Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
Assumed Office13th May, 2016
Retired On4th Jul, 2021
Chief Justice of Kerala High Court March 26th 2015 - May 12th 2016
Acting Chief Justice of Kerala High CourtAugust 1st 2014 - March 25th 2015
Judge at the Kerala High Court July 10th 2014 - July 31st 2014
Permanent Judge of the Allahabad High CourtApril 24th 2001-July 9th 2014
Education and Career as an Advocate
Justice Ashok Bhushan graduated from Allahabad University in 1979. He began practising civil law matters at the Allahabad High Court and worked as the Standing Counsel of Allahabad University and the State Mineral Development Corporation Limited. He was elected as Senior Vice-President of the Allahabad High Court Bar Association.
Career as a Judge
In 2001, Justice Bhushan was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Allahabad High Court. He also served as the Chairman of the Higher Judicial Service Committee. On July 10th 2014 he was appointed as a Judge of the Kerala High Court and on March 26th 2015 he was appointed as its Chief Justice.
In May 2016, he was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he was a judge for five years until his retirement in July 2021. On October 29th 2021, he was appointed as the Chairman of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.
On October 29th, 2021, two months after he retired from the SC, Justice Ashok Bhushan was appointed as the Chairperson of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT). He will hold the position for four years.
In Binoy Viswam v Union of India Bhushan and Sikri JJ ordered a partial stay on the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with the PAN card until the nine-judge bench in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India decided on the scope of the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
A Division Bench in Union of India v M Selvakumar dismissed a petition praying for an increase in the number of attempts to write the Civil Services Examination from seven for physically handicapped candidates to ten for physically handicapped OBC candidates. Justice Bhushan stated that ‘physically handicapped’ is a category in itself. He added that persons falling in this category suffer from similar disabilities, irrespective of whether they belong to the General or OBC category. Therefore they must be treated alike in concessions.
In 2018, Bhushan J wrote a concurring judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India, upholding the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. He held that it did not violate the right to privacy, as it passed the three-fold test of legality, need and proportionality laid down in the 2017 Puttaswamy judgment.
In Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v Union of India, Justice Bhushan delivered an opinion that upheld the 50% limit on reservations. Calling this a ‘reasonable balance’ between equality of opportunity and affirmative action, he held that reservation for Marathas could not exceed this 50% ceiling. While this part of his opinion was unanimously approved by the five-judge Bench, he was in the minority on the other issue. He held that the 102nd Constitutional Amendment had not taken away the States’ powers to recognise ‘socially and educationally backward classes’ who would be entitled to affirmative action. Bhushan J said that this was not the purpose of the Amendment. Ravindra Bhat J wrote the majority opinion and held that the Amendment did take away the States’ powers.
Justice Bhushan joined the five-judge bench hearing on the Ayodhya land title dispute in M. Siddiq v Mahant Suresh Das. The Ayodhya judgment marked the conclusion of one of the most widely discussed and contentious legal disputes in recent times. The Bench overturned the decision of the Allahabad High Court, which divided the suit property between the Muslim and Hindu parties. The Bench instead decided the case on minimalist reasoning, focusing on the title issues instead of the juristic personality of the disputed land. The judgment was unanimous but unusually, did not identify the author. It granted the entire disputed land to the Hindu deity, Sri Ram Virajman. Bhushan J is widely recognised to have been the author of the anonymous ‘addendum’ that discussed whether the land was indeed Ram’s birthplace.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he pronounced orders in cases involving free testing, the plight of migrant labourers and ex-gratia payments.