Inspiring Journey of Justice KV Viswanathan: From Rented Room to Supreme Court

Prashant Mishra, KV Viswanathan take oath as Supreme Court judgesaw Insider (1)

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Published on: 19 May 2023 at 16:51 IST

Senior Lawyer Kalpathy Venkataraman Viswanathan, who recently took the oath as a judge of the Supreme Court of India, has faced numerous challenges on his journey to the apex court. Upon the retirement of Justice JB Pardiwala on August 11, 2030, he will assume the position of Chief Justice of India and serve in that capacity until May 25, 2031.

Justice KV Viswanathan relocated from Tamil Nadu to Delhi in 1988 and began practicing law in the Supreme Court while residing in a room in RK Puram, South Delhi.

He is the third individual from Tamil Nadu to hold the position of Chief Justice of India and the fourth person, following SM Sikri, UU Lalit, and PS Narasimha, to be appointed directly from the bar.

Justice Vishwanathan’s father, KV Venkataraman, has had a career as a public prosecutor in Coimbatore.

Justice Vishwanathan’s journey in the legal profession began in 1988 when he moved to Delhi with the aspiration of practicing law in the Supreme Court. He initially resided in RK Puram Sector 1, a central government housing society, sharing a room with a friend for a monthly rent of ₹200. Since the area had a significant Tamil population, he had no trouble finding accommodation. Justice Viswanathan lived close to a Murugan temple in the locality and often dined at the nearby Mahalingam mess. Later, he moved to Mohammadpur village, where he shared a residence with three others.

In Delhi, it is customary to work as a junior to a senior lawyer. Justice Viswanathan worked as a junior with advocate CS Vaidyanathan, who later represented Lord Ramlala in the Ayodhya case. He served as Mr. Vaidyanathan’s junior from 1988 to 1990, appearing in the Supreme Court, High Court, and lower courts.

He then worked as a junior with senior advocate KK Venugopal from 1990 to 1995.

In 2009, Justice Vishwanathan was designated as a senior advocate in the Supreme Court. He has also served as an additional solicitor for the central government.

In an interesting anecdote from 1991, following the assassination of Congress leader and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE near Sriperumbudur, a one-man commission headed by Justice MC Jain was appointed to investigate the conspiracy behind the murder. Justice Vishwanathan served as the court’s translator for the opposing party.

The Jain commission hearings took place at Vigyan Bhawan Annexe in Delhi, where various Tamil Nadu political leaders, including M Karunanidhi and Vaiko, appeared to provide statements.

When DMK leader M Karunanidhi began speaking in Tamil, Justice Jain, who did not understand the language, turned to Justice Vishwanathan and asked, “Can you translate Karunanidhi for me?” Justice Vishwanathan clarified that he was advocating for the AIADMK.

Justice Jain promptly sought any objections to the translation, and with none raised, Justice Vishwanathan proceeded to provide the translation for the judge.

Justice KV Vishwanathan has a notable record of representing significant cases in the Supreme Court and has been appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in several highly sensitive cases.

His appointment as Chief Justice of India will make him the third individual from Tamil Nadu to hold this esteemed position. Previously, Justice M Patanjali Sastri served as CJI from 1951 to 1954, and in 2013, Justice P Sathasivam held the post for approximately nine months.

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