Tribute to Hon’ble Mr. Justice S. H. Kapadia, former Chief Justice of India – Patriotic son of the Nation – As long as we live, Justice Kapadia will live with us
We received the sombre news of the passing of the former Chief Justice of India, Mr. S. H. Kapadia. He served the nation with great distinction as a judge. He was a patriotic son of the nation and served the country with honesty and integrity.
The Federation has had a long association with Late Mr. Justice S. H. Kapadia. When the Federation organised the National Convention at Mumbai in the year 2010, he was the Chief Guest. The programme started in the evening when Justice Kapadia came directly from the Court. The theme of his speech was “Tax evolution to economic revolution”. He spoke from his heart, he touched various issues and closed his speech with the following words “I recommend strongly that for the next 10 years, India should pursue only one point programme viz. Economic Development. Our Country is rich in resources. However, we fritter away those resources by going into non-issues”. He also stated that “your Federation has prescribed a Code of Conduct in which they have laid down the duties of tax lawyers to their clients, to their opponents and to the Court. I recommend one more clause –“Duty to the Country”.
Those who have not read his heart-warming and inspiring speech may do so from the AIFTP Journal, May, 2010 or from the www.itatonline.org. I have preserved his personal congratulatory letter which he wrote to me when I became the National President of the AIFTP.
He was an avid reader of the AIFTP Journal. When he was elevated as the Chief Justice of the Uttaranchal High Court, he requested that the Journal be sent to him in Uttaranchal. He even offered to pay the subscription fees. His fondness of the Journal continued even after his elevation to the Supreme Court and even after his retirement. When the AIFTP and the ITAT Bar Association published the “2003-11 – Digest of Case Laws – Direct taxes– A Tax Companion”, in the year 2012, he purchased one copy for his personal reference, and thereafter every year he requested us to send a copy to him for his reference.
In earlier days, when the budget used to be presented, copies thereof were made available to the public only on next day. As an association, some of our members used to get the copy on the same day. He used to sit in the High Court up to 8.30 in the night and only after receiving the copy from us would he leave for his home. Next day, if any tax matter was to be argued before him, he used to refer to the Finance Bill and told the counsel to look into the Bill. Whenever any taxation matter was argued before him, he was not carried away with judgments; he used to read the sections, apply the law, general law and thereafter case laws. Many of his landmark judgments in taxation will make him immortal in the history of taxation.
In his court, a counsel’s seniority or otherwise made no difference. I have witnessed that he never used to get carried away even by former Union Ministers appearing before him. He was a great admirer of Shri Nani Palkhivala. He encouraged students to participate in the Nani Palkhivala Moot Court competition, which was the first moot court competition in the country on taxation law.
He was one of the Guests of Honour when the new benches of the ITAT were inaugurated by the then Law Minister Hon’ble Shri Arun Jaitley. He always appreciated the quality of orders passed by the ITAT. In one of the seminars in New Delhi, he stated that when an appeal came before the High Court against the order of the Tribunal, only in very few cases was challenged on grounds of perversity. He had great respect for the tax bar. In his lectures, he used to acknowledge that his elevation to Apex Court was due to tax background.
His enormous contribution to the development of law and especially tax jurisprudence is known and appreciated worldwide.
Justice Kapadia battled acute poverty and hardship to rise from a clerk to the highest post in the Judiciary. He did this through his hard work and perseverance. His attitude towards work: his humility, integrity and compassion made him a symbol of inspiration and role model for every citizen of our country.
He will be a role model to any student of law who desire to work hard and come up in life without any godfather or any political backing. It is only his hard work, sincerity and integrity that made him the Chief Justice of India. He will be remembered by every Indian as an inspiration.
Late Justice Mr. S. H. Kapadia will be missed for his wisdom, humility, passion for taxation and judicial independence. He will be remembered as a great human being, for his determined character, for his patriotism, for being someone who could ignite our minds. His death is a great loss to the nation. I must acknowledge that for many of us, as long as we live, Justice Kapadia will live with us. A tribute to him in true sense will be adopting his desire that – we should always remember “Duty to the Country”. As a tribute to him we desire to come out with a publication in association with the ITAT Bar Association.
On behalf of the tax bar, I take this opportunity to express our deepest condolences to his family.
Dr. K. Shivaram