Remembering Hosbet Suresh: A voice for the voiceless and my chamber mate of 37 years

Senior Advocate Yusuf Muchhala pens a heartfelt eulogy to late Justice Hosbet Suresh (retd) who was a lifelong defender of human rights


On June 11, 2020, high-pitched, shrill voice, crying for justice was silenced by icy hands of death.  Justice Hosbet Suresh breathed his last on this day. His loud and shrill voice expressed the agony of oppressed and marginalised people who suffered injustice but silently bore the humiliation of suffering oppression.  He was the voice of the voiceless. Whenever I heard his voice either as a sitting judge or after his retirement as the ardent advocate of preservation of human rights, I am reminded of the couplet by noted Urdu poet Amir Minai. 

He said,

“khanjar chale kisi pey, tadapte hain hum amir,

sarey jahan ka dard hamarey jigar mein hai”. 


It can be translated in English as,

“When anyone is stabbed with dagger, I feel the pain, O Amir!. 

My heart is full of compassion for the agony of the whole humanity.” 


Justice Suresh carried that pain in his heart for the whole humanity which suffered in silence pangs of oppression and injustice.

He was always at the frontline of the activists giving expression to the victims whether of the communal riots during December 1992 and January 1993 or linguistic riots known as Cauvery riots.  He spoke and actively worked against the forced eviction of slum dwellers in 1995, caste atrocities in Chennai in 2000 and again the voice of the victims of 2002 Gujarat genocide, police killings of Dalits in Thambiraparani, unjustified firing of tribals in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, and any issue affecting the right to life which is the basis of all the human rights.  He had the clear understanding of working of democracy.  It was his clear foresight that even a democratically elected leader sooner degenerates into a dictator.  There are many dictators who were democratically elected.  To prevent such abuse of democracy, it is necessary that civil society should be vigilant and have the culture of questioning legislative and executive actions by critically examining the same and protesting against any legislative/executive action which infringes the basic human rights of the citizens.  He therefore never wavered from protesting against the draconian laws like TADA, POTA or UAPA. 

As a sitting judge, he wrote some memorable judgements.  His judgement relating to purification of the electoral laws needs special mention.  He showed courage to pen the judgement setting aside election fought by the winning candidate by making an appeal on religious grounds.  He thus upheld the value of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution and statutory electoral laws. But as the human rights activist, his enormous contribution was to develop culture of public hearings, fact finding committees, commissions and tribunals on variety of human rights violation against the depressed sections of the society.  A special mention must be made of the way he pioneered the whole system of public hearing of the victims of the 1992 riots in then known as Bombay.  Late Justice Daud and Suresh formed a committee to find out the truth of the riots that occurred in Bombay at that time and this was the first committee of its kind which spoke to the victims directly and engaged in the quest to find out the truth of the happenings of the event.  This committee gave its report expeditiously within a year of the happening of the riots in Bombay as then known.  At that time the commission of enquiry headed by Justice B. N. Srikrishna also worked ceaselessly by holding elaborate enquiry into the incidents of the December riots of 1992 in Bombay.  It is interesting to note that the findings given by the committee of Justice Daud and Justice Suresh and the ultimate findings given by the Justice B. N. Srikrishna commission were consistent and there was no disagreement between the two.  In other words, all the findings given by the committee of Justice Suresh and Justice Daud were upheld by Justice Srikrishna commission report and both arrived at the same findings without any divergence of opinion.  This proves the effectiveness of the people’s committee to investigate the truth by listening to the grievances of the people who were directly affected by the acts of atrocities committed on them.  This experience was again repeated during the 2002 Gujarat genocide where Justice Suresh was also one of the members of the people’s tribunal and they gave the report entitled “Crime Against Humanity”.  Thereafter, Justice Suresh was in great demand to be a part of the committees to address the grievances of the public on any issue relating to human rights.

Justice Suresh was my chamber colleague for 37 years.  I had the privilege of listening to his experience and have always benefited by his erudition and knowledge of law.  It is difficult to fill the void created by his absence.  It is undoubtedly a public loss, but I also feel private loss as I have lost a dear friend.

*The writer is a senior advocate at the Bombay High Court and president of Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)


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