The Revival of Ray III

George H. Gadbois, Jr., chronicler of 93 Judges of the Supreme Court of India, had this to say once:

When I first wrote to Justice A N Ray requesting an interview, I included a couple of articles I had published earlier. This enabled him to see that I was rather well-informed about him and the Court. He responded that he would be pleased to spend some time with me. The first half hour was a little tense, but during the last 2 1/2 hours both of us were comfortable and relaxed. It was an excellent interview. Mangos, other snacks, and tea were served, and we enjoyed each other’s company. We stayed in touch over the years. That interview was one of my first, and I regret that I didn’t take up his invitation to return to Calcutta for more conversations.”

The Gadbois Account of the Former Chief Justice of India is nothing short of glorious (pg. 139).

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This is further evidenced by Vikram Raghavan, Lead Counsel at World Bank:

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13.08.2018

Gadbois, Jr. who had the “highest respect for Ray” & ‘stayed in touch over the years’, wrote a lot on him that is unpublished. Hon’ble Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud’s son Abhinav Chandrachud [‘AC’], was blessed with what Gadbois, Jr. [‘GJ’] wrote. Thus, AC has gifted:

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For one, neither GJ nor Ray are alive. The grand interview conducted was not voice recorded. What are we left with? Handwritten notes and an imagination. I could pass a lie detector test on the existence of magnificent hand written biography of Ray. It appears as if the interview is still being conducted. Of course, the last word would neither belong to the Judge nor to the Author. Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock in 1656. There is no last word.

The Fresh Book says much on many. I concentrate only on Ray’s Revival – who, 108 – is named and sold, as if he is Mr. Ibrahim. There were 13 on The Kesavananda Bench. Ray was seen last on a Christmas Day. 12 did not respond to his invitation.

Arun Kumar Mukherjea J – 23rd October, 1974

Surendra Narayan Dwivedi J – 8th December, 1974

Jayendra Manilal Shelat J– 1st November, 1985

Mirza Hameedullah Beg J– 19th November, 1988

Kawdoor Sadananda Hegde J – 24th May, 1990

Kutttyil Kurien Mathew J– 2nd May, 1992

Sarv Mittra Sikri CJI – 24th September, 1992

Amar Nath Grover J – 13th July 1993

Pingle Jaganmohan Reddy J – 9th March, 1999

Devidas Ganpat Palekar J – 9th December, 2004

Hans Raj Khanna J – 25th February, 2008

Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud J – 14th July, 2008

Ajit Nath Ray J. – 25th December, 2010

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Brief Mentions:

Page xviii: “Others, like Chief Justice A.N. Ray, probably met Gadbois in order to improve their image. Ray had been an unpopular Chief Justice, and he probably wanted some control over the version of history that Gadbois was going to write.”

Page 10: “Hidayatullah went to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and told her that there was going to be an international convention of lawyers from around the world in Delhi within a few days, that if Justice J.C. Shah were superseded, all the Judges of the Court (but one) would resign, and the world would know what happened. The one who was not willing to resign was Justice A.N. Ray, who told Justice Hidayatullah that he could not afford to resign.

Page 77: “Chandrachud had requested Chief Justice A.N. Ray to set apart some more time for admission cases, but Ray had refused, saying that he would not change any of the Court’s traditions while he was the Chief Justice. Of course, the irony of this might not have been lost on Chandrachud, as Ray had been instrumental in altering one of the greatest traditions of the Supreme Court, the seniority convention in the matter of appointing the Chief justice of India”

Page 154: With Ray, it was the first time that a supersession had been carried out on politically vindictive grounds. After Ray retired, the Chief Justiceship was supposed to have gone to the next most Senior Judge at the Court at that time, Justice Khanna.”

Page 164: “Chief Justice A.N. Ray consulted his colleagues only infrequently.”

Page 181: “It turned out that Zail Singh was about to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to let her know that Sarkaria had turned down the offer. Gokhale then put Sarkaria in touch with Chief Justice A.N. Ray over the telephone, and the appointment soon went through.”

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[Note: Justice Ranjit Singh Sarkaria’s appointment to the Supreme Court in September 1973 had a lot to do with the fact that he was a Sikh. In 1973, both Giani Zail Singh (Chief Minister of Punjab) and G.S. Dhillon (Speaker of Lok Sabha) went to the Union Law Minister H.R. Gokhale and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and requested that Sikhs be given a chance at the Supreme Court. Sarkaria initially declined for personal reasons: he was not ambitious and he liked to go to Patiala on the weekends to work on his farm.]

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AC has warned readers that the stories narrated in ‘Supreme Whispers‘ mostly come from first-hand oral accounts and not from primary historical documentary sources. He has assumed, without ‘hesitation’, GJ recorded the contents of each interview faithfully and correctly..

AC has informed readers that some of the contents of the interviews were off the record and most have never been written about. This was apparently understandable for GJ did not want to upset the Judges. ‘Revealing these stories in the 1980s would have been like lighting a spark in a powder keg‘. GJ wrote in an e-mail to AC on 22.06.2016 “what you do with the interview material is entirely up to you.” “I think enough time has passed to feel OK about the interviews now being accessible to anyone. I didn’t promise any particular amount of time. Very little was off the records anyway. I labelled quite a bit of what your grandfather told me as off the record, though I don’t think he ever attached that restriction. But feel free to edit out portions of what he told me.

Rhetorical Question No. 1: Did GJ leave this material with AC because of A. AC’s writing and studying skills; B. AC’s Father; or C. GJ did not know any other able grandson/granddaughter of a Former SC Judge?

Rhetorical Question No. 2: If GJ had the following thoughts on Ray and other Judges, why did his monumental book waste sentences on the golfing habits of Former CJI Sikri? Was it because A. GJ had to, just had to, earn the praise, price and popularity; B. GJ wished to inspire the young cubs?

GJ died 8 months after he e-mailed AC. Was he mentally healthy on 22.06.2016?

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The Notable Mention [Edited}

The Beleaguered Justice Ray

Chief Justice A. N. Ray was appointed to the Supreme Court of India in August 1969. Justice Ray was slated to retire as a puisne Judge during the Chief Justiceship of Justice Grover. Destiny had other things in store for Ray. Gadbois met Ray in June 1983 in Calcutta. By then, it had been six years since Ray had retired from the Supreme Court. The interview lasted three hours, but could have gone on for longer. Ray’s wife sat with him for two out of the three hours. Ray was very nervous, but tried to appear in control. He answered every question which Gadbois asked, but only answered precisely what was asked. If Gadbois did not follow up on an answer, he got nothing more out of Ray. Gadbois considered this to have been one of the most interesting interviews of all. ‘Even after thinking about it for a few days’, wrote Gadbois in his private notes later on, ‘I still don’t know whether I was given a massive snow job or not.’ The first thing Ray asked Gadbois when he met him was his age, and he then said that Gadbois looked like Ernest Hemingway.

Ray pointed out to Gadbois that though the supersession of Shelat, Hegde and Grover was announced on 25 April 1973, the 3 Judges did not resign from the Court immediately. He tersely said that Shelat and Hegde went on leave until 30 April, while Grover went to leave until 31 May. He implied that this had something to do with their pensions; that the 3 Judges did not resign immediately in order to ensure that they would have sufficient years in service so as to receive an enhanced pension upon retirement. Gadbois thought Ray came across as ‘bitter and sarcastic and self righteous’. Ray said that many of those who had criticized the supersession ‘didn’t have the standing of a school leaving certificate’. He was very sarcastic and sharp tongued, thought Gadbois.

Ray said he was asked on 24 April if he would take the job and was given two hours to decide. However, Justices Hegde and P. Jaganmohan Reddy did not believe this to be true. In fact, at a dinner held for the Russian ambassador a week before the supersession, P. Jaganmohan Reddy and his wife had heard Cabinet Minister of Steel and Mines, Kumaramangalam congratulate Ray on his impending appointment as Chief Justice of India.

In his interview with Gadbois, Ray lost no time in defending his controversial decisions in the Supreme Court. He commented on his judgment in the infamous Habeas Corpus case, in which the Supreme Court had essentially held that the government had the power to arbitrarily arrest any person during an emergency, that the right to life and to the writ of habeas corpus stood suspended during an emergency. While commenting on this judgment, he said that it was obvious to anyone with any sense that one cannot have the writ of habeas corpus during an emergency.

He had very unflattering things to say about other members of his court. When asked about Justice Krishna Iyer, who was known for writing judgments in particularly dense jargon, Ray remarked, ‘I am not responsible for his judgments.’ Ray said that he was unhappy with Bhagwati because Bhagwati had never paid him a visit at his home in Calcutta after he had retired. He said that this reflected a lack of courtesy on Bhagwati’s part. He pointed out that both Y.V. Chandrachud and Krishna Iyer had visited him. ‘I don’t know what to think,’ wrote Gadbois in his type written notes after the interview. ‘He seemed at peace with himself, but then he seemed very nervous.’ ‘Was he telling me the truth?’ he asked himself, ‘I really have serious doubts…’

Ray, a puisne judge of the Calcutta High Court, was appointed to the Supreme Court on virtually the same day that his patron, Justice Bachawat, retired from the Court, in August 1969. Ray’s appointment to the Supreme Court itself had come as a surprise to some at the Calcutta High Court. Jaganmohan Reddy believed that Ray expected to be rewarded with the post of President of India some day, and he was bitter about not having been made the President. He also believed that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked Ray’s opinion on the supersession of Justice Khanna, and he urged her to go ahead with it.

Chief Justice Chandrachud remembered Ray to be a very elegant man who wore expensive suits and had fourteen pairs of expensive shoes, and found it odd that, even so, the government believed that he was a socialist. Of course, not everyone thought poorly of Ray. Justice Ranga Nath Misra, for instance, said that Ray was a good man, that he was very religious, that he had been unfairly criticized by scholars and deserved to be vindicated. Justice Bhagwati thought that Ray was an enigma and an honest man…

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Amongst all the judges AC has spoken of – Ray, as is the usual trend, has been spoken of the most.

My grandfather taught me all things simply. Every time before heading back to NLISU, he would have me pray with him before Lord Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda. We have enjoyed hundreds of chocolates together in the twenty four years he awarded me. When I graduated, Ray said, “I will always be with you.”

I bow down before this photograph shared in the Fresh Book:

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Last sentences: “One has to have a serene and strong mind not to be disturbed by criticism nor to feel flattered by praise. You have to treat both as impostors. Beyond this I cannot express my view

You have said that there is a probability of your coming to Calcutta in the end of this month and you would like to meet me. There is just one word of caution. It is that I shall be away from home for about a fortnight or so. 7 or 8 June is the date when I shall come back home after being away from about middle of next week. 

With good wishes

Yours sincerely

A.N. Ray

PS I thank you for sending the articles. I shall read them not without interest.

The address on top is the address from which I write this piece! Hi, GJ! Borrowing your words,  I am glad ‘enough time has passed’ for your soul to call Ray ‘bitter, sarcastic, self righteous, sharp tongued’. We shall enjoy more mangoes some other day.