New Delhi: Outgoing Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit turned nostalgic on Monday as he recalled his journey of nearly 37 years in the Supreme Court, saying he enjoyed his stint both as a lawyer and a judge.
CJI Lalit, who is set to retire on November 8, was speaking as he sat on the ceremonial bench in the apex court for the last time with his designated successor Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Bela M Trivedi this afternoon.
He said it was a great feeling to pass on the baton to the senior-most judge, Justice Chandrachud, as he began his stint in the top court by appearing before his father and16th Chief Justice Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud.
”I have spent something like 37 years in this court. My journey in this court began through Court Number 1. I was practising in Bombay and then I came here to mention a case before CJI Y V Chandrachud.
”My journey began from this court and today it ends in the same court. The person before whom I mentioned the matter, he passed on the baton to subsequent Chief Justices.
”I now pass the baton to a very distinguished person and the son of that man himself. It is a beautiful occasion for me and I couldn’t have asked for anything greater than that,” CJI Lalit said.
Referring to forming several Constitution benches, CJI Lalit said it has been a very memorable and satisfactory feeling ”to have done something for the Bar”.
”I feel a judge who gets to be a judge of the Supreme Court would be good enough for everything and he or she must have an equal chance to be part of the Constitution benches.
”The day I started, it was 30, today it is 29 and tomorrow it will be 28 so it is good for anything and thus all of them can be part of Constitution benches. I have practised here and I never saw two Constitution benches sitting simultaneously.
”But on a particular day, there were three Constitution benches simultaneously. It is very memorable and gives me a sense of great satisfaction.
”I am a product of this Bar and at the same time, I have a feeling that I was able to do something for the bar. That is a very great feeling as I will be walking out of this court for the last time,” CJI said.
Justice Chandrachud, who is set to take over as India’s 50th CJI, said CJI Lalit has the unique distinction of being called to the senior advocateship by this court and then rising to become an SC judge.
”Today, we have the three generations of the Lalit family here. Father of CJI Lalit, CJI himself and the next generation. CJI Lalit has the unique distinction of being called to the senior advocateship by this court and then becoming an SC judge. Your tenure as Chief Justice saw a large number of reforms.
The CJI-designate assured him that there would be a sense of continuity in the reforms adopted by him in the apex court.
”I have known the Chief Justice for a long time though I opposed him on one only one matter,” he said, without elaborating.
Justice Lalit’s bid to fill up all the remaining vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court remained unfinished as his successor 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 Praising the CJI for his ”nuanced understanding of not only the law but of Indian social life,” Justice Chandrachud said it has added to the stability of this court.
”He has had a great sense of stability in turbulent times. All the best for the future. Thank you for the way you have been,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Attorney General R Venkataramani said he is deeply indebted to the CJI and finds it difficult to gather his thoughts.
”You are leaving without leaving. There have been many subjects on which we had a common understanding.
”I am deeply indebted to your lordship for having marvelled over very intricate issues before this court and showing how the court can be held,” he said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said CJI Lalit has had a successful tenure as a lawyer and an equally successful tenure as a judge.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal said CJI Lalit’s tenure will be remembered for years to come since there were three constitution benches functioning at the same time.
Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior advocate Vikas Singh presented a card to the CJI containing signatures by the members of the Bar. CJI said it is a beautiful gesture and he will frame and keep it in his study.
Justice Lalit, born on November 9, 1957, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court on August 13, 2014 directly from the Bar. He was sworn in as the 49th CJI with effect from August 27, 2022 and would be demitting office on November 8, a court holiday Justice Lalit enrolled as an advocate in June 1983 and practised in the Bombay High Court till December 1985.
He shifted his practice to Delhi in January 1986, and in April 2004 and he was designated as a senior advocate by the apex court.
Justice Lalit was appointed a special public prosecutor for the CBI to conduct the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
The Lalit family including the outgoing CJI’s father Umesh Ranganath Lalit, a former judge of Bombay HC, also witnessed the proceedings on the penultimate day of Justice Lalit’s term.
Apex court judges demit office at the age of 65 years.