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'I've been in this court for about 37 years...: CJI UU Lalit on last working day

CJI Lalit, set to retire on November 8, was speaking as he sat on the apex court's ceremonial bench for the final time this afternoon with Justice Bela M Trivedi and designated successor, Justice D Y Chandrachud. 

I ve been in this court for about 37 years...: CJI UU Lalit on last working day - adt
First Published Nov 7, 2022, 6:08 PM IST

The outgoing Chief Justice of India, Uday Umesh Lalit, expressed nostalgia on Monday as he reflected on his nearly 37-year tenure in the Supreme Court, saying he enjoyed his time as both a judge and a lawyer.

CJI Lalit, who is set to retire on November 8, was speaking as he sat on the apex court's ceremonial bench for the final time this afternoon with Justice Bela M Trivedi and designated successor, Justice D Y Chandrachud. 

He said it was a great feeling to hand over the baton to the senior-most judge, Justice Chandrachud, who began his tenure in the top court by appearing before his father, 16th Chief Justice Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud.

"For almost 37 years, I've been in this court. Court No 1 was where I started my journey. I was practising in Bombay before coming here to present a case before CJI Y V Chandrachud. My journey began in this court and continues to this day. The person in front of whom I raised the issue passed the baton to subsequent Chief Justices."

"Today, I pass the baton to a distinguished individual who is also that man's son. I couldn't have asked for anything better, and also, a beautiful moment for me," said CJI Lalit.

About the formation of several Constitution benches, CJI Lalit said that it was a very memorable and satisfying feeling "to have done something for the Bar."

He continued, "He or she, in my opinion, must be given an equal opportunity to sit on the Constitution's benches. A Supreme Court justice would be enough for all purposes." "All of them can be included in the Constitution benches because they can all be used for anything. It was 30 when I started, it is currently 29, and it will be 28 tomorrow. I have practised here before but have never noticed two Constitution benches seated side by side."

"However, three Constitution benches were in session at the same time on one particular day. It's very memorable and gives me a lot of satisfaction," said CJI.

According to CJI, "I am a product of this Bar. Furthermore, I was able to contribute to the Bar in some way. I'm leaving this court for the last time; it's a great feeling," the CJI continued.

CJI Lalit has the unique distinction of being called to the senior advocateship by this court and then rising to become an SC judge, according to Justice Chandrachud, who is set to become India's 50th CJI.

"Today, all three generations of the Lalit family are here. CJI Lalit's father, CJI himself, and the next generation CJI Lalit has the unique distinction of being appointed as senior advocate by this court before becoming a Supreme Court judge. You oversaw a slew of reforms during your tenure as Chief Justice."

The CJI designate assured him that there would be a sense of continuity in the reforms he adopted in the supreme court.

Additionally, "I've known the Chief Justice for a very long time, although we only clashed on one issue," he said without going into more detail.

Justice Lalit's attempt to fill all remaining Supreme Court vacancies was thwarted when his successors, Justice Chandrachud and Justice S A Nazeer, objected to the procedure of seeking written consent to the proposal for the recommendation of names for appointment by the five-member collegiums.

Justice Chandrachud praised the CJI for his "nuanced understanding of not only the law but of Indian social life," saying it has contributed to the court's stability.

"In turbulent times, he has maintained a strong sense of stability. Best wishes for the future. Thank you for being who you are," according to Justice Chandrachud.

Attorney General R Venkataramani stated that he is deeply indebted to the Chief Justice and has difficulty gathering his thoughts. "You're leaving without actually leaving." There were numerous topics on which we both agreed. The judge added, "I am deeply grateful to your lordship for marvelling at complex topics before this court and showing how the court may be held."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated that CJI Lalit had a successful legal career as well as a successful judicial career.

Since the three constitution benches were in session simultaneously, senior advocate K K Venugopal said that CJI Lalit's tenure would be remembered for years.

President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a senior advocate, Vikas Singh, presented the CJI with a card signed by members of the Bar. CJI described it as a lovely gesture he plans to frame and display in his study.

Justice Lalit, born on November 9, 1957, was appointed directly from the Bar to the Supreme Court on August 13, 2014. He was sworn in as the 49th CJI on August 27, 2022, and will leave office on November 8, a court holiday.

Justice Lalit became a lawyer in June 1983 and practised in the Bombay High Court until December 1985.

He moved his practice to Delhi in January 1986, and the Supreme Court named him a senior advocate in April 2004.

Justice Lalit was appointed as the CBI's special public prosecutor to oversee the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case.

The Lalit family witnessed the proceedings, including the outgoing CJI's father, Umesh Ranganath Lalit, a former Bombay High Court judge. The retirement age for Supreme Court justices is 65.

(With inputs from PTI)

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