New Delhi: Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia,
the senior most judge of the Supreme Court and one who wants
all judges to keep themselves abreast with commercial laws,
was today appointed as the 38th Chief Justice of India.
The 62-year-old judge will take over from incumbent
Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan on May 12 and would remain at
the helm of Indian Judiciary till September 29, 2012.
Justice Kapadia was associated with an historical
judgement in which a five-judge Constitutional Bench had held
that the law put in the Ninth Schedule was open for judicial
Kapadia`s deep knowledge on wide ranging issues,
particularly tax laws, has earned him accolades from the Bench
and the Bar in equal measure.
Justice Kapadia, who is known for maintaining strict
judicial discipline, assumes the office at a crucial time when
Indian judiciary is hit by corruption controversy and
perceived failure of in-house mechanism on appointment and
elevation of judges.
For the judge, who during his tenure in the apex court
since December 18, 2003 had been associated with 771
judgments, his 28-month term as the CJI would be a challenging
one against the backdrop of the need to reduce the mounting
pendency of the cases not only in the top court but 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 ambit of the Right to Information Act as the present CJI K
G Balakrishnan has consistently maintained that it has to be
kept out of the purview of the Right to Information(RTI) Act.
The issue assumes importance as the Delhi High Court
had dismissed the stand of Justice Balakrishnan after which
the Supreme Court Registry appealed to the apex court.
Justice Kapadia`s Warrant of Appointment, signed by
President Pratibha Patil, has been sent to the Supreme Court
registry, official sources said.
As per laid down norms under the Memorandum of Procedure
which governs appointment of members of the higher judiciary,
Balakrishnan had earlier this month recommended the name of
Kapadia to succeed him as the CJI.
Born in September 29, 1947, Kapadia enrolled as an
advocate in September, 1974.
Appointed as an Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court
in October 1991, Kapadia was elevated as a Permanent Judge in
the same High Court in March 1993.
Justice Kapadia, who has been member of 13 Constitution
Benches (which has pronounced verdicts) in last six years, was
also been in the midst of controversies when it was alleged
late last year that he was hearing matters in which he had
conflict of interest.
To keep himself away from such allegations, he withdrew
himself from hearing a matter of London-based Vedanta
Resources as he happened to be shareholder of its sister
He was earlier part of the Special Forest Bench which had
heard a petition challenging mining in Niyamgiri hills in
Orissa by Sterlite Industries though he had disclosed in the
beginning he was a shareholder of the Vedanta group company.
Keeping aside these controversies, Justice Kapadia
delivered some landmark judgements which included a decision
relating to succession of property in April 30, 2005 in which
he ruled out the possibility of conducting the DNA test.
Among the important judgements authored by him was one
relating to reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes in promotion in government jobs (the Nagaraj case) in
which it was unanimously held that the ceiling limit of 50 per
cent has to be adhered.
He was also part of the three-member Bench which decided
income tax case of RJD chief Lalu Prasad. The verdict went in
favour of Prasad but Justice Kapadia gave a dissenting
judgement saying the Income Tax Department should have filed
an appeal against the ITAT order.
Before being appointed as the judge of the Bombay High
Court in 1991, Justice Kapadia practised in the High Court
since 1974 and represented the Maharashtra Government and
several Public Sector Undertakings.
As a judge of the Bombay High Court, Justice Kapadia
decided important matters under PIL pertaining to CRZ,
financial matters under RBI and Banking Regulation Act and
matters concerning the Constitutional validity of the 74th
Amendment Act of 1992 dealing with Municipalities.
He was appointed as Chief Justice of the Uttaranchal High
Court on August 5, 2003 where he served for almost