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Former Chief Justice of India
Co-Founder, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka

None Wiser than the Law is a miniseries of in-depth conversations with Justice MN Venkatachaliah, providing an intimate exploration of the legal realm, his life journey, political insights, and the Indian constitution. The title of this podcast draws inspiration from Aristotle, who said to seek to be wiser than the law is the very thing which is by good laws forbidden. Justice Venkatachaliah, a distinguished figure in the realm of jurisprudence, acknowledges this aphorism in one of his landmark judgments, setting the tone for this series of conversations.

Alok Prasanna Kumar, a co-founder of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, spoke to former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatachaliah in August 2023. Their discussion spans an array of topics, encapsulating the Justice’s journey from a young lawyer to a Supreme Court judge, his landmark judgments, and his insights on the ever-evolving legal landscape and society.

In the second episode of the series, Justice MNV and Alok delve into two pivotal judgments that revolve around two of the most harrowing incidents in independent India’s history: the Bhopal Gas disaster in 1984 and the Babri Masjid demolition in 1991. These tragic events spawned a multitude of legal cases, with two of the most significant cases finding their way to the Supreme Court, with Justice Venkatachaliah on the bench. These cases, namely Union Carbide Corporation Ltd v the Union of India (decided in 1991) and Dr Ismail Faruqui v Union of India (decided in 1994), hold paramount importance in the context of these events.

The Supreme Court’s role in facilitating the settlement between the Union of India and Union Carbide has been a subject of extensive debate, as has its contribution to the eventual resolution of the Babri Masjid dispute. In this episode of BIC Talks, we endeavor to shed light on the motivations and considerations that underpinned the court’s decisions, providing insight into why the court took the actions it did in these consequential cases.

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MN Venkatachaliah

Former Chief Justice of India

Justice Manepalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah began his general practice of law in 1951. He became a permanent judge of the Karnataka High Court on 6th November 1975 and was later elevated as the judge of the Supreme Court on 5th October 1987. He became the Chief Justice of India on 12th February 1993, succeeding Chief Justice L. M. Sharma. He served in office for almost 2 years, retiring on 24th October 1994.

After his retirement, he continued to work for anti-corruption and human rights issues. He served as the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of India from 26th November 1996 to 24th October 1999. In 2000, he also headed the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.

He received the Rotary Award on Human Rights on 23rd June 2000, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2004.

During his term of seven years at the Supreme Court, he authored 90 judgements and was a part of 482 benches. Throughout his tenure, he was committed to reducing the pendency of cases and making the judiciary more and more accountable. He is credited for bringing down the pendency of cases to 19,000 in his tenure.

Alok Prasanna Kumar

Co-Founder, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka

Alok Prasanna Kumar is Co-Founder and Lead, Vidhi Karnataka. His areas of research include judicial reforms, Constitutional law, urban development, and law and technology. He graduated with a B.A. LL.B. (Hons) from the NALSAR University in 2008 and obtained the BCL from the University of Oxford in 2009. He writes a monthly column for the Economic and Political Weekly and has published in the Indian Journal of Constitutional Law and National Law School of India Review apart from media outlets such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Scroll, Quint and Caravan. He has practiced in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court from the chambers of Mr Mohan Parasaran, and currently also co-hosts the Ganatantra podcast on IVM Podcasts.