Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir retires on Thursday after a brief term of nine months. He was appointed a Supreme Court Judge on September 9, 2005. A stickler for discipline, procedures and rules, Justice Kabir had endeared himself to members of the Bar and the Bench with his humility. Like his predecessor S.H. Kapadia, he was reticent; throughout his tenure as Chief Justice, he avoided meeting journalists. Justice Kabir rendered several landmark judgments in the Supreme Court, especially those relating to human rights and election laws.
Heading a Bench, Justice Kabir directed the CBI to go ahead with the probe against Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in a case of disproportionate assets. However, the court dropped the probe against Mr. Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, saying she was not holding any public office. The Bench also modified its March 1, 2007 order and asked the CBI to file a status report before the court and not to the government. In the Karnataka Independent MLAs case, Justice Kabir held that Independents, by joining a coalition government and becoming Ministers, would not lose their separate identity, and later by expressing lack of faith in the Chief Minister, they would not attract disqualification. The court gave the ruling while setting aside the Speaker’s order disqualifying five Independent MLAs for expressing lack of faith in the B.S. Yeddyurappa government.
In the Italian marines case, the Bench headed by him directed the Centre to set up a special court to try Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.
The court said: “While India is entitled both under its Domestic Law and the Public International Law to exercise rights of sovereignty up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline on the basis of which the width of Territorial Waters is measured, it can exercise only sovereign rights within the Exclusive Economic Zone for certain purposes.”