Tribute: Justice V. Ratnam

Justice V. Ratnam, a retired judge of the Madras High Court and retired Chief Justice of the Himachal High Court, passed away at about 10 am on Saturday, May 23, 2020 at his residence at Vedantha Desigar Swamy Street (Pelathope), Mylapore.

Justice Ratnam was born in 1932, enrolled as an advocate of the Madras Bar in 1955. and had a thriving practice as a civil appellate side lawyer in the Madras High Court.

On 25 January 1979, he was elevated as a permanent Judge of the Madras High Court.

A legal luminary with a very sharp intellect, he rendered several landmark judgements.  He was respected for his erudition and feared for his firm discipline in court. A generation of lawyers own their deep knowledge of  civil law to him.

His practice was not to allow junior advocates to seek adjournments of cases due to absence of their senior lawyer but to make them read the papers in court and argue the case. This built the confidence and skills of many young lawyers, who are now leading lawyers and judges.

In 1992, he officiated as the Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

After serving for 15 years, Justice Ratnam was elevated as the Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court. While serving as the Chief Justice, he officiated as  the Acting Governor of Himachal for a while. He retired as the Chief Justice on August 1, 1994.

His father, the late  Justice Viswanath Sastri was also an eminent judge of the Madras High Court and after retirement became an outstanding lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.

Originally hailing from Mannargudi,  the family has been in Pelathope ( Mylapore) for almost a century.

He is survived by wife and daughter.

  • Reported by T K Ramkumar/ advocate

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