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Integrity, his biggest asset

mumbai Updated: Mar 19, 2011 21:45 IST

Hindustan Times
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I come from a poor family. I started my career as a class IV employee and the only asset I possess is integrity," is what Chief Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia said immediately after taking over as the head of country's judicial system on May 12, 2010. It reflected in his judgment quashing the appointment of PJ Thomas as Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

The verdict declared the appointment as non-est (does not exist) in law.

The CVC judgment revived the age-old debate whether a resurgent judiciary has taken over the executive's role. But Chief Justice Kapadia's courage and integrity to say that all is not well with the system has put this debate on the back-burner. Stating that institutional integrity must be on a higher pedestal than an individual, he dismissed the government contention that courts could not interfere in the appointment of a CVC. "Constitutional courts' power of judicial review was a guarantee against arbitrariness in executive actions," he said in a special address.

His integrity was evident in his CVC judgment as the PIL on which the verdict was pronounced was initiated by advocate Prashant Bhushan who is facing contempt proceedings before another bench for levelling allegations of judicial impropriety against Justice Kapadia. Bhushan had stated that the CJI should not have been part of the forest bench that gave a favourable order to Sterlite as the latter held shares in the company.

Justice Kapadia began his life as an office assistant who ran errands at the law firm of Behramjee Jeejeebhoy in the 1960s. He comes from a very humble Parsi family in Mumbai. On the first day as the CJI, he disposed of 37 cases in 29 minutes and warned against frivolous PILs. When the senior members of the Bar congratulated him for taking over as the CJI, he told them: "You are a good Bar. But I want a pro-active Bar, not a reactive one."

As the CJI he has given priority to many long-pending matters related to inadequate infrastructure in subordinate judiciary and also took the unprecedented move by entertaining a PIL filed by an advocate who has sought an inquiry against former CJI KG Balakrishnan's kith and kin.