Supreme Court’s senior-most judge Justice UU Lalit was on Wednesday appointed as the 49th Chief Justice of India. He will succeed incumbent CJI NV Ramana, who demits office on August 26.
“In exercise of the power conferred by the Constitution of India, the President of India is pleased to appoint Shri Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice of India with effect from 27th August, 2022,” according to an official notification.
Justice Lalit, a renowned senior advocate, has become the second CJI to be directly elevated to the Supreme Court Bench from the Bar. Prior to this, Justice SM Sikri, who was the 13th CJI of India appointed in January 1971, was the first lawyer to be elevated directly to the SC bench in March 1964.
Lalit was designated as a senior advocate by the top court in April 2004. In January 1986, he shifted his practice to Delhi. He was appointed a special public prosecutor for the CBI to conduct the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
Justice Lalit will have a short tenure of less than three months as he will retire on Nov 8, 2022, when he will turn 65.
CJI Ramana conveyed his best wishes to Justice Lalit for a glorious tenure as the Chief Justice of India. Shri Justice Ramana expressed confidence that with his long and rich experience in the Bar as well as on the Bench, Shri Justice Lalit will take the institution of the judiciary to greater heights through his able leadership, a statement from an apex court official said.
Justice Lalit, who was in line to become India’s next CJI, has been part of several landmark judgements, including the one which held the practice of ‘triple talaq’ among Muslims unconstitutional.
The path-breaking verdict in August 2017 ruled the practice of ‘triple talaq’ as “void”, “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. The verdict was given by a five-judge bench. While then Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer were in favour of putting on hold the judgement for six months and asking the government to come out with a law to that effect, Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman and U U Lalit held the practice as violative of the Constitution.
In another significant judgment, a bench headed by Justice Lalit had ruled that touching sexual parts of a child’s body or any act involving physical contact with ‘sexual intent’ amounts to ‘sexual assault’ under POCSO Act. He ruled that the most important ingredient was sexual intent and not skin-to-skin contact.
Justice Lalit had quashed the controversial ‘skin-to-skin’ judgements of the Bombay High Court in two cases under the POCSO Act. The bench had said the high court erred in holding that there was no offence since there was no direct ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with sexual intent.
(With PTI inputs)