Incoming CJI seen as ‘practical judge’, a boon to litigants

Principal Secretary to PM P.K. Mishra presents the warrant of appointment to CJI-designate Justice sharad Arvind Bobde in New Delhi on October 29, 2019.

Principal Secretary to PM P.K. Mishra presents the warrant of appointment to CJI-designate Justice sharad Arvind Bobde in New Delhi on October 29, 2019.   | Photo Credit: PTI


Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde named to succeed CJI Gogoi; set to retire on April 23, 2021

Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde is what lawyers call a “practical judge”. A judge who crafts a well-thought-out solution in a knotty case, which may otherwise have taken years to resolve.

In his hearings, one witnesses Justice Bobde listen carefully to both sides before suggesting a remedy suitable to all.

Eminent American jurist Benjamin N. Cardozo, in a compilation of lectures titled The Nature of Judicial Process, quotes W.G. Miller to describe what a boon a practical judge is to the litigant. “The client cares little for a ‘beautiful case’! He wishes it settled somehow on the most favourable terms he can obtain.”

Justice Bobde, appointed the 47th Chief Justice of India by the President, has shown his propensity for practical and amiable resolutions twice recently.


It was Justice Bobde on the Constitution Bench who first pushed for mediation of the Ayodhya dispute to “heal hearts and minds”. He said the dispute had seen many bitter decades. He believed that talks, rather than adversarial judicial proceedings, may cool tempers across the religious divide.

Again, in the long-drawn BCCI dispute, Justice Bobde took the practical path. Rather than countless court hearings, in a case which seemed to grow new branches of dispute every time, Justice Bobde appointed an amicus curiae to resolve the problems of the stakeholders and ordered the holding of elections in the BCCI. This he accomplished in a handful of hearings.

Justice Bobde’s cause list on a normal working day is not chock-a-block with cases. He hears a reasonable number in a day. To these, he devotes himself and usually comes up with a solution grounded in logic and law. His normal workday is a page lifted from Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, where the emperor selects a few cases, from the many he hears a day, to deliver complete justice.

Recently, Justice Bobde was heard saying in his courtroom that it was only lately that the judges had understood the benefits of hearing a case continuously, without a break, as they had heard the Ayodhya dispute. This may be an indication that, in future, important cases may be heard on a day-to-day basis.

Justice Bobde had also led the in-house committee which had inquired into the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi by a former Supreme Court employee, the first in the history of the Supreme Court. The committee found itself in a controversy after the employee withdrew from the proceedings, complaining that neither was she allowed a lawyer nor was an amicus curiae appointed. The committee later gave the CJI a “clean chit”.

His notable judgments include his opinion upholding privacy as a fundamental right. He wrote that the first and natural home for a right of privacy is in Article 21 at the very heart of “personal liberty” and life itself. “There are innumerable activities which are virtually incapable of being performed at all and in many cases with dignity unless an individual is left alone or is otherwise empowered to ensure his or her privacy,” Justice Bobde wrote.

The judge was also part of the Bench which insisted that a citizen cannot be deprived of essential services and welfare subsidies of the State for lack of an Aadhaar number. Justice Bobde was a member of the Bench which suspended the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region in 2016, to curb pollution.

Born on April 24, 1956, 63-year-old Justice Bobde is scheduled to retire on April 23, 2021. Chief Justice Gogoi had recommended Justice Bobde’s name as his successor, in accordance with the seniority norm, on October 18.

A law graduate from Nagpur University, Justice Bobde enrolled as an advocate in 1978 and practised at the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.

He was appointed an additional judge in the Bombay High Court in March 2000 and was the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 2013.

He hails from an illustrious family of lawyers.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:32:49 AM |

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