CJI Bobde’s tenure draws to a close

Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The 47th Chief Justice of India, Sharad A. Bobde, on Friday completed his last working day in office after steering the Supreme Court through unprecedented months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read | The chequered legacy of a Chief Justice of India

“I did my best,” Chief Justice Bobde told the assembled advocates and law officers.

The baton of the top judge will pass to Justice N.V. Ramana, the seniormost judge of the court, who would take his oath of office at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday.

Chief Justice Bobde was joined, as is the custom, on the ceremonial Bench by Justice Ramana. It is a convention that the outgoing CJI is accompanied by his successor to show the continuity of office.

Chief Justice Bobde said he was leaving the office in the capable hands of Justice Ramana.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said every CJI should have a minimum tenure of three years.

Chief Justice Bobde leaves behind a mixed legacy. The CJI, in his 18-month tenure, made sure that virtual hearings were started early so that the court did not come to a standstill. However, the technical hiccups, disconnections and repeated appearances by certain senior lawyers led to disgruntlement in some sections of the Bar. Though the CJI staunchly believed that virtual hearings did amount to physical hearings, many lawyers disagreed vehemently.

In late February 2020, a nine-judge Bench led by CJI Bobde upheld a decision of the Sabarimala Review Bench to refer to a larger Bench questions on the ambit and scope religious freedom practised by multiple faiths across the country. This Bench had framed omnibus questions touching on the core and essential practices of multiple faiths. Primarily, the Bench had proposed to examine the “scope and ambit of religious freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution”.

Chief Justice Bobde, in an interview to The Hindu, before he was sworn in as CJI on November 18, 2019, had talked about social media’s irreverence towards institutions like the judiciary.

He went on to become the centre of focus of one too many social media posts. Among them was a Twitter post by advocate Prashant Bhushan, which was stretched into a contempt of court action. Mr. Bhushan was fined ₹1 for “scandalising the court”.

However, CJI Bobde paid close attention to environmental causes. He formed a committee to find ways to stop the indiscriminate felling of trees on roads and highways.

The CJI’s Special Bench recently streamlined the judicial appointments process to High Courts, where vacancies number over 400. The guidelines to the government included that appointments should be done within a month, once the Supreme Court Collegium reiterated the name(s). Usually, the government keeps the names pending.

The Special Bench said an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report on candidates should be submitted within a month-and-half of the High Court Collegium’s recommendation to the Centre. The Centre should submit the IB report and file to the SC Collegium within eight to 12 weeks, it held.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:21:44 PM |

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