By Srishti Ojha, Kanu Sarda: When Justice UU Lalit took over as the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI), many felt that a short term of 74 days was not enough time to make a difference as the CJI.
CJI UU Lalit’s tenure as Supreme Bailiff is the perfect example of how things can change for the better and promises can be kept if one is determined to do it.
The CJI had made three important announcements on the eve of the swearing-in about a review of the functioning of the Supreme Court on the judicial side.
He promised that the process of listing would become simpler and more transparent and established a clear regime for listing urgent matters and listing important constitutional issues for the Constitution.
In accordance with the assurances of the CJI, the Supreme Court witnessed many significant developments and changes, including an extensive list of Constitution cases and hearings.
The eventful 74 days in SC, the removal of about 10,000 cases and the creation of multiple constitutional benches indicate that the CJI did indeed deliver the speech.
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When Justice UU Lalit retired on November 8, here is an overview of his short but impressive tenure.
Live streaming of business:
In a landmark move, the Supreme Court began livestreaming its hearings in Judge Lalit’s fifth week as the CJI. In fact, the live streaming got a huge response with more than 8 lakh viewers following the proceedings, according to a press release shared by the SC.
From the outset, CJI had made it clear that its primary objective would be to focus on listing and removing long-running cases in order to clear the massive backlog that had further increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CJI said on its last working day that it has fulfilled its commitments to some extent, as the highest court has settled 10,000 cases against the 8,700 new cases filed. In addition, the court also ruled on 13,000 cases that faltered for years.
The CJI has been an example to show that pendency can be bought off if the necessary measures are taken both administratively and judicially.
Through only accessible data, India Today learned that in the first 12 working days of its tenure, a total of 16,875 cases were reported and 3,797 cases were handled by the SC.
The court had listed a total of 13,791 various cases (including 2,447 transfer requests) and 3,084 regular cases for handling. Of these, 3,531 miscellaneous cases (including 1,202 transfer requests) and 266 regular cases were heard and settled by the highest court.
In fact, on the very first day of CJI Lalit’s tenure, a total of 546 cases were closed by the highest court.
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List of things in the Constitution:
Three days before CJI Lalit was sworn in, the Supreme Court issued a circular that from August 29, 25 cases of five judges would appear before the banks.
On the second day of CJI Lalit’s term, two Supreme Court constitutional benches met to hear four cases each.
6 Constitutional benches were formed during the tenure of the CJI, dealing with cases involving crucial legal and constitutional questions.
The cases cited included cases that touched on important issues such as reservations for economically weaker sections, the formation of several regional banks to handle appeals filed with the Supreme Court, reservations for Sikh students in Punjab, disputes between Delhi and the Center over administrative powers in the national capital, etc.
Changes Made During CJI Lalit’s Tenure:
The Supreme Court witnessed several changes, including the list of old cases that were not heard by the Supreme Court for years.
Changes in the order of the handling of cases:
The CJI also changed the order of handling cases on non-diverse days, where regular hearings were handled in the first half of the day. In the past, the court dealt with regular cases after hearing various cases.
Changes to the list of cases:
During the tenure of CJI UU Lalit, the Supreme Court made a change to the list of cases and ruled that all new cases verified on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday must be listed on Monday of the following week. In addition, the cases verified on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday will be listed on the Friday of the following week.
A CJI-led Supreme Court has also called for the Rajasthan HC’s order to quash an FIR in a case in which a government school teacher was accused of insulting the modesty of an underage girl , to challenge. The case was quashed on the basis of an alleged compromise between the accused and the girl’s family.
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300 old cases aimed to be listed:
SC also announced that 300 of its oldest cases would be heard as of October 11 and that the cases would be brought to court on non-various days thereafter.
Unregistered cases deleted:
SC Registry had passed an order to delete 13,147 unregistered but registered cases registered before the year 2014.
Important matters handled by CJI UU Lalit:
The CJI-led Constitutional Bank upheld the validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment by a 3:2 majority, granting 10 percent quotas to the economically weaker sections (EWS).
The CJI-led bank granted temporary bail to activist Teesta Setalvad in a case involving conspiracy and falsification of evidence in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The court heard the arguments of both sides for two days and ordered a a number of pertinent questions to the government of Gujarat about their opposition to Teesta’s bail plea.
After serving two years in prison since being arrested in the 2020 Hathras conspiracy case, journalist Siddiqui Kappan was eventually released on bail by a Supreme Court bench headed by the CJI.
More than 200 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 were eventually brought to court.
In a plea alleging multiple internet outages in five states, a CJI-led bank asked the Department of Electronic Communications and Information Technology (MEITY) to provide details about whether there was a standard protocol for turning off the internet during exams.
The Justice Lalit-led bank took very strong note of its failure to comply with the highest court orders and awarded a four-month jail term to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, accused in a bank loan default case of more than Rs 9,000 crore related to his defunct gone Kingfisher Airlines.
A bank led by the CJI upheld a Bombay Supreme Court order ordering an insurance company to pay farmers who lost their crops to flooding caused by cloudbursts.
The CJI also agreed to urgently form a three-judge bench to hear the case regarding a dispute over Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations to be held at Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru.
Judge Lalit will now pass his baton to Judge DY Chandrachud, who will take over as the 50th Chief Justice of India (CJI) on Wednesday.