V. R. Krishna Iyer: Former Justice of the Supreme Court

Padma Vibhushan Vaidyanathpuram Rama Ayyar Krishna Iyer has made a name for itself in the legal and social communities. Through his liberal interpreting abilities, Krishna Iyer has made significant contributions to society and the legal community. This in and of itself has sparked a debate in the field of constitutional interpretation. It is important to note right away that his humanistic and wide reading of Part III of the Indian Constitution is unmatched and cannot be imitated in the foreseeable future.

Justice Vaidyanathapuram Rama Krishna Iyer, born on November 15, 1915, and died on December 4, 2014, was an Indian judge who became a leader in judicial activism. He helped establish the nation's legal assistance movement. He was a politician and state minister before that. He served time in prison as an activist attorney fighting for the rights of his low-income and impoverished clients. He was regarded as a passionate advocate for human rights. He also ran campaigns for environmental protection and social justice. He is a prolific author and a sports enthusiast. His rulings are still cited by the higher judicial branch.

Early Life and Education

Prior to starting his career as a lawyer in Thalassery, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer attended the Annamalai and Madras Universities for his education. He began defending workers and peasants against feudal lords who were fully supported by the colonial administration and exploited them. He was jailed for a month after objecting to the police using torture as a form of interrogation and was falsely accused of providing legal counsel to communists.


Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer began his legal career during the following time period:

  • He was first elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1956, and then, following the reorganization of States, he was elected to the Kerala Assembly, where he was named as Minister in charge of significant ministries including home, law, social welfare, etc.

  • He drafted the landmark Kerala Land Reforms Act.

  • In 1968, he was chosen to serve as a judge on the Kerala High Court. He served as a member of the Law Commission between 1971 and 1973.

  • He served as the leader of and was connected to several national and international organizations.

  • In 1973, he was chosen to serve as a judge of India's Supreme Court.

  • He contributed significantly to a period of judicial activism, public interest litigation, affirmative action through the courts, and a broad-based use of judicial review, all of which are credited with the Indian judiciary's current international acclaim.

  • He achieved reputation and honor for his fair rulings, his style of writing the decisions down, and his command of the English language.

Notable Judgments

The notable judgments are:

Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (AIR 1978 SC 597)

The Maneka Gandhi case paved the way for the expansion of Article 21 of the Constitution by interpreting the phrases "right to life" and "personal liberty" to now include a wide range of human rights that the government cannot restrict citizens' rights and that judges shouldn't become overly frightened. The focus of courts, society, and governments has now shifted to upholding and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of people.

Ratlam vs. Shri Vardhichand & Others (1980 AIR 1622, 1981 SCR (1) 97)

In the Ratlam Municipality case, he pioneered the practice of judges stepping outside the courtroom to see the situation firsthand. In this case, the local government's duty and responsibility toward an industry in relation to pollution and the expense of addressing such pollution have been addressed in order to safeguard society's and the government's wider interests. This ruling established the principles of "polluter pays" and "distributive justice."

C. B. Muthamma vs. Union Of India & Ors (1979 AIR 1868, 1980 SCR (1) 668)

Gender discrimination, which is pervasive not only in society but even at the highest levels of government employment, was addressed by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. The balance was restored in the instance of Muthamma, an Indian Forest Service officer, when prejudice against female officers was eliminated as a result of his decision. He overcame the "glass ceiling" by implementing gender equity in the established procedures for public employment.

Fact Detail
NameVaidyanathpuram Rama Ayyar Krishna Iyer
Date of Birth15th November, 1915 (Palakkad, Madras)
Died 4 December 2014 (Kochi, Kerala)
Alma MaterDr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai
Judicial Career
On 12 July 1968, appointed a judge of the Kerala High Court

On 17 July 1973, elevated as judge of the Supreme Court of India

AwardsPadma Vibhushan
AutobiographyWandering in Many Worlds

Public Interest Litigation

In a number of cases, Justice Iyer along with Justice P.N. Bhagwati laid the groundwork for the submission of PILs (Public Interest Litigations). In one instance, Iyer saw a prisoner's letter sent from confinement as a writ petition, adding: "Prison freedom is a component of our constitutional relationship". Prisoners' rights must be too valuable to be entrusted to jailers if wars are too essential to be left to generals. This ground-breaking instrument continues to bring about unheard-of improvements in the daily lives of the people even now. It was first used by public-spirited individuals to file PILs on behalf of societal groups that were unable to do so on their own. He noted this and said: "The task was to make the Supreme Court of India the Supreme Court of Indians." "PIL will be remembered as the most honorable ally of the little Indian when the history of the Indian judiciary is finally written."


Justice Iyer has written between 70 and 100 books, largely legal works, and four travelogues. Neethimandramum Samanvya Manithanum, a book in Tamil, is another work he has written. His autobiography is titled Leaves from My Personal Life. There are around five novels written about him that have been published by different authors.

Name of the BookPublishing Year
Law and the People1972
Law, Freedom and Change1975
Law India, Some Contemporary Challenges1976
Jurisprudence and Juris-Conscience à la Gandhi1976
Social Mission of Law1976
Law & Social Change and Indian Overview1978
"Leaves From My Personal Life"2001
Social Justice and the Handicapped Humans1978
The Integral Yoga of Public Law and Development in the Context of India1979
Of Law & Life1979
A Constitutional Miscellany1986
Life After Death2005
Wandering in Many Worlds2009
Random Reflections2004
The Indian Law (Dynamic Dimensions of the Abstract)2009

Iyers' Ideology

The contribution of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer to the right to life touched several areas that had not before been investigated by anyone in India. He opposed the death sentence in cases that were delayed and supported the notion of the death penalty's rarity throughout his career as a judge. In fact, he continued to advocate against the death penalty long after he had retired, both in his writings and in his work to help criminals who were facing the death penalty get their sentences commuted.

Justice Iyer was noted for his position, which was taboo in the Indian judiciary until then: "Bail is the rule, and incarceration, the exception." Justice Iyer was adamant that those facing trials shouldn't be forced to languish in jail.

In dealing with convicts, Justice Iyer believed in rehabilitation rather than punishment or vindication. He suggested that the yoga meditation techniques he used and saw in the jails of the Americas and Oceania be implemented in the Indian justice system to help transform not only criminal tendencies in detainees but also to assist judges in maintaining their mental poise and calling upon their higher ideals to make a better judgment of a case at hand.

Though Justice Iyer’s tenure at the apex court was relatively short, he managed to make a lasting impression on the public. In the last few years of his life, Justice Iyer had a strong ambition to give Indian jurisprudence a significant revamp. He had noted how British tradition had been used to build our judicial system. He aimed to change it by combining the best elements of the foreign legal system with our own conventional judicial ideas.

He would be known as the "Bhishma Pitamah" of Indian judiciary for a very long time, and I would like to call him the "Mahatma of Indian judiciary."He is the sole judge in India. Even though he is no longer with us, the ideas he stood for will continue to guide the way we administer justice and ensure that all citizens have access to it. Let's continue along the path of change that Justice Krishna Iyer cherished.


Q1. What makes VR Krishna Iyer the "Father of Indian Judiciary"?

Ans. Justice Iyer is known as the "Father of Indian Judiciary" because he pioneered legal aid for the poor and jail reforms that included inmates' rights. He got several labour and land reform laws passed and set up courts and rescue homes for women and children.

Q2. Who is known as the people's judge?

Ans. Justice VR Krishna Iyer was a complex individual with exceptional judicial talents. He is frequently referred to as the "moral guardian of justice" in India.

Q3. What is the contribution of Justice Iyer to the Indian judiciary?

Ans. Krishna Iyer has always had a strong dedication to social justice. On his credit report, there are almost 700 judgments. There is a precedential order for each of them. His contributions to the advancement of Indian legal jurisprudence and the judiciary are notable.

Updated on: 27-Jan-2023


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