President APJ Abdul Kalam has approved the appointment of Justice KG Balakrishnan of the Supreme Court as the next Chief Justice of India.
Justice Balakrishnan, who was elevated to the Supreme Court in June 2000, will be the first Dalit CJI. He replaces Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal, who is due to retire on January 14 next year after a 14-month stint. A formal notification of his appointment will be issued next week, sources in the Law Ministry said on Friday.
Unlike his predecessor, Justice Balakrishnan is not considered to be an activist judge. He will occupy the high post for three years and four months and will retire in May 2010.
Justice Balakrishnan, who will be the 37th CJI, has headed the Bench in several important cases. Recently a three-judge Bench presided over by him dismissed a PIL filed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi in the a fodder scam case. He was the one to declare the practice of ‘on-the-spot bail’ by judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as unconstitutional. He was also part of the Constitution Bench that extended the concept of creamy layer to the reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in government jobs.
Currently, Justice Balakrishnan is heading a five-judge Constitution Bench that is examining the validity of the Uttar Pradesh Speaker's decision to recognise the split in the Bahujan Samaj Party legislature party and the subsequent merger of the splinter group with the Samajwadi Party. The Bench will decide whether a split in a legislature party is a one-time affair or whether it can happen over a period of time in a staggered manner.
Born on May 12, 1945, in Thalayolaparambu village in Kottayam district of Kerala, Justice Balakrishnan obtained his law degree from Maharaja Law College, Ernakulam, and enrolled as an advocate with the Kerala Bar Council of Cochin (now Kochi) on March 16, 1968. He practised both on the civil and criminal side at Ernakulam. He was appointed as Munsif in 1973 under the Kerala Judicial Services and promoted to Assistant Sessions Judge in 1982. He also worked as Deputy Registrar (Judicial) in the Kerala High Court. He was elevated to the Kerala High Court as an Additional Judge in September 1985 and became a permanent Judge in July 1986.
Justice Balakrishnan, who was appointed Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in 1998, transferred to the Madras High Court in 1999 as Chief Justice before his elevation to the Supreme Court in June 2000.
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