Jasti Chelameswar

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Hon'ble Justice

Jasti Chelameswar
Judge of the Supreme Court of India
In office
10 October 2011[1] – 22 June 2018
Appointed byPratibha Patil
Chief Justice, Kerala High Court
In office
17 March 2010 – 9 October 2011
Preceded byS. R. Bannurmath
Succeeded byManjula Chellur
Chief Justice, Gauhati High Court
In office
2 May 2007 – 17 March 2010
Personal details
Born (1953-06-23) 23 June 1953 (age 66)
Movva mandal, Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh
Alma materAndhra University,
Loyola College, Chennai

Jasti Chelameswar (born 23 June 1953) was a judge of the Supreme Court of India, who declared the Freedom of Speech - a fundamental right. He retired on 22 June 2018 as the second most senior Supreme court judge.[2] Earlier, he was the Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala and Gauhati High Court.[3] He was also one of the 4 judges who held a controversial press conference against the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra.[4]

Early life[edit]

Chelameswar was born in Peddamuttevi village of Movva mandal, Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh, the son of Jasti Lakshminarayana, a lawyer who practised at the district court, and his wife Annapoornamma. After completing his schooling in Machilipatnam, Chelameswar enrolled at Loyola College, Chennai and obtained a Bachelor's degree in Science with Physics as his major subject. He then studied Law and obtained an LLB from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam in 1976.[1]


Chelameswar served as an Additional Judge at the then High Court of Andhra Pradesh. Later, he became the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court in 2007. He was later transferred as the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court and was elevated as a Judge, Supreme Court of India in October 2011.[5]

According to an Op-Ed in The Economic Times:

Chelameswar, once a government pleader, was appointed additional judge in the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 1997. He has been chief justice of both the Gauhati and Kerala high courts where he is perceived as having done exemplary work on the green benches there. He was made a Supreme Court judge in 2011 after an unexplained delay. This denied him the chance to be chief justice of India. He has delivered several landmark judgements while in the top court.[6]

Notable Judgements[edit]

Freedom of Speech[edit]

Chelameswar and Rohinton Fali Nariman formed the two judge bench of the Supreme Court of India which struck down a controversial law which gave Indian police the power to arrest anyone accused of posting emails or other electronic messages which "causes annoyance or inconvenience". The judges held Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which made such offenses punishable up to three years imprisonment, to be unconstitutional.[7][8][9][10][11] According to Chelameswar and Nariman, several terms in the law they were striking down were "open-ended, undefined and vague" which made them nebulous in nature. According to the judges: "What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another.”[11]

In their judgement the judges clarified that a distinction needs to be made between discussion, advocacy, and incitement. Any discussion, or advocacy of even an unpopular cause cannot be restricted, and it is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement whereby it causes public disorder or affects the security of the state can it be curbed.[9][10][11]

The judgement has been welcomed for defending the Indian Constitution's ideals of tolerance and the Constitutional provisions of free speech.[12][13] It has been pointed out that the controversial law struck down by Chelameswar and Nariman had gained notoriety after many people in India started getting arrested for seemingly innocuous reasons on the ground that they had violated the now scrapped law.[10][12][13][14]


A three judge bench of the Indian Supreme Court, comprising Chelameswar, Sharad Arvind Bobde, and Chokkalingam Nagappan, ratified an earlier order of the Supreme Court and clarified that no Indian citizen without an Aadhaar card can be deprived of basic services and government subsidies.[15]

National Judicial Appointments Commission(NJAC) verdict[edit]

In his dissenting opinion in the NJAC verdict(2015), Chelameswar had criticised the collegium system of appointing judges, which he said has become "a euphemism for nepotism" where "mediocrity or even less" is promoted and a "constitutional disorder" does not look distant.[6][16]


  1. ^ a b "Hon'ble Mr. Justice Jasti Chelameswar". Supreme Court of India. Archived from the original on 20 November 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Justice Jasti Chelameswar sits with CJI Dipak Misra, dispels speculations". barandbench.com. 18 May 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Meet Jasti Chelameswar, only judge who ruled in favour of government's NJAC - The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Turmoil in Supreme Court as four judges speak out against Chief Justice Dipak Misra". Hindustan Times. 12 January 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Hon'ble Mr. Justice Jasti Chelameswar". Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Meet Jasti Chelameswar, only judge who ruled in favour of government's NJAC". The Economic Times. 17 October 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Section 66A: India court strikes down 'Facebook' arrest law". BBC. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  8. ^ "India supreme court strikes down internet censorship law". The Guardian. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b "A blow for free speech". The Hoot. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b c "Supreme Court upholds free speech on internet, scraps 'unconstitutional' Section 66A of IT Act". Hindustan Times. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b c "SC strikes down 'draconian' Section 66A". The Hindu. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  12. ^ a b "The judgment that silenced Section 66A". The Hindu. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Our Politicians Loved Section 66(A)". NDTV. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Stats from 2014 reveal horror of scrapped section 66A of IT Act". Hindustan Times. 20 August 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Don't insist on Aadhar, warns SC". The Hindu. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  16. ^ "The judge who dissented: 'No accountability, mediocrity or even less promoted, reform overdue'". The Indian Express. 17 October 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015.