CJI Ramana Recommends Justice U.U. Lalit as His Successor

Justice Lalit, who was elevated to the Supreme Court directly from the bar, was part of benches which issued several landmark verdicts – including banning the triple talaq practice.

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New Delhi: Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana on Thursday set in motion the process of appointment of his successor by recommending the name of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit to the Centre in accordance with convention.

The CJI personally handed over a copy of his letter of recommendation to Justice Lalit, next in seniority to Justice Ramana.

Justice Ramana, the 48th CJI who took over as head of the Indian judiciary from S.A. Bobde on April 24, 2021, is scheduled to demit office on August 26 after a tenure of over 16 months.

Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65.

“Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India Shri Justice N V Ramana today recommended the name of Hon’ble Shri Justice Uday Umesh Lalit as his successor to the Hon’ble Minister for Law and Justice,” a statement said.

The CJI’s Secretariat received a communication dated August 3 from law and justice minister Kiren Rijiju requesting him to recommend the name of his successor, it added.

Justice Lalit will have a short tenure as the CJI as he is set to retire on November 8, 2022.

According to the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), which governs the process of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary, the outgoing CJI initiates the process of naming the successor after getting a communication from the Law ministry.

The MoP says the senior-most judge of the apex court is considered fit to hold the office of the CJI and the views of the outgoing head of the judiciary have to be sought “at the appropriate time”.

The MoP, however, does not specify the time limit for the initiation of the process of recommending the name of the successor CJI.

Justice Lalit, born on November 9, 1957, was enrolled as an advocate in June 1983 and practised in the Bombay high court till December 1985.

He later shifted base to Delhi. Lalit was designated senior lawyer by the Supreme Court in April 2004.

Before being recommended to be appointed as a Supreme Court judge from the Bar, Lalit conducted the trial in 2G matters as a special public prosecutor for the CBI.  He was appointed as an SC judge on August 13, 2014.

Justice Lalit will become the second CJI who was directly elevated to the apex court from the bar. Justice S.M. Sikri, who became the 13th CJI in January 1971, was also a lawyer who was elevated directly to the top court in March 1964.

Justice Lalit was part of benches which pronounced several landmark judgments, including the one which held the practice of divorce through instant ‘triple talaq’ among Muslims illegal and unconstitutional.

In another important judgement, a bench headed by Justice Lalit had ruled the erstwhile royal family of Travancore has the management right over the historic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, one of the richest shrines, holding that the rule of “heritability must get attached to a right of Shebait” (servitor) of the temple.

A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit had ruled that touching sexual parts of a child’s body or any act involving physical contact with ‘sexual intent’ amounts to ‘sexual assault’ under section 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as the most important ingredient is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin contact.

Quashing the controversial ‘skin-to-skin’ judgements of the Bombay high court in two cases under the POCSO Act, the bench had said the high court erred in holding that there was no offence since there was no direct ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with sexual intent.

(With PTI inputs)