As the nation celebrated the birth anniversary of former Supreme Court judge Justice Krishna Iyer last week it is time to find out whether the justice delivery system is in consonance with the pre- cious guidelines and suggestions made by the doyen among the Indian legal luminaries. It is pertinent to mention here that Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (1915- 2014) was a multifaceted personality with unique qualities of judgeship, statesmanship and leadership.
His colourful legal career continues to be an inspiring factor for those in the legal profession. Beginning his legal practice as an advocate in 1937 at Taluk level trial court in Kerala, by dint of his sheer sincerity, hard work and commitment to the cause of common public, he got elevated to the Supreme Court. Perhaps, for the first time in the annals of history, he along with two other Judges of Supreme Court visited the Tihar Jail, the largest prison complex in South Asia and laid foun- dation for the prison reforms, a grossly neglected post-judgment arena of criminal jurisprudence. After adorning the Bench of the Supreme Court for tenure of less than eight years, with the kind of versatility he had, he pronounced more than 700 judgments of which a greater number were progressive and had set a new trend in the judicial governance. Abolition of the practice of hand-cuffing and foot-cuffing of the prison- ers and solitary confinement are two tremendous achievements that humanized the Indian prison jurisprudence for which full credit goes to him. The segregation of under trial and convicted prisoners is in fact the greatest prison administrative reform initiated by him through the landmark decisions in the Sunil Batra (II), Prem Shankar Shukla cases in 1979 and 1980. He was also the first and only judge who appeared in the silver screen through the movie, Virumandi produced by Kamal Hassan, to campaign against prison torture and cruelty. The judiciary, the legislature and the executive should ensure that there is a healthy coordination, synergy and respect for each other as the same is inevitable for best develop- ment of the nation. However, on ground it seems that the significant principles of criminal jurisprudence envisaged and laid by Justice Iyer in his multiple judg- ments are being deviated in the present day socio- legal environs especially that of the principle of “Bail not Jail has to be the Rule.” To sum up in one sen- tence it has been aptly stated that V.R. Krishna Iyer was truly a figure ‘larger than life’.