NEW DELHI: Justice H.L. Dattu was Sunday sworn-in as the Chief Justice of India. He was administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee.
He is the 42nd Chief Justice of India and will be at the helms of the Indian judiciary till December 2, 2015. He succeeds Chief Justice R.M. Lodha who demitted office Sep 27.
The oath ceremony held in Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan was attended by Vice President Hamid Ansari, former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, outgoing Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice A.S. Anand as well as other seating and retired judges.
Before being elevated as the judge of the apex court Dec 17, 2008, Chief Justice Dattu was the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court.
He was appointed a judge of the Karnataka High Court Dec 18, 1995. Thereafter, he was elevated as Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court Feb 12, 2007. Three months later May 18, 2007, he was transferred to head the Kerala High Court.
Born Dec 3, 1950, Chief Justice Dattu was enrolled as an advocate Oct 23, 1975. He practised at Bangalore in civil, criminal, constitutional and taxation matters.
Chief Justice Dattu appeared as government counsel in the Karnataka High court for the sales tax department from 1983 to 1990, government advocate from 1990 to 1993, standing counsel for the income tax department from 1992 to 1993 and a senior standing counsel for the IT department from 1993 to 1995.
A No-nonsense Judge
A fervent devotee of Lord Ganesha and a connoisseur of Carnatic music, Justice Dattu will have to tackle two major challenges-- to bring down the pendency of cases and strike a perfect balance between the Judiciary and Executive.
He takes his case files home, and is a firm believer of completing the hearing in the cases till the last word and leaves no lacunae.
In January, Justice Dattu, while dismissing a PIL seeking to abolish the practice of addressing judges as Lordships, had said, “What we want is a respectable way of address -”sir”, “my lord”, “your lordship” or in some other manner. People address us as “sir”. We don’t have any objection. It is your outlook to address us respectfully.”
Known for his no-nonsense attitude, a tough sense of discipline in the court, who believes in giving no adjournments in the cases, Justice Dattu will be hearing the pending review petition on the legality of Section 377 (the decriminalisation of gay sex).
He will hold the post for a little over a year until his retirement on December 2, 2015-one of the longest tenures for a CJI in recent years. The previous year has seen two CJIs retiring in a year’s time. Justice S Sathasivam retired in April after serving a little over nine months as CJI, followed by Justice R M Lodha, who held the top job for only five months.
Soon after his appointment was announced earlier this month, Justice Dattu had said, “I seek the blessings of all citizens of India. May they give me the courage and confidence to take this Institution to the highest stride.”
Justice Dattu is known for his penchant for hard work and has few outings with his family and friends. He describes former CJI S Rajendra Babu as his guru and says that it was Babu, who had taught him the virtue of hard work. Justice Dattu has also contributed in the field of social work under organisations like the Rotary Club. His tenure will begin at a crucial time when the Centre is pressing ahead with its decision to introduce the new National Judicial Appointment Committee (NJAC) after formally disbanding the Collegium System for the appointment of judges to higher courts.
As CJI, Justice Dattu is scheduled to hear some of the most important cases in the Supreme Court. He will be adjudicating the fate of Delhi Assembly and black money to name a few.