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‘A judge with polite demeanour’: Chief Justice U.U. Lalit passed key verdicts, initiated live-streaming

New Delhi, Nov 8, 2022- Chief Justice of India, Uday Umesh Lalit, during his brief 74-day tenure, initiated live-streaming of court proceedings and delivered several key judgments.

November 8 was his last day in office.

On his last working day on Monday, a five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Lalit, with a 3:2 majority upheld the validity of the 103rd Constitution amendment providing 10 per cent reservation to people belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) in admissions and government jobs. However, Chief Justice concurred with the minority view of Justice S Ravindra Bhat.

Justice Bhat, who authored the judgment for himself and on behalf of the Chief Justice Lalit, said: “I regret my inability to concur with the views expressed by the majority opinion on the validity of the 103rd Amendment… since I feel – for reasons set out elaborately in the following opinion – that this court has for the first time, in the seven decades of the republic, sanctioned an avowedly exclusionary and discriminatory principle. Our Constitution does not speak the language of exclusion”.

Justice Bhat termed EWS quota as unconstitutional for excluding the poor among SCs, STs, and OBCs.

On November 3, a bench headed by Chief Justice Lalit affirmed the death penalty for Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Mohammad Arif alias Ashfaq for carrying out the December 2000 Red Fort attack, saying there was a direct attack on the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India. The attack had left three Army jawans dead.

The Chief Justice was very popular for his polite demeanour among lawyers and a large number of lawyers had gathered at his farewell, organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Chief Justice Lalit ordered live streaming of constitution bench cases from September 27, which included the petitions challenging the reservation for the economically weaker sections, petitions challenging demonetisation etc.,

A bench headed by Chief Justice also granted bail to activist Teesta Setalvad, arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases, and Siddique Kappan, a Kerala-based journalist. In October 2020, Kappan was arrested while on his way to Hathras in UP where a Dalit woman had died after allegedly being gang-raped.

Born on November 9, 1957, CJI Lalit was the second head of judiciary to be directly elevated to the apex court bench from the Bar. On August 13, 2014, Justice Lalit was appointed judge of the Supreme Court and was sworn in as the 49th CJI on August 27, 2022.

However, he could not fill up the four vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court, as his successor Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S.A. Nazeer objected to the procedure adopted.

The apex court collegium was headed by CJI Lalit and comprises Justices Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abdul Nazeer, and K.M. Joseph. A joint statement, uploaded on the apex court’s website dated October 9, said: “The proposal initiated by the CJI had concurrence from Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph. Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer had objected to the process of selection and appointing judges by circulation.”

A letter on October 7 was received from the Union Law Minister requesting the CJI to nominate his successor to take over the office of CJI with effect from November 9. “In the circumstances, no further steps need be taken and the unfinished work in the meeting called for September 30, 2022 is closed without there being any further deliberation. The meeting dated September 30 stands discharged,” added the statement, issued by all the members of the collegium.

The top court currently has 28 judges against the sanctioned strength of 34.  (Agency)

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