Former Union Law Minister and eminent jurist Shanti Bhushan passed away at the age of 97 on Tuesday following a brief illness.
Bhushan was the Former Law Minister in the Morarji Desai cabinet from 1977 to 1979. He represented politician Raj Narain in his case against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was guilty of indulging in electoral malpractices leading to her disqualification and imposition of the Emergency in 1975.
In his political career, Bhushan was an active member of the Congress (O) party and later the Janata Party. He was appointed the Law Minister in the Janata Party government in 1977. He was also a former member of the Rajya Sabha from 1977 to 1980. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980 and was a member for six years. He resigned after the party acted against his advice on an election petition. He along with his son Prashant Bhushan were founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party, to which they subsequently resigned.
Legacy of Former Law Minister
As the former Law Minister he introduced the 44th Amendment of the Constitution of India which repealed many provisions of the 42nd Amendment Act passed by the Indira Gandhi ministry during the Emergency.
The veteran lawyer took up several cases of public interest and prominent personalities. He strongly advocated against corruption and was part of the core committee of India Against Corruption.
He stood up to Indira Gandhi against electoral malpractices which led to the passing of a historic judgment that led to the disqualification of her seat in Lok Sabha and debarred her from contesting in the election for six years. He argued that “no political leader was above the law, and whenever a top leader had to relinquish office, the nation could always find a successor.” The judgment triggered a political crisis in the country which led to the imposition of the Emergency in 1975.
He was formerly one of the founding members of the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-governmental organization that conducts litigation on matters of public interest. Along with his son, Prashant Bhushan, an eminent civil rights lawyer, he alleged corruption in the judiciary and was part of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reform. He asserted that he was willing to be jailed for contempt when SC asked for an apology.
He was a defender of the Basic Structure of the Constitution and the inviolability of fundamental rights against the 39th Constitutional Amendment before a Bench led by Chief Justice A.N. Ray. Bhushan was able to convince the Bench that “every Constitution has some basic features which make it unique and give it an identity.”
“All I can say is that this is the end of an era. He was a person who saw the evolution of the Constitution and the legal system from close quarters since Independence…All I can say is that this is an immense loss for all of us,” said his son, Prashant Bhushan. The veteran lawyer breathed his last at his home in New Delhi.