‘Man of integrity’ at SC helm

published on May 12, 2010

PNS | New Delhi

Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia, the man whose ‘only asset’ is his ‘integrity’, was on Wednesday sworn in as the 38th Chief Justice of India, marking one of the most inspiring journeys of a lifetime.

Hailing from a poor family and having once worked as a Class IV employee, 62-year-old Kapadia, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court, was administered the oath of office by President Pratibha Patil at a brief function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday. Kapadia took over from KG Balakrishnan, who incidentally celebrated his birthday on Wednesday.

Kapadia, who during his tenure in the apex court since December 18, 2003 has been associated with 771 judgments, would remain at the helm of Indian Judiciary till September 29, 2012. Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several union Ministers and Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley respectively, and a host of legal luminaries were present on the occasion. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was also present.

In a recent letter to former Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer, Kapadia had said, “I come from a poor family. I started my career as a Class IV employee and the only asset I possess is integrity. Even as a judge of the Supreme Court, I have used my knowledge of accounts and economics for the welfare of the downtrodden, including tribals and workmen.…”

Kapadia, who is known for maintaining strict judicial discipline, assumes the office at a crucial time when the Indian judiciary is hit by corruption controversy and perceived failure of in-house mechanism on appointment and elevation of judges.

Justice Kapadia was associated with a historical judgment in which a five-judge Constitutional Bench had held that the law put in the Ninth Schedule was open for judicial review.

Kapadia’s deep knowledge on wide ranging issues, particularly tax laws, has earned him accolades from the Bench and the Bar in equal measure.

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 apex court but also in High Courts and trial courts.

However, the real test for the new CJI would be to take a stand on whether or not his office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as his predecessor has consistently maintained that it has to be kept out of the RTI purview.

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