has maintained a rate of disposal that is more than five times the normal rate prevalent, this has been possible because he has adopted the practice in respect of all fresh cases that whenever a litigant qualifies for a fast decision, then instant justice must be meted out. Through this procedure, as many as 94% of all fresh cases have been completed either on the first or second date of hearing, thereby taking the burden off the arrears, at the same time older matters also receive equal attention, so that a sense of fair play is expressed by all sectors of litigants; his unique brand of instant justice has given the judicial process an entirely new outlook.

Another path breaking and thought provoking reform he introduced is that the time has come to 'Judge the judges' and that a bonafide complaint or criticism of a judge is not contempt. It can be said that he has single handedly brought about reforms in administration, traffic, environment and public life through the important decisions in his court.

This innovative and high profile judge has been feted across the globe. The Harvard Law Review defined him as ‘fair and fearless’ and the Chief Justice of South Africa described him as 'a man for all seasons'. He has delivered a series of lectures at the Beijing University. He was invited by the Johannesburg and Cape Town Universities to address seminars. Justice Saldanha is a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, the University of Sterling in Scotland, the Sorbonne at Paris and the Harvard Law School apart from several similar academic bodies in India. The International Jurists Association in its world survey in 1996, 97 and 98 has listed Justice Saldanha among the world’s ten best judges and he has been designated as the most respected judges on its permanent roll.

Another honour bestowed upon the Justice is that the Harvard Law School published a compilation of the hundred best judgements of the last century and listed his judgements in that exclusive list of Roll of Honour.

A talented and prolific writer, Justice Saldanha has contributed over 4000 articles and research papers to publications across the world. The brilliant and effective Justice can be easily listed as one among the all time greats of the Indian Judiciary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am glad to know about michael saldahna´s
career advancement. i wish him healthy and happy life.i knew him well because of his
associations and mine crossed we drank
whiskey on that count together.his sernior bloody rajni patel called me ´questionable character´!now he is dead unsung excepting by my underling, protima gupta,bedi.gouri amma,who went to kailas walking!
=taravadu taranga trust for media monitoring= (tttmm)-kulamarva balakrishna

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is nice to get an opportunity to consign my comment on Ganga waters
racing towards the Bay of Bengal. I thank
you the unknown.
-Kulamarva Balakrishna

12:48 AM  

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