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New CJI KG Balakrishnan takes oath

President APJ Abdul Kalam administered the oath of office and secretary to Justice KG Balakrishnan, reports Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2007 22:05 IST

Justice KG Balakrishnan has taken over as the new Chief Justice of India.
President APJ Abdul Kalam administered the oath of office and secretary to Justice KG Balakrishnan on Sunday as the 37th CJI at a simple ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Justice Balakrishnan, the first Dalit to occupy the top judicial post, replaces Justice YK Sabharwal, who retired after a 14-month stint. His octogenarian mother KM Sharda, who was on a wheelchair and wife Nirmala Balakrishnan were present during the ceremony.

Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha Speaker Somanth Chatterjee, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and several Union Ministers including Law Minister HR Bhardwaj, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister AK Anthony and Railways Minister Lalu Prasad were present on the occasion.

The outgoing CJI YK Sabharwal and several judges of the Supreme Court and various High Courts and several former CJIs including AM Ahmadi, AS Anand, VN Khare and RC Lahoti were also present.

Unlike his predecessor Justice Balakrishnan is not considered to be an activist judge and would occupy the august office for three years and four months. He will retire in May 2010.

Former Law Minister and senior counsel Shanti Bhushan said a relatively longer tenure would help him to tackle corruption in the Judiciary. Describing his as an “able judge”, he said his experience at every layers of the court system and the bar will come handy in dealing with the issues facing the judiciary.

“Being a Dalit he understands the problems of the down-trodden and ideals of the Constitution framed by Dr Ambedkar,” he said.

Justice Balakrishnan 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 Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi in the fodder scam case.

Justice Balakrishnan declared as unconstitutional the practice of ‘on the spot bail’ by the Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, holding that Judges cannot decide cases while performing administrative functions.

He was also part of the Constitution Bench that extended the concept of creamy layer to the reservation of SCs/STs in government jobs.

Currently he is heading a five-Judge Constitution Bench, which is examining the validity of Uttar Pradesh Speaker’s decision to recognize split in BSP Legislature Party and the subsequent merger of the splinter group with the Samajwadi Party.

Born on May 12, 1945, in Thalayolaparambu village in Kottayam district of Kerala, he obtained his law degree from Maharaja Law College, Ernakulam and enrolled as an advocate on March 16, 1968 with Kerala Bar Council of Cochin (now Kochi).

He was appointed as Munsif in January 1973 under the Kerala Judicial Service and promoted to the post of Assistant Sessions Judge in July 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.

He was appointed the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in July 1998 and transferred to the Madras High Court in September 1999 as Chief Justice before his elevation to the Supreme Court in June 2000.

First Published: Jan 14, 2007 22:05 IST