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Obituary: Shiva Kant Jha passionately fought judicial battles in public interests

Shri Shiva Kant Jha, born in the family of distinguished freedom fighters was a trained academician having started as a lecturer at the age of 20 before joining the Indian Revenue Service in 1964. He served in various capacities retiring in 1998 as the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax.

His quest for knowledge continued unabated and he completed his LLM soon after. While still in service, he enrolled as an advocate in 1977 and for about 15 years he was a paper setter and examiner for the LLM examination of the Calcutta, Patna & Nagpur Universities.

Post retirement he joined the Bar at the Supreme Court of India where he conducted many important cases including the celebrated PIL challenging the misuse of the Indo- Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (better know as Azadi Bachao Andolan). His contribution in this milestone case was aptly acknowledged by the then Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Shri S B Sinha. Subsequently, while reviewing Shri Jha's autobiography  "On The Loom of Time", retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi, Shri Rajinder Sacher made the following comment:

"..... I am however emphasizing his contribution in exposing the danger of tax havens, like Mauritius... I hope this book will give enough material for some conscientious policy makers to plug this open sieve."

Shri Jha's efforts ultimately bore fruits after long years when Government of India renegotiated the Treaty with Mauritius.

Meanwhile, Shri Jha continued with his academic pursuit and penned two more books viz. 'The Judicial Role in Globalised Economy' and "Final Act of WTO: Abuse of Treaty-Making Power". Shri Jha took up the cause of CGHS beneficiaries especially the pensioners before the Supreme Court in Shiva Kant Jha vs UOI - 2018-TIOL-136-SC-MISC and brought cheers to lakhs of hapless Central Government pensioners who stand to benefit from the Apex Court decision in Shri Jha's favour. As a votary of imparting continuous knowledge he transparently uploaded his entire work on his website

The then Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India Shri R. C. Lahoti, in the Foreword to Shri Jha's Autobiographical Memoir consciously observed the qualities with which the author was bestowed:

"While honouring the discipline of a true government servant he has been bold enough to the occasions, responded to the calls of times and never missed an opportunity of taking decisions and acting thereon as a true citizen of India, as an upholder of the constitution and the laws, and, as a reformist. He has been critical on points of principles but not on personalities. A reading of the autobiography reveals that he is one who has no regrets in his life. He has never looked back. He has marched with the times with firm footsteps and played well his role in life as assigned by the Divine. Teachings of Shrimad Bhagwad Gita have been his guide. For him work has been worship. He has believed in 'work is thy duty, reward is not thy claim'......A crusader has to stand alone, to suffer at times, and also to pay the price but in the long run he earns admirers and followers too."

Shri Gopal Subramanium, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India & former Solicitor-General of India paid glowing tributes to Shri Jha for the deep understanding of law and ethics in the following words:

"Mr. Jha is imbued with a deep spiritual background, powerful values and pro- found learning which is characteristic of the kshetra called Mithila. The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita have been his guide and he has led his life on the principles imbibed in the holy treatise. In the modern world, conflict is bound to arise between a spiritual mind in the loom of its pursuits and the abstruse and opaque reality typifying human greed and selfishness. But to be a voice of rea-son and intellect, to speak fearlessly, to confront authority and to stand up with honesty, are values which symbolize a rare component of human courage."

Shri Jha was selflessly committed to the public good and none other than the doyen of advocacy in India Late Ram Jethmalani had thus summarised it while commenting on Shri Jha's Autobiographical Memoir:

"First of all the autobiography is of an intellectual and moral giant not because of its excellent diction but the contents relating to what he has done, what dilemma he encountered, how he resolved them and how he kept away from solutions that could have compromised his morals, integrity or commitment to the good of the nation........"

The then Judge of Rajasthan High Court, Dr. Vineet Kothari while reviewing the Second Edition of Shri Jha's Autobiography complimented the effervescence and richness of thoughts emanating therefrom in the following words:

"....The attraction of the beautiful language composition, rich legal, philosophical and practical knowledge embedded with 'shlokas' from Geeta and Shakespeare's writings with equal fluency indeed makes it appear like the two poles of the earth are brought together in the writings of Mr. Jha. It is indeed a great pleasure to go through the said book and I strongly feel that those who have the good luck of reading his book will definitely feel inspired and encouraged to lead such a meaningful life as Shiva (God) Kant (Grace) Jha (Brahmin- the Noble Soul)."

MIT Prof Noam Chomsky pithily summed up Shri Jha's Memoir as "A fascinating life story beautifully rendered".

Shri Jha always spoke of the certainty of death just as taxes but that it would come so soon has left a great void not only amongst members of his family and friends but also amongst his followers. He was a man of great intellect and a seeker of justice. He has left an indelible mark on people who came in contact with him personally as well as professionally. He was a man of pleasant and humble nature and his presence had an invisible aura. The intellectual footprints that he has left behind through his books, his writings, his website and his legal accomplishments will be a guiding light for generations to come. It is indeed an end of an era with the passing of such a great legal luminary...

Also See:

Judicial Role in Globalised Economy

Former SC Judge releases book on 'Judicial Role in Globalised Economy'

Book Review by Prof. M L Upadhyaya