Meet the new Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was on Saturday sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI)

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was on Saturday sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI)
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was on Saturday sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI)

Who is Uday Umesh Lalit, India’s new 49th Chief Justice

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit on Saturday was sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI). President Droupadi Murmu administered the swearing-in oath during a brief ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former president Ram Nath Kovind, former vice president M Venkaiah Naidu and Union ministers, including Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, were present at the ceremony. Justice Lalit’s predecessor, ex-CJI N V Ramana, was also present.

After being sworn in, Chief Justice Lalit sought the blessings of his family by touching their feet, including that of his 90-year-old father and former Mumbai High Court judge Umesh Ranganath Lalit. As the CJI, Justice Lalit will have a tenure of 74 days and would demit office on November 8 on attaining the age of 65 years. Justice D Y Chandrachud, the senior-most judge after Justice Lalit, is next in line to be the Chief Justice of India.

CJI U U Lalit’s father Justice U R Lalit who later became a noted criminal lawyer was not made permanent by the Indira Gandhi regime which came back to power in 1980 as Justice U R Lalit was not in good books as he had given so many bails to those arrested during Emergency.

CJI Lalit was selected by Collegium directly as Supreme Court Judge in August 2014. Till then he was Special Public Prosecutor appointed by Supreme Court in 2G Scam-related trial cases in 2011. Suave, soft-spoken Justice Lalit was a noted criminal lawyer for the past two decades handling so many high-profile criminal cases in the country. He always avoided public relations exercises and avoided media though handled many high-profile cases.

In 2017, Justice Lalit delivered two landmark judgments against the automatic FIR and arrest in SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act and Domestic Violence case. The judgment said that police must probe initially these cases. In a Domestic Violence Act-related case, the judgment said that police should not intervene in husband and wife-related quarrels except in heinous crimes. The judgment further said, police should transfer complaints to the District Judge-headed mediation panel in such cases and after two years of mediation, a panel may recommend for police case if needed.

But Justice Lalit headed Bench’s Judgment in SC/ ST atrocities cases was overruled by Parliament by passing Amendments to the Act. In Domestic Violence Judgment, then Chief Justice Dipak Misra in an unprecedented way negated Justice Lalit headed bench’s judgments based on protest letters by the feminist organization.

Speaking at a function organized by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to bid farewell to Justice Ramana on Friday, Justice Lalit said he has always believed that the role of the top court is to lay down law with clarity and in the best possible way to do it is to have larger benches as early as possible so that the issues get clarified immediately. “So, we will strive hard to say that yes, we will always have at least one Constitution bench functioning all throughout the year,” he said.

Chief Justice Lalit said one of the areas in which he intends to work is about the listing of cases before Constitution benches and matters which are specially referred to three-judge benches. On the issue of listing of matters, he said, “I must assure you that we will strive hard to make the listing as simple, as clear, and as transparent as possible”. Regarding mentioning urgent matters, Justice Lalit said he would certainly look into it. “I will have a word with all my learned colleagues on the bench and we will certainly sort that out and very shortly, you will have a clear-cut regime where any urgent matter can freely be mentioned before the respective courts,” he said.

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