New Delhi: Chief Justice of India-designate Sarosh Homi Kapadia might just create a record of sorts when he continues working during the Supreme Court’s approximately two-month-long summer vacation, which begins from May 17. During the vacation, only two benches comprising two justices each function. Justice Kapadia said he was keen to sort out the problems being faced by the court staff and streamline the court’s functioning. “I assure you I understand your problems. I also worked as a class III employee in a small office in Mumbai before joining the legal profession,” he told the staff members, who cheered him. “I will not go on a summer vacation this year and will visit your offices to know firsthand the problems you are facing.” The CJI-designate was speaking at a function organised by the Supreme Court employees on Monday to bid farewell to outgoing chief justice KG Balakrishnan and to welcome his successor, Kapadia, who takes over on May 12, when Balakrishnan turns 65 years old. Kapadia, who joined the Bombay bar at the age of 27 in 1974, told the staff to submit a ‘wish list’ prioritising their requirements so that he could try to fulfil their needs.
While Balakrishnan had scrapped all pending departmental inquiries against the employees three years ago, little has been done to lessen the burden of employees from carrying huge, bulky files daily from one court to another. Nor are dependents of employees who died in office given jobs on compassionate grounds, as is done in most government offices.
An SC Employees’ Welfare Association official said departmental bosses treated them badly. “We have been exploited and denied fair treatment by our departmental chiefs,” he said.
President Pratibha Patil will swear in Kapadia as India’s 38th chief justice of India on May 12. Kapadia’s wife, Shahnaz, and two sons are expected to attend the ceremony. Much is expected of Kapadia. Noted constitutional lawyer Fali Nariman is confident that the new CJI will help restores the people’s fading confidence in the country’s judicial system. Nariman also felt that Kapadia’s term, which will expire on September 26, 2012, when he attains 65 years of age, would help streamline the controversial collegium system and that appointments to the Supreme Court would be driven by merit. Another noted lawyer and a senior government attorney described Kapadia as a ‘workaholic’. Matters relating to a competition law are expected to be expedited and a serious discussion is expected on the subject by the new chief justice. Corporate lawyer Lalit Bhasin, who is the Bar Association of India secretary, said he expects the ‘reformist judge’ to improve the administration of justice besides infusing confidence among the stakeholders about the selection of judges. “It’s important as the judiciary and the collegium have taken enough beating over their role in various scams,” he said.
That Justice Kapadia is reformist-minded may be inferred from his speech when he said, “In the past, and rightly so, it was believed that judges should only know law. But today my view is they should know concepts of economics, politics and commerce as well.” That he is frank too can be ascertained from his remarks that people come to court as they expect wisdom from judges. “Let us be selective on what we say and not go by what is popular,” he added. Then there is this honest assertion that he made about the contribution of lawyers. “I am sorry to say but most of our lawyers are not making any contribution to this field of law,” said the judge who began his career as a clerk in a small office clerk in Mumbai. Concerned about upholding the institutions set up under the Constitution, Justice Kapadia, his most recent judgment on May 7, held that a governor is not an agent of or an employee of the union government, nor is he expected to implement the union government’s policies. Thus, a governor cannot be removed from office merely at the central government’s convenience.