22nd December, 1923 – 20th April, 2018
Rajindar Sachar was a jurist and a judge but above all, a humanist, who stood throughout his life for protection of civil liberties and fought relentlessly for the poor and the marginalized.
Shri Rajindar Sachar was born on 22nd December 1923 at Lahore (present-day Pakistan). He attended the D.A.V. High School in Lahore, then went on to Government College Lahore and Law College, Lahore. His grandfather was a well-known criminal lawyer in Lahore. His father, Shri Bhim Sen Sachar was a veteran freedom fighter who became the first Chief Minister of Punjab (India) immediately after the first general elections were held in 1952. He was the Governor of Andhra Pradesh from 1956-61 and later High Commissioner for India to Sri Lanka from 1964-1966. Shri Bhim Sen Sachar strongly opposed ‘emergency’ imposed by Indira Gandhi in June 1975 and, like many others, suffered imprisonment for the same.
Shri Rajindar Sachar was enrolled as an advocate on 22.04.1952 and started his law practice in Punjab High Court in Shimla but later shifted to Chandigarh when the High Court was shifted there. He was President of the Punjab & Haryana High Court Bar Association from 1967-68. He earned respect and reputation as an advocate.
Sachar was appointed Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court on 12th February 1970. On 5th July 1972 became a permanent Judge of the Delhi High Court. He was the first acting chief justice of the Sikkim High court (from 16 May 1975 until 10 May 1976), when Sikkim became a part of India and a High Court was set up there. From Sikkim he came to the Rajasthan High Court as a judge and finally, transferred back to the Delhi High Court. He was the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court from August 6th, 1985 till he retired on 22nd December 1985.
He headed the one-man Enquiry Committee on the Boeing 737 Air Crash in 1973 where Mohan Kumar Mangalam, the Union Minister for Steel, had died.
In 1977, he chaired the High Powered Expert Committee set up by the Government of India to review the Companies Act and the MRTP Act, both of which were amended on the basis of his recommendations.
In May 1984 Sachar reviewed the Industrial Disputes Act, including the backlog of cases. His report was scathing. He said “A more horrendous and despairing situation can hardly be imagined… the load at present in the various Labour Courts and Industrial Tribunals is so disproportionate to what can conceivably be borne … that the arrears can only go on increasing if the present state of affairs is not improved… It is harsh and unjust to both the employers and employees if the cases continue to remain undecided for years”.
After his retirement as a judge, he joined Supreme Court as a Senior Advocate and was in active practice till 2017. During this period, he involved himself actively in social movements fighting for protection of human rights and civil liberties. He was the President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) from 1986 to 1995. He appeared and argued several important cases for PUCL i.e. mandatory declaration of assets/criminal antecedents of MPs/MLAs, ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option in elections as right of the voters, telephone tapping and domicile requirement in Rajya Sabha, among others.
From the early days of his life, he was closely associated with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and Madhu Limaye -two prominent socialist leaders, amongst others. He actively participated in the socialist movements and remained wedded to socialist ideology till the end of his life. But he had no inhibition in associating himself with other political groups and individuals for espousing the causes which were dear to him. His friends and admirers comprised people from all sections of society. Nurturing and strengthening the civil liberty movement in the country was his life long passion, which kept him actively involved with PUCL till the end.
From 1990 to 1994, he was member of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. During that period, he was also appointed as a member from India to SAARC Consultative Conference on the Rights of the Child, held at Colombo, Sri Lanka.
In 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights appointed him for a two-year study on the issue of promotion and realization of the right to adequate housing. He remained in the Commission till August 1995, when he presented his final report on the Right to Adequate Housing to UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its 47th Session held at Geneva.
Sachar was appointed to a high-level Advisory Committee chaired by Chief Justice Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi to review the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and determine whether structural changes and amendments were needed. The committee prepared a draft amendment Bill incorporating its recommendations. These included changes to the membership of the National Human Rights Commission, changes to procedures to reduce delays in following up recommendations and a broadening of the commission’s scope. The recommendations were submitted to the Home Affairs ministry on 7th March 2000.[
In March 2005, Justice Rajindar Sachar was appointed to a committee to study the condition of the Muslim community in India and to prepare comprehensive report on their social, economic and educational status. On 17th November 2006, he presented the report, entitled “Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India”, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The report showed the growing social and economic insecurity that had been imposed on Muslims since independence. Sachar Committee report aimed to promote inclusion of the diverse communities in India and their equal treatment. It emphasised initiatives that were general rather than specific to any one community. It found that the Muslim population, estimated at over 138 million in 2001, were under-represented in the civil service, police, military and in politics.
He was the trustee of Servants of People Society and Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. His articles on all current topics regularly appeared in prominent national newspapers. He was married to Mrs. Raj, sister of Late Shri Kuldip Nayar. She had passed away in 2011. His son Sanjiv, daughter Madhavi, daughter-in-law Sita and grandchildren Shreya, Akshay, and Sanil survive him. At the age of 94, his active life met its end on 20th April 2018 at New Delhi.