RIP Madhan Mohan Punchhi, 28th CJI, sole 1993 collegium case dissenter: 18 June 2015

MM Punchhi

Madhan Mohan Punchhi, who passed away aged 81 last night, was Chief Justice of India (CJI) between 18 January 1998 and 9 October 1998.

He was also the only dissenting judge in the second of the so-called three judges cases that established the collegium system, as tweeted by Manishbhai Vakil @jimanish today:

Justice MM Punchhi, who passed away last night, has an interesting connection to the NJAC case that is ongoing at the Supreme Court.

In 1993, when a 11-judge Bench of the SC set up the Collegium for appointment of judges, Punchhi J was one of those who dissented.

Punchhi J believed that it was the office of the Chief Justice that should have primacy in judicial appointments, not the Collegium.

And five years later, when he was appointed CJI, he put his belief into practice, overriding the Collegium on judicial appointments.

This intra-judicial drama led to the then NDA govt (advised by Soli Sorabjee as AG) making a reference to the SC via President Narayanan.

This was the Third Judges Case, where the SC affirmed the primacy of the collegium and also expanded it from two to four seniormost judges.

Punchhi, CJI fairly stayed off this nine-judge Bench that he constituted. The full, fascinating story… #NJAC

The Supreme Court website stated about his life:

Educational route : Early schooling at Sacred Heart School, Amritsar. Late Schooling at Arya High School, Pakpattan.

After the partition of the country, on migration to India, settled at Ferozepore, joining D.C. Jain College for further studies. Graduated from D.A.V. College, Jullundur. Obtained a Law Degree and Certificate of Proficiency from the Department of Laws, Delhi University in the year 1955.

Experience : Joined the legal profession in his father’s Chambers at Ferozepore in the year 1955. After practising for three years at Ferozepore where he had a stint of all types of work, he shifted to set up practice in the High Court of Punjab at Chandigarh in the year 1958. Had the occasion to do Civil, Criminal, Revenue, Land Tenures and Writ matters at the High Court level for 21 years. In this interval, remained for some time a Part-time Lecturer in the Law Department, Punjab University, Chandigarh, as also to be Standing Counsel for the Chandigarh Administration. Remained a Rotarian also in this while. Was appointed an Additional Judge for two years on 24.10.1979 in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh, which term was extended from time to time till be became a permanent Judge on 16.12.1982. Became a Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 6.10.1989. Appointed as Chief Justice of India on 18.1.1998. Retired on 9.10.1998

Family Life: Happily married to Meera Punchhi – has two married daughters, one married to a practising Lawyer and other to a practising Chartered Accountant, both living at Chandigarh – has two sons, one studying M.B.A. abroad and the other pursuing his law studies at Chandigarh.


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