Actions speak louder than words. This seems to be the mantra for Justice SH Kapadia, who took over as the 38th Chief Justice of India on Wednesday.
On his first day in office, Justice Kapadia heard 39 cases in almost as many minutes, much to the surprise of some of his family members who turned up in the visitors’ gallery of the court no. 1 to watch the proceedings.
“I don’t give interviews,” he had told journalists on Tuesday at a function organised to bid farewell to his predecessor Justice KG Balakrishnan.
On Wednesday, he did away with the practice of oral mentioning of urgent cases before lunch. “No oral mentioning. You have to come through the mentioning department,” Justice Kapadia said, much to the disappointment of several senior lawyers waiting to mention their cases. Now, such urgent matters have to be filed a day before to be considered for listing the next day.
Rewriting the rules of the game, he issued a stern warning against those filing frivolous public interest litigations (PILs). “Huge cost will be imposed for filing frivolous PILs,” the new CJI said.
Earlier, Justice Kapadia was administered the oath of office by President Pratibha Patil at a brief function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan attended by Vice-President, Prime Minister, UPA Chairperson and a host of legal luminaries.
Hailing from a poor family, Justice Kapadia replaces Justice Balakrishnan who retired on Tuesday. Born on September 29, 1947, he is the first CJI born in post independence era. An erudite man with a keen interest in Economics, Public Finance, Theoretical Physics and Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, he would remain at the helm of the judiciary till September 29, 2012.
After the swearing in ceremony, the new CJI reached the court at 11 am, where he was greeted by Attorney General GE Vahanvati, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and several senior advocates.
“I want a pro-active Bar and not a reactive Bar,” the new CJI said accepting their wishes.
Justice Kapadia, who started his career as a class IV employee and possesses integrity as “the only asset”, assumes the office at a time when the judiciary is plagued by scandals, lack of transparency and huge backlog of cases.
Justice Kapadia was part of the constitution bench that in January 2007 declared that laws placed under the protective umbrella of the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution were open to judicial review.