JUSTICE MOHAN SHANTANAGOUDAR – A SHORT MEMOIR
UNIQUE TIMES|May - June 2021
It is well-settled that in case of any ambiguity in the construction of a penal statute, the judgment pointed out, the courts must favour the interpretation which leans towards protecting the rights of the accused, given the ubiquitous power disparity between the individual accused and the State machinery.
Adv Sherry Samuel Oommen

When Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar, passed away recently at a private hospital in Gurgaon after a prolonged illness, the nation lost a gem, an individual who was unwavering in his principles, yet extremely pleasant and humble.

Born on May 5, 1958, his illustrious career started when he enrolled as an advocate on September 5, 1980. After serving the Bar for more than two decades, he was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court on May 12, 2003, and later became a Permanent Judge of the Karnataka High Court in September 2004. He was later transferred to the Kerala High Court where he assumed charge as the Acting Chief Justice on August 1, 2016. He thereafter became the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court on September 22, 2016 before being elevated to the Supreme Court on February 17, 2017.

Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar will be remembered for the various landmark judgments that he has penned. In the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Indore Development Authority Vs Shailendra (2018) 3 SCC 412, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar dissented from the majority views authored by Justice Arun Mishra holding that it was not proper for a Bench of coordinate strength to comment on the discretion exercised or judgment of another coordinate Bench of the same court. His Lordship observed as under:

“A coordinate Bench cannot comment upon the discretion exercised or judgment rendered by another coordinate Bench of the same court. The rule of precedent is binding for the reason that there is a desire to secure uniformity and certainty in the law. Thus, in judicial administration precedents which enunciate the rules of law form the foundation of the administration of justice under our system. Therefore, it has always been insisted that the decision of a coordinate Bench must be followed. (Vide Tribhovandas Purshottamdas Thakkar v. Ratilal Motilal Patel [TribhovandasPurshottamdas Thakkar v. Ratilal Motilal Patel, AIR 1968 SC 372], Sub-Committee of Judicial Accountability v. Union of India [SubCommittee of Judicial Accountability v. Union of India, (1992) 4 SCC 97] and State of Tripura v. Tripura Bar Assn. [State of Tripura v. Tripura Bar Assn., (1998) 5 SCC 637 : 1998 SCC (L&S) 1426] )

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