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S H Kapadia sworn in as new CJI, Outgoing CJI K.G Balakrishnan may become next NHRC chief
Published on 12 May. 2010 11:48 PM IST
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Justice S H Kapadia, the most senior judge of the Supreme Court, was on Wednesday sworn in as the 38th Chief Justice of India by President Pratibha Patil.
The swearing in of 62-year-old Justice Kapadia at Rashtrapati Bhawan was attended among others by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his cabinet colleagues, outgoing Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and other dignitaries.
Justice Kapadia, who wants all judges to keep themselves abreast with commercial laws, would remain at the helm of Indian Judiciary till September 29, 2012. 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.
The judge, who is known for maintaining strict judicial discipline, assumes the office at a crucial time when Indian judiciary is hit by a 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 has been associated with 771 judgements, his 28-month term as the CJI would be a challenging one against the backdrop of the need to reducing 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 Justice Balakrishnan had consistently maintained that it has to be kept out of the purview of RTI.
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.
In a letter to former Supreme Court Judge V R Krishna Iyer on May 3, Justice Kapadia had said the only asset he possesses is integrity and hoped to fulfill the Constitutional obligations to achieve the goal of “inclusive growth.”
“I come from a poor family. I started my career as a class IV employee and the only asset I possess is integrity”, he had said. Justice Kapadia had said, “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...
“... I hope to fulfill my obligation to the Constitution in the matter of achieving the goal of inclusive growth”, he had said in his letter, replying to a congratulatory message from Justice Iyer following his new appointment as CJI.
Meanwhile KG Balakrishnan, former chief justice of India, is tipped to head the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a highly-placed government source said Wednesday.
The source said the formal decision to that affect would be taken “very soon”.
“The matter is being judged by the home ministry, and I’m not aware of the movement of the file. But the decision will be taken very soon,” a senior minister said. The NHRC chairman’s position has been lying vacant since May 2009 when former chief justice of India Rajendra Babu retired from the position.
In response to a petition by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Supreme Court had last year sought the central government’s explanation on why the NHRC chief’s post was vacant.
The post of the NHRC’s chairman can only be filled by a former chief justice of India. Since the retirement of Rajendra Babu, various former chief justices of India, including YK Sabharwal, have refused the government’s offer for appointment as the rights panel chief.

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