Home / India News / Justice Hosbet Suresh: At 91 years, the man who championed people’s rights, passes away
Mumbai: Justice Hosbet Suresh (91), one of the most respected judges of the Bombay high court (HC), who led many commissions that investigated human rights violations, passed away at his Andheri residence at 10:45 pm on Thursday night.
He was cremated at the Santacruz crematorium at 1 am on Friday morning.
Born on July 20, 1929, in Hosabettu town in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district, Justice Suresh finished his Bachelor of Arts (BA) from the Mangalore University before pursuing his Master in Arts (MA) from the Visvesvaraya Technological University in Belagavi.
Soon, he moved to Mumbai to pursue his Legum Magister (LLM) from the Mumbai University and then enrolled in the Bombay HC as an advocate in 1953.
Justice Suresh, who taught at the Government Law College and KC College, was appointed as the assistant government pleader in the Bombay City Civil & Sessions court before he was appointed as an additional judge in the sessions court on November 29, 1968.
He was promoted as the second additional principal judge in October 1979, but resigned from the post in June 1980, to start his own legal practice at the Bombay HC.
He was designated as a senior advocate in 1982 and took charge as the additional judge of the Bombay HC on November 21, 1986, from where he retired on July 19, 1991.
He would be remembered for many of his judgements, including the landmark Subash Desai vs. Sharad J Rao case verdict that had set aside the election of a member of Maharashtra legislative assembly (MLA) on the ground that he had misused religion and indulged in religious propaganda to manipulate mass sentiments in a bid to garner votes.
Many remember Justice Suresh as the flag-bearer of the human rights movement in the country, carrying on in the footsteps of his late mentor, Justice VR Krishna Iyer.
In later years and after his retirement, Justice Suresh had responded to the calls of various social action groups and travelled to the remotest corners of the country and other parts of Asia, and headed several people’s inquiry commissions and brought out reports highlighting the rampant violation of basic human rights.
Justice Suresh either participated or headed investigations into the riots following the Cauvery Waters Dispute, Bangalore (1991); the Mumbai riots (1992-93) following the demolition of the Babri Masjid; forced evictions of slum-dwellers by the civic authorities in Mumbai (1994); harmful effects of prawn farming on the eastern coast that led the Supreme Court (SC) to order a ban on prawn cultivation (1995).
He was also part of the commission that investigated the drowning of Dalits by the Tamil Nadu Police (199); the shooting of tribals in Devas, Madhya Pradesh (1999); food scarcity in the military junta-ruled Myanmar (1999) and the inquiry into the 2002 Gujarat riots that led to the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal.
Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad said, “I’ve known Justice Suresh since he retired as a judge of the Bombay HC. He was my mentor, a gentle guide to what substantive justice should be, how the bench much always be compassionate. He was utterly committed to the secular and socialist values of the Indian Constitution. He pioneered the People’s Tribunals and public hearing after his retirement at a time when the formal justice system started creaking and crumbling.”
Setalvad also reminisced her precious moments with Justice Suresh during the Gujarat riots in 2002.
Justice BR Srikrishna, a retired SC judge, said, “He was very vociferous for people’s rights at the bar and the bench. He had even represented before me during the Mumbai Riots Commission. Though I didn’t agree with him on that occasion and had even issued a contempt notice against him, he remained my good friend till the end. I’ve lost a very good friend of mine.”
Justice Suresh, in all likelihood, would have responded to these accolades as “my voice is my conscience”.