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PoliticsIndiaJustice UU Lalit: All you need to know about 49th CJI

Justice UU Lalit: All you need to know about 49th CJI

Uday Umesh Lalit is set to become the 49th Chief Justice of India on 27 August. President Droupadi Murmu signed his warrant of appointment today. Born on 9 November 1957, Justice UU Lalit is, as of now, a judge of the Supreme Court. Before his elevation as a judge, he practised as a senior counsel at the Supreme Court.

Justice UU Lalit will succeed incumbent CJI NV Ramana.

Justice UU Lalit is the sixth senior advocate ever to be directly elevated to the Supreme Court. He will retire on 8 November 2022 after assuming the office of Chief Justice of India for 74 days as the 49th CJI.

UU Lalit was born to the family of UR Lalit, a former additional judge of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court and senior counsel practising at the Supreme Court. He had earlier moved his practice to Delhi in January 1986. From 1986 to 1992, he worked with former Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee.

In April 2004, he was designated as a senior advocate by the apex court. He was appointed a special public prosecutor for the CBI to conduct the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case. He appeared also in several high-profile cases, including the black buck case against actor Salman Khan, the road rage case against cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and a corruption case on behalf of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

In July 2014, the Supreme court collegium recommended him to be one of the Supreme Court judges of India.

UU Lalit joined the bar in June 1983 and started practising in the Supreme Court of India in 1986. From 1986 to 1992, Lalit worked with former Attorney General for India, Soli Sorabjee. On 29 April 2004, he was designated as a senior advocate of the Supreme Court. An August 2014 Press Trust of India news report stated that Lalit had a high reputation for his preparation, patience, and "sober demeanour" while arguing his cases. The report said that he appeared in several high-profile criminal cases and that his clients included politicians and film stars.

Justice UU Lalit: Career in Supreme Court

In 2011, a Supreme Court bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly appointed UU Lalit as the special public prosecutor for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the 2G spectrum cases, stating that "in the interest of a fair prosecution of the case, the appointment of UU Lalit is eminently suitable". His professional strengths are described as 'thoroughness with the case, patience in explaining legal questions and the sober demeanour in presenting the case before the bench.'

He will be the second CJI who was directly elevated to the apex court Bench from the Bar. Justice SM Sikri, who became the 13th CJI in January 1971, was the first lawyer to be elevated directly to the top court bench in March 1964

On 10 January 2019, Justice Lalit recused himself from a five-judge bench constituted to hear the Ayodhya dispute case. His appearance for the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in a 'connected case' was brought to the notice of the court by Rajeev Dhavan, and the court in its order noted the 'disinclination' of Justice Lalit to participate in the matter. He has also recused himself from multiple other high-profile cases.

Justice UU Lalit has been part of several landmark judgments, including the one which held the practice of through instant ‘triple talaq’ among Muslims illegal and unconstitutional. In the five-judge bench, while then-Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer were in favour of putting on hold the for six months and asking the government to come out with a law to that effect, Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman and UU Lalit held the practice as violative of the Constitution. Justices Khehar, Joseph and Nariman have since retired.

On 13 July 2020, He was part of the two-judge bench that upheld the Travancore Royal family's right to administer the Sree Padmanabha Swami temple, one of the richest shrines, holding that the rule of “heritability must get attached to a right of Shebait" (servitor) of the temple. The bench had allowed the appeal of the legal heirs of Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the younger brother of the last ruler, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, setting aside the Kerala High Court’s 2011 verdict which directed the state government to set up a trust to take control of the management and assets of the temple.

A bench headed by Justice UU 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. He held the most important ingredient is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin contact. Quashing the controversial ‘skin-to-skin’ judgments 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.

The high court had held that no offence of sexual assault under the POCSO Act was made out if there was no direct skin-to-skin contact between an accused and victim.

Justice UU Lalit played an important role also as the Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). On a visit to Mumbai earlier this year, he had visited a school run by an NGO working for children of women from the red-light areas.

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