He ventured into the legal field in 1946 and 1948, he enrolled as a High Court Advocate of Mysore, in Bangalore. At the same time, he also practised in original and appellate courts in Civil and Criminal litigation. He had a stellar legal career where he occupied positions such as Special Government Pleader and Government Advocate for the Government of Mysore for about a year from June 1969 to March 1970.
He later became the Advocate General of Mysore from March 1970 toJune 1970.
He was appointed as the additional judge of Karnataka High Court on25th June, 1970 and as the permanent judge of the same High Court in November 1970. Thereafter, in March 1979 he rose to the position of judge of the supreme court and became the Chief Justice of India in 1989. This made him a first-ever person from Karnataka to become Chief Justice of India. He retired on 17th December, 1989. However, it is believed that his name was suggested by Rukhmini Devi, who was a popular dancer and close to Nehru. Nehru then made him the Chief Justice of India.
He famously presided over the seven-judge bench in SP Gupta v. UOIor first judges case, which looked into matters of appointment of judges to thesupreme court. In this case, he had observed, “Merely because the power ofappointment of a judge is with the executive the independence of judiciarycannot be said to be impaired the true principle is that after such appointmentthe executive should have no scope to interfere with the work of a judge.”
He has a record of being on the fifth position for thelongest-serving judges of the Supreme Court. However, when it comes to his HighCourt tenure as a judge, he occupies 14th position in the list of shortesttenure. He has published a number of legal research papers such as “a briefhistory of the liability of a participant in a strike in England,” “somethoughts on Social Justice” and finally “the Sunday Times Thalidomide case.”One of his prominent judgments includes Kehar Singh vs Union of India where thepower to grant pardon under article 72 of the president was judiciallyreviewed.
He died of a heart attack on 24th September 1997.