S.H Kapadia- India’s New Chief-Justice

Posted on May 17, 2010 in Specials

Soumya Venugopal:

India got its 38th Chief Justice on May 12th 2010. Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia succeeded Chief Justice K G Balakrishna who successfully completed his tenure of three years and four months. Justice Kapadia will remain at the helm of the Indian judiciary till 29th September 2012. He was sworn in by President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The swearing in ceremony was presided by Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, his cabinet colleagues and the outgoing Chief Justice Shri K G Balakrishnan.

Born on 29th September 1947, Justice S H Kapadia started his career as a class IV employee. After working with many law firms as a law clerk he went on to work for a highly respected lawyer Feroz Damania. It was his sheer passion and enthusiasm to grow in life which intimidated him to join the legal profession. He enrolled as a Advocate in Bombay High Court on 24th September 1974 and since then there has been no looking back. He appeared as a counsel for Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation in High Court and Supreme Court in connection with service matters including disputes concerning framing of Pension Rules. He was appointed as the additional judge of the Bombay High court on 8th October 1991. Later he became Permanent Judge of the Bombay High Court on 23rd March 1993 . Chosen as a Judge of the Special Court on 15th October 1999 he dealt with many with civil and criminal matters. He also served as the Chief Justice of Uttaranchal High Court for a brief period of four months. Later he was elevated to the bench of Supreme Court Of India on 18th December 2003. He was associated with a historical judgement in which a five-judge Constitutional Bench had held that the law put in the Ninth Schedule was open for judicial review. Justice Kapadia’s deep knowledge on wide ranging issues, particularly tax laws, has earned him accolades from the bench and the bar in equal measure. He has keen interest in Economics, Public Finance, Theoretical Physics and Hindu and Buddhist philosophies.

The judge who is known for maintaining strict judicial discipline takes on the office at a critical stage when Indian judiciary is hit by a corruption controversy and apparent failure of in-house mechanism of appointment and elevation of judges. He has asked the judges to brace themselves with commercial laws and economic jargons to prevent Indian companies from going abroad to seek alternate dispute resolution. According to him in this era of globalization it was not only for the judges of the higher judiciary to update themselves with the economic concept and evolving technology but the judicial officers at the subordinate judiciary should also be aware of the economic terms and concept, particularly when the country’s economy was heading towards de-regulation.

For a judge who during his tenure in the apex court has been associated with 771 judgments, this 28 month tenure as the Chief Justice of India would be a challenging one against the backdrop of the need to reduce a escalating pendency of the cases not only in the top court but also in high courts and trial courts. However, the real test for Justice Kapadia would be to take a stand on whether or not the office of CJI comes under the domain of the Right to Information Act as Justice Balakrishnan had consistently maintained that it has to be kept out of the purview of RTI.