Why Four Lawyers Did not Accept Supreme Court Judgeship Offered by Y.V. Chandrachud

In the annals of India’s judicial history, there are notable instances where distinguished lawyers, who arguably earned more fame than many judges, declined offers to ascend to the bench. Among such prominent examples is the case of four lawyers in the 1970s who turned down the opportunity to become Supreme Court judges, as detailed by Abhinav Chandrachud in his book, “Supreme Whispers,” published by Penguin.

The Four Lawyers and the Offer

During his tenure as the Chief Justice of India, Y.V. Chandrachud approached four prominent lawyers—K. Parasaran, Fali S. Nariman, S.N. Kacker, and K.K. Venugopal with offers to appoint them directly from the bar to the Supreme Court. Despite the prestige associated with such positions, all four declined the offer. The refusal even came after personal meetings with Justice Chandrachud and his senior colleagues, Justices P.N. Bhagwati and Krishna Iyer.

Reasons Behind the Rejection

The principal reason these offers were declined, as Abhinav Chandrachud notes, was the relatively low salary offered to judges at the time. This concern over financial remuneration was not new. In fact, earlier in 1966, Justice S.P. Kotwal of the Bombay High Court had offered Fali S. Nariman a position on the bench when Nariman was only 38 years old. Despite requiring special permission from then Chief Justice J.C. Shah due to Nariman’s young age, the offer was declined, mainly because the judicial salary would not adequately support Nariman’s family, which included his wife, two children, and parents.

Historical Context of Judges Salary

Salaries of judges in the Bombay and Calcutta High Courts were notably high, sometimes exceeding those of their counterparts in the UK and the US. However, post-independence, there was a significant reduction. By 1950, the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was set at ₹5000 per month, and other Supreme Court judges received ₹4000. High Court Chief Justices earned ₹4000, and other judges received ₹3500 per month. Remarkably, these salaries remained unchanged until 1985.

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