Justice Uday Umesh Lalit: An advocate of punctual and timely delivery of justice
NEW DELHI: A little less than a month ago, when it was clear that Justice Uday Umesh Lalit would succeed Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on August 27, he made a gentle suggestion: if children can go to school at 7 in the morning, why can’t judges begin work at 9 am? Earlier that day — July 15 — a three-judge bench comprising Justices Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia did begin work a full hour before it usually did. Justice Lalit’s suggestion did make eminent legal sense that day. Now, with less than two weeks remaining before he assumes the highest judicial office in the country, senior Supreme Court advocates are wondering whether all his brother judges would take the cue and begin dispensing justice early.
Justice Lalit’s tenure — just over two months — would be among the briefest that any CJI has ever held so far. Moved to the bench from the bar in August 2014, he has had a string of landmark judgments to his credit. In 2017, Justice Lalit was part of the majority 3-2 ruling in the Shayara Bano Vs Union of India triple talaq case which the bench ruled to be unconstitutional and “manifestly arbitrary” before setting it aside.
Three years later, heading a two-judge bench, Justice Lalit upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore princely house to manage and administer the Thiruvananthapuram-based Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, said to be among the richest in the world. The bench held that the rule of “heritability must get attached to a right of a shebait (servitor)” of the temple.
The next year, in another landmark judgment, Justice Lalit, heading a bench, quashed a Bombay High Court ruling in a POCSO case that had earlier held that “skin-to-skin” contact could be considered sexual assault. The apex court bench was of the view that touching the sexual parts of a child or any act involving contact with “sexual intent” amounted to “sexual assault” under Section 7 of the POCSO Act.
Born in Maharashtra’s Solapur on November 9, 1957, Justice Lalit’s career began at the Bombay High Court where he was an advocate between 1983 and 1985 before moving to the Supreme Court where he was designated a senior lawyer in April 2004. In the past, he has handled high-profile as a lawyer. In the past, he represented Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases. Before being elevated to the bench, Justice Lalit was an amicus curiae in several cases. Besides, he was appointed special public prosecutor for the CBI in all 2G case matters. Justice Lalit is executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority.
Judge who delivered landmark verdicts
Justice Lalit was part of the five-judge constitution bench in the 2017 ‘triple talaq’ judgment where a 3:2 majority held the practice of instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ to be “unconstitutional”
He also led a bench which reversed the Bombay HC’s widely criticised “skin-to-skin” ruling