Newly-appointed Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde on Monday sat on the dais in a courtroom with Chief Justice of Jamaica Bryan Sykes and senior-most Judge of Bhutan’s Supreme Court, Justice Kuenlay Tshering, a first for the head of the Indian apex court.
Justice Bobde, 63, was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.
He was congratulated by Bar leaders on being appointed as the 47th head of the Indian judiciary.
The CJI, who headed the bench comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, started holding the court at 11.30 am and was first congratulated by Rakesh Khanna, the senor advocate and the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
“We wish a fruitful and successful tenure to CJI Bobde,” the SCBA President said in the packed courtroom where his relatives and friends were also present.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal mentioned the bail plea of jailed Congress leader P Chidambaram as the first case before the CJI who said he will look into the plea for urgent hearing.
Bobde will have a tenure of over 17 months as the CJI and is due to retire on April 23, 2021.
He was part of the recent historic Ayodhya verdict and the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court that had held unanimously in August 2017 that the Right to Privacy was a constitutionally protected fundamental right in India.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is likely to have a meeting with Uttar Pradesh chief secretary and director general of police on Friday to assess the law and order arrangement in the state ahead of the verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute case to be pronounced next week, sources said.
The CJI has called UP Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and DGP Om Prakash Singh and will have the meeting in his chamber, they said.
The judgement on the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute was reserved on October 16 after a marathon hearing of 40 days. The judgement is likely to be pronounced before November 17 as Justice Gogoi’s tenure as the CJI comes to end on that day.
CPI leader D Raja, part of the opposition led by Congress which moved the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India, today said the concerned parties would have to examine the grounds on which the notice has been rejected by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
“Concerned parties will have to examine the grounds on which the motion has been rejected by the Vice President. We will have to consult among us, especially who moved the motion,” Raja said, adding the Left and other parties which have submitted the motion would hold consultations to decide the future course.
“We have to share our views and decide on the future course of action. We will consult among left parties and all other parties,” the CPI National Secretary said.
Naidu today rejected the impeachment motion moved against the CJI saying it lacked substantial merit. The rejection of the notice came a day after he held the consultations to determine the maintainability of the motion.
Seven opposition parties, including the CPI, had last week moved a notice before Naidu for impeachment of the CJI on five grounds of “misbehaviour”.
The Supreme Court today directed the listing of a case of a news portal’s scribes, who are facing criminal defamation complaint filed by BJP President Amit Shah’s son, before an appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18.
An supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said since it was seized of hearing important cases pending before a constitution bench, there was paucity of time to hear this matter.
It said the petitions, which have challenged the Gujarat High Court’s order refusing to quash summons issued against them by a trial court in a defamation complaint filed by Shah’s son Jay Shah, be listed before an appropriate bench.
“Let the matters be listed before the appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18. The interim order passed on the earlier occasion to continue till the next date of hearing,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
On March 15, the CJI-led bench had heard the pleas filed by news portal ‘The Wire’ and some of its scribes against the Gujarat High Court order. It had also asked the Gujarat trial court not to proceed with the complaint till today.
The high court had on January 8 rejected a plea filed by the portal, seeking quashing of the defamation complaint filed against it by Jay over an article related to his company.
On the last date of hearing before the apex court, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the portal and the scribes, had said that the article contained details from records which were in “public domain electronically”.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI and comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is currently hearing the crucial matter relating to the validity of the Aadhaar Act.
The same bench is also scheduled to hear several other matters, including the one related to its 2013 judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults and ban on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article published by the news portal claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.
The complaint was filed against the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.
Jay has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. He has also rejected the charges made in the article, insisting that the story was “false, derogatory and defamatory”.
Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the master of roster and for laying down the principles and procedure to be followed in preparing it for allocation of cases.
He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan who wrote a letter to the supreme court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes the CJI.
In the letter, Prashant also said that it would be appropriate that the petition be listed before three senior-most judges of the top court for allocating it before an appropriate bench.
In the petition, CJI Dipak Misra has been named as one of the respondents along with the registrar of the Supreme Court.
The senior advocate has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.
The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion.”
It said that such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncement of this court.
This petition assumes significance as on January 12 this year four senior most judges- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph- of the Supreme Court had called a press conference and said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.
The four judges had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before junior judges of the supreme court.
There can be no compromise on a citizen’s fundamental rights, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said today while responding to the assertion of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that governance “must remain” with those elected to govern.
On Prasad’s remark that “PILs cannot become a substitute for governance”, the CJI said the Supreme Court believed in and practised “constitutional sovereignty”.
“The fundamental rights are in the core value and the bedrock of the Constitution. An independent judiciary with the power of judicial review has been conferred with the power of the ultimate guardian of the Constitution to strike a balance … to ensure that respective governments are functioning as provided by the law within their respective domains,” he said.
There can be no compromise with the citizen’s fundamental rights, he said at a function organised by the apex court to celebrate Constitution Day.
“The citizens’ rights have to be at the pinnacle,” Justice Misra asserted.
Calling the Constitution a “lucid” and “living” document, he said, “The Supreme Court of India today believed that we are only under Constitutional sovereignty and we shall practise it”.
Though no right was absolute, there should be no fetters which “destroy the central dogma of the constitution”, the CJI said at the function, inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Justice Misra said the focus of the judiciary should be on reducing pending cases, rejecting frivolous litigations and stressing on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to settle cases.
Speaking at the function, the Law Minister said though PILs served the purpose in dispensing justice to the poor, they should not be used as a substitute for governance and the law-making powers of the executive and the legislature.
“PILs should not become a substitute of governance and the government because the founding fathers gave this right to those elected to govern,” Prasad said.
He said law-making must be left to the realm of those elected to make the law.
“The founding fathers clearly meant that governance must remain in the realm of those elected to govern by the people of India and accountable to the people of India.” he said.
While independence of the judiciary was “important”, judicial accountability, probity and propriety were “equally” necessary, he said.
“In the case of the judiciary, the accountability is latent… Independence (of judiciary) is most important, but probity and propriety are equally important,” he said, while adding that “reckless allegations” should not be made or paid heed to.
Attorney General K K Venugopal termed a “boon” the evolution of the public interest litigation by the Supreme Court and said it had served poor citizens of the country.
He referred to a judgement in a PIL that had led to the mass release of undertrial prisoners who had served the maximum jail terms prescribed for offences during the trial itself.
The top law officer, however, had a word of caution for the judiciary and said the question was if the purpose sought to be achieved by PILs had been attained.
“It is one thing to deliver a judgement in a PIL but to implement it and to achieve results is a totally different thing. Therefore… there has to be collaborative effort,” he said.
“The government has to be given the opportunity to consider the various pro and cons (of an issue). The government has to come forward with solutions. The government has to be heard … what their budget allows…,” he said.
He suggested that one or two special benches hear PILs and said there should be adequate guidelines to deal with the pleas.
Moreover, there should be “collaborative efforts” on the part of the judiciary and the executive to ensure that the judgements are implemented keeping in mind the limited resources.
Referring to the humble background of President Kovind, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and senior advocate R S Suri said it was the power of democracy and the Constitution that a person from a poor section of society had reached the very top.
The Bar head then raised the issue of delays in appointment in the judiciary and suggested that lawyers practising in the apex court and retired judges be considered and appointed judges in the highest judiciary as mandated under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court today imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh each on two persons for filing a “motivated” petition challenging the practise of recommending to the President, the name of successor by the incumbent Chief Justice of India.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said that imposition of exemplary cost on Swami Om and Mukesh Jain was needed to send across a message to similarly placed people to deter them from filing such pleas.
The petitioners, who did not allege anything in their plea against the CJI designate, referred to the constitutional scheme on the appointment of CJI and the Chief Justices of the High Courts and said that the process of recommending the name of successor by the incumbent CJI is against the spirit of Constitution.
The bench in its order noted that Article 124A, amended by the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, has already been set aside by a constitution bench.
Article 124 of the Constitution deals with the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, while Article 124A provides for the composition of the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
The apex court asked the petitioners to deposit the fine within a period of one month from today and said that the amount should be sent to the Prime Minister Relief Fund.
The bench ordered re-listing of the matter after a month if the petitioners fail to deposit the cost imposed.
Chief Justice of India J S Khehar today said India is becoming a hub of international arbitration and the government’s initiative to work towards zero interference in the process will promote confidence among foreign traders.
Justice Khehar said that potential for international arbitration is increasing due to foreign investment.
Speaking at a two-day seminar ‘Engaging Asia Arbitration Summit’, the CJI said government’s ‘Make in India’ scheme will make the country a favoured market among the emerging ones.
“At the highest level of planning in Indian government, efforts are on that neither the government nor its agencies will have interference in international arbitration process.
The zero interference by the government will give room for foreign traders in India that the process here is neutral…
“In my view, it will promote further confidence of traders in arbitration in the country,” he said.
Justice Khehar noted that India has a talent pool of lawyers and arbitrators and the future of international commercial arbitration in Asia must commence from India.
Concerned over a large number of adoption cases pending in courts across the country, the Centre has written to Chief Justice of India on the need to sensitise judges.
Maneka Gandhi-led Women and Child Development Ministry has also suggested a slew of measures in order to hasten the legal process.
“Courts are going beyond the scope of Juvenile Justice Act and have imposed several conditions which are not in the best interest of the children and adoptive parents,” says the letter to CJI J S Khehar.
The letter was referring to several controversial orders in the recent past.
Earlier this month, a Madras High Court judge ordered adoptee parents to donate Rs one lakh to a local school.
A district court in Burdwan recently ordered parents to produce a child before it at regular intervals of 3-6 months till the child turned 18 while a family court in Guna asked adoptee parents to deposit a sum of Rs five lakh in the account of the child they were adopting.
Experts argue that requiring parents to give a financial undertaking or produce a child before a court at periodic intervals is unnecessary because Specialised Adoption Agencies are mandated to carry out a Home Study Report to determine emotional and financial eligibility of prospective parents.
“Imposing unreasonable pre-conditions along with delays by courts will discourage people from adopting a child through the legal method. Genuine parents will be forced to explore informal or illegal methods for bringing home a child,” said CEO, Central Adoption Resource Authority, Deepak Kumar.
The letter also requests for a dedicated day for hearing of adoption cases across benches.
In large districts, where the district court may not be located close by, the ministry wants adjoining family courts to have concurrent powers in adoption matters.
In order to make the legal process easier for foreign nationals it has been suggested that the High Court of a particular state must dedicate a bench for inter-country adoption.
Nearly 800 adoption cases are pending in various courts across the country. Of these, approximately 150 cases have not been resolved for over a year.
As per JJ Act 2016, courts must dispose off a case within two months.
Ever since adoption was regulated and its rules revised in 2015, the central adoption body has registered a decline in annual adoption rate. The adoption numbers have dropped by 40 per cent in six years from 6,321 in 2010 to 3,677 in 2016.
Chief Justice of India J S Khehar today urged the Bar Council of India to train young lawyers to make them understand the profession and its work ethics.
He also asked the apex lawyers’ body, BCI, to improve the quality of legal institutions by training and helping litigants and make the lawyers competent enough to discharge their obligations towards the society.
“Have the institutions right. Lawyers serve the society.
Lawyers should be the best. The institution should be competent to discharge the obligation.
“Arrange training for people who join the Bar. People who are scared. People who do not know their profession. Help them. You need to help a lawyer one time, he will then fight every case by himself as he will understand how to search for the law. Also teach them ethics. Have good institutions,” he said.
Justice Khehar was addressing the Bar Council members during a function organised to felicitate him on his elevation as the CJI.
While welcoming the CJI and other dignitaries, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra extended his support to the Chief Justice-headed collegium, while expressing concern over delay in appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
“The BCI is seriously concerned about the delay tactics and objectionable conditions proposed by the government in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)–a document to guide appointment of Supreme Court and high court judges.
“BCI demands that all the vacancies in High Courts and the Supreme Court should be filled up at the earliest. We cannot accept any condition in the MoP which our collegium and the Chief Justice of India do not think proper. The Bar stands with the judiciary whole-heartedly and will take necessary steps for strengthening it,” Mishra said.