A meeting to “Celebrate the Life and Contribution of Justice Hosbet Suresh” was jointly organised by many organisations on Monday, June 16th 2020.
Lok Raj Sangathan co-organised the meeting along with Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Human Rights Law Network, Lawyers Collective, Majlis, People’s Watch, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National and Human Rights Institutions, Badayl, Bhavnagar Jilla Gram Bachao Samiti, Mithivirdi, Coastal Action Network, Tamil Nadu, Concerned Citizens for Democracy, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association, Human Rights Defenders Alert – India, Institute of Human Rights Education, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan – Mumbai, Justice Coalition of Religious, Maharashtra, National Alliance of People’s Movements, NCHRO Goa Unit, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vimochana, Working Group of Human Rights in India and others.
The meeting was hosted by Teesta Setalvad on an internet platform. She welcomed the participants to bid farewell to and celebrate the life of this People’s judge. She asserted that people felt safe with judges like him.
The invited speakers were mainly from the Human Rights movement and included Justice (Retd.) P B Sawant (Supreme Court), Dr. Anand Grover, Yusuf Muchchala (who shared office space with him for 37 years), Justice (Retd.) A P Shah (Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court), Irom Sharmila, Indira Jaisingh, Medha Patkar, Justice Jeshu Rethinam, Colin Gonsalves (Advocate, Supreme Court), Dr. Vasanti Devi, Sr. Advocate Suhel Tirmizi, Dr. Irfan Engineer (CSSS), Flavia Agnes (Majlis), Justice (Retd.) S Radhakrishnan (Bombay High Court), Henry Tiphane (People’s Watch), Sanjay Parikh (PUCL and Advocate, Supreme Court), Mihir Desai (PUCL and Sr. Advocate, Bombay High Court), Lara Jessani (PUCL), Dr. Sanjeewani Jain (Vice President, Lok Raj Sangathan), Fahad Ahmed (Past President, TISS Students’ Union), Madhu Bhushan (CS), Faroukh Mhapkar (Survivor of the ’94 firing in Hari Masjid), Justice (Retd.) Kolse Patil and very importantly, the daughters and other family members of Justice Suresh.
It was an enthralling evening. Each and every speaker had worked with Justice Suresh, and as they spoke, the hundreds of participants could, in their mind’s eye see the man himself and wonder at what he had managed to accomplish in the course of his life.
He was responsible for many landmark judgements during his short tenure as a judge. He achieved what few other judges have – patently just and fair, not even losing lawyers ever complained against him.
Retirement was like a rebirth for him. He unhesitatingly went wherever there was any case of human rights violation. That is why people from all over the country love and respect him. He along with Justice S M Daud started what no other judge had done before them – they went to the victims of the 1992-93 genocide to unearth and expose the truth. This method was so effective that they and others continued it.
Justice Suresh had the gumption and the sense of justice to oppose all black laws. He supported the idea of Command Responsibility. He was responsible for a creative interpretation of the Right to Life in the Constitution as a Right to a Dignified Life, with access to all that is necessary to live in this day and age. He understood that for human rights to be implemented in practice, a new political system and process is essential, in which people wield political power and are sovereign. That is why has was so active in the movement for People’s Empowerment.
Justice Suresh was like a shield to human rights activists. Many who had collaborated with him in his fact-finding missions (about forty of them) spoke about his determination and dedication to the cause. He was working on a time bound report when his wife passed away in 1993 at the age of 56 years. Those working him were concerned about the deadline, but they need not have worried. For there he was the day after the funeral, working with unwavering zeal!
Genial, lovable, competent, upright, progressive, friend of the people, humanist, rationalist to the core, simple, humble, unassuming … all the adjectives used to describe him found an echo in our hearts. “He was like a beacon, a lighthouse in a storm.” Many talked about his indomitable will and courage, and refusal to be cowed down by threats even after he had crossed ninety years of age. “His body was frail, but his mind and his tongue were as sharp as ever.”
His daughters, Rajani and Malini brought out the qualities of Justice Suresh, the father and family man. It was he who taught Rajani to cook after her mother’s death. He was as fond of children as he was of youth, and he was “Aajaa” (grandfather) to the friends of all his grandchildren as well.
One of the most sterling qualities of Justice Suresh was that he was non-sectarian. That is why so many organisations, who do not usually work together thought he was theirs. This was articulated by several speakers. In death as well as in life, Justice Suresh continues to teach us to leave our petty differences of opinion aside and unite together for the cause of a just and humane society that we all believe in. One of the speakers suggested that we should continue to work together and many responded positively to have an annual event on Human Rights under his name.
The ongoing crisis had necessitated a meeting on this platform, but the positive side is that people all over the country who had worked with him or whose lives had been touched by him had come together.
We are indeed grateful to all the organisations that got everyone together on one platform to celebrate the glorious life and work of Justice Suresh and we pledge to continue to work for the cause of Human Rights and People’s Empowerment.