Justice Dipak Misra was sworn in on Monday as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in a brief ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Misra will be the 45th chief justice of the Supreme Court and have a 14-month tenure till October 2018. He takes over from chief justice J.S. Khehar.
Khehar nominated Misra last month on behalf of the collegium for consideration by the center as the next chief justice of the country.
Born in 1953, 63-year-old Misra joined the bar in 1977 and began his judicial career at the Orissa high court as an additional judge in 1996.
Misra was then transferred to the Madras high court following which he assumed charge as chief justice of the Patna high court in 2009. He was named the chief justice of Delhi high court in 2010.
In 2011, Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he has been part of several noteworthy cases and judgments including the historic one on 30 July, 2015, when the apex court was opened at 3 am to decide on Yakub Memon’s appeal against his execution. Memon was convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
Misra also headed the bench that upheld the death sentence awarded in the Nirbhaya gang rape case.
He has also played an active role in the crackdown on child pornography websites.
His views on nationalism have been highlighted through his guidelines on the mandatory playing of the national anthem in theatres. Apart from all this, Misra has addressed the plight of farmers in various farmer suicide cases. The introduction of ‘Nyaya Sanyog’ (Legal Assistance Establishments) in states to provide legal access to the poor also bears his imprimatur.
A number of challenges lie ahead. Apart from the matters pending before him, he is likely to be at the receiving end of litigations arising out of the recently passed judgment widening the scope of privacy by deeming it a fundamental right under the Constitution.
As he was chosen to be part of a three-judge bench constituted by erstwhile chief justice Khehar to hear the Ayodhya land dispute case, delivering a judgment in this matter is expected to be one of the biggest challenges before him.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, elaborating on the tasks ahead for the new CJI, said, “As CJI, he is likely to play a role in at least 10 appointments to the Supreme Court. He will also have to ensure that the paperless project that the court has been trying to adopt since former CJI J.S Khehar’s tenure is finally put in practice. Other than that, he has important cases like the Ayodhya dispute to address and will also be the judge before whom all new and pending cases that may arise from the privacy judgment come up.”
There are, however, a few concerns over his appointment as he is embroiled in a land allotment case in Odisha where the lease of land allotted to him was canceled by the state government owing to irregularities in an affidavit.
He was also among those named in the suicide note of former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul, wherein corruption allegations were made.
Besides, there is the annoyance of a petition filed by Punjab MP Harinder Singh Khalsa, challenging Misra’s appointment, pending before the Delhi high court.
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