7 Nov 2022 2:26 PM GMT
More than 10,000 matters have been disposed of during Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit's brief tenure of 74 days, the outgoing Chief Justice said on his last working day. "In addition, we have also disposed of 13,000 matters that were lying in defect for several years, but were being maintained on the file," said Justice Lalit, "So, 10,000 actual disposals, as against the 8,700 cases that...
More than 10,000 matters have been disposed of during Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit's brief tenure of 74 days, the outgoing Chief Justice said on his last working day. "In addition, we have also disposed of 13,000 matters that were lying in defect for several years, but were being maintained on the file," said Justice Lalit, "So, 10,000 actual disposals, as against the 8,700 cases that were freshly filed." He happily announced, "Therefore, we have been able to take the slice out of the mounting arrears to a large extent."
Chief Justice Lalit was speaking at a farewell function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association in his honour. He is scheduled to demit office tomorrow and pass the baton on to the Chief Justice-designate, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. But the farewell function was organized today as tomorrow is a holiday for the Supreme Court.
Addressing the gathering, Justice Lalit noted with pride, "I remember certain promises I made, when I took over as the Chief Justice of India. I said that I will try to streamline the listing patterns, ensure that there is one Constitution Bench functioning throughout the year, get regular matters listed on an expedited basis, and make mentioning of matters easy. To a certain extent, I have been able to fulfil those promises."
Under Justice Lalit's Chief Justiceship, the Supreme Court started taking up, with renewed vigour, long overdue legal disputes that had been referred to Constitution Benches to be finally resolved. Justice Lalit recalled, "After being sworn in, on my first day, I had a full court meeting with all my colleagues. At that time, we had 30 judges as against the sanctioned strength of 34. I divided 30 by five and said that there were six Constitution Benches possible. We decided that all 30 judges would be a part of some Constitution Bench, and these six benches would be rolling."
"Justice Indira Banerjee was to retire in 23 days' time. Not only did they hear the matter, but they also delivered the judgement. My Bench delivered the EWS judgement today after extensive hearings for about three and a half weeks. The other four Benches are rolling. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul's Bench has finished four final hearing matters and are on to the fifth matter now. Judgements are reserved," Justice Lalit informed.
"I have practised at the Supreme Court for about 37 years, but I have never seen two Constitution Benches sitting simultaneously," said Justice Lalit, "But, after I became the Chief Justice, on a particular day, there were three Constitution Benches. It was also the day we started live-streaming."
Another notable development that took place during his tenure was the constitution of benches comprising three judges. This was done primarily to dispose of death sentence references in accordance with the majority judgement delivered by Justice Rohinton Nariman in Mohd. Arif v. The Registrar, Supreme Court of India [(2014) 9 SCC 737]. By this judgement, the apex court had mandated that appeals arising out of death sentences could only be heard by a combination of three Judges. Justice Lalit said, "On the day I took over, there were 55 death reference matters. So, we listed those matters. In four matters, the hearings have been concluded. In two, the judgements have been delivered. And in two matters, the judgements have been reserved. This is apart from other various matters which have been taken up by three-judge Benches."
Justice Lalit thanked his colleagues on the bench and the members of the bar for their continued support. Without this support, he would not be able to achieve what he has achieved in his brief tenure, the Chief Justice confessed. "I know I made demands. Demands that were tough. Matters were getting listed on shorter notice. But everyone rose to the occasion and helped me accomplish this. I am deeply indebted," he said.
The Chief Justice also recalled how he started his career at the Supreme Court in the first court hall. He recounted, "I came to mention a matter before the then Chief Justice and that was my first appearance in the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice was none other than Justice Y.V. Chandrachud. Today, I am passing on the baton, which I have received through successive Chief Justices, onto the son of that illustrious Chief Justice."
Speaking about his father, U.R. Lalit, who was a Judge at the Bombay High Court and a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice said, "My father had a tenure of just about two years as a Judge. When the news came that his term is going to expire, I went to the court. I had never seen my father as a Judge, nor had I attended his swearing-in. On his last day, I saw the hustle and bustle of the courtroom, the lawyers…And I decided that this is where I would like to be."
Apart from his parents, Justice Lalit also paid tribute to his grandfather, a lawyer who started his practice in Solapur in the 1920s, and his grandmother, who was the first lady doctor of the Maharashtrian city. The Chief Justice said that his grandparents had "the deepest influence on him." He also thanked his wife and his family for resolutely standing by him. He confessed, "Law is a jealous mistress, and she demands time. The biggest casualty of this is our family members."
The Chief Justice finally thanked veteran advocate and eminent jurist, Soli Sorabjee, in whose chambers he worked as a junior for five and a half years. He exclaimed, "Watching Mr Sorabjee, an excellent mind, at work. He is why I am here. I am a product of that brilliance."
Justice Lalit concluded his speech with a note of reminiscence and gratitude. He said, "This profession has given me everything. When I came to Delhi, there were dreams in my mind, but the part was not clear. But after 37 years, of which 28 years I spent as an advocate, and eight years on the bench, I can say that I have been able to do something in life. And it is only because of you. Thank you."
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit is the 49th Chief Justice of India. He was one of the six Senior Advocates to be directly elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court.