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Of SC’s 4 new judges, one junked plea against Yogi and another brought CJI under RTI

Two of the 4 new judges — Justice Roy and Justice Bhat — graduated together and are batchmates of serving judges, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul

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New Delhi: With four new judges taking oath of office, the Supreme Court has attained a full strength of 34 judges — the highest ever in its nearly 70-year history.

The four — Justices Krishna Murari, S. Ravindra Bhat, V. Ramasubramanian and Hrishikesh Roy  — were sworn in by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday. 

Two of these four judges — Justice Roy and Justice Bhat — graduated together in 1982 from the Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. They are also batchmates of serving judges, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul.

ThePrint profiles the four. 

Justice Murari: Dismissed plea against Yogi Adityanath

Justice Murari began practising in Allahabad High Court in 1981 and became a judge of the court in January 2004. He took over as the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in June last year.

During his tenure as an Allahabad high court judge, Murari was part of a bench that dismissed a petition challenging the Uttar Pradesh government’s refusal to grant sanction to prosecute Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the 2007 Gorakhpur riots hate speech case. 

He had also dismissed a petition filed by two leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking permission from the district administration to raise black flags when Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Allahabad in June 2016. 

Murari launched a number of IT initiatives as the Punjab High Court chief justice and asked the police and state authorities to come up with a security plan for judicial officers in the districts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The instructions were issued after the gunning down of the wife and son of a Gurugram additional district and sessions judge.

Apart from his judgments, his initiative resulted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court collecting approximately Rs 1.5 crore for the Kerala floods last year.  

Also read: Police can’t seize a suspect’s immovable property when investigation is on: Supreme Court 

Justice Bhat: Opened CJI’s office to RTI scrutiny

Bhat joined the bar in 1982 and began practicing in Delhi High Court. He became a high court judge in July 2004. He served as a judge of the Delhi High Court for 15 years before taking over as the chief justice of the Rajasthan High Court in May 2019. 

A decade ago as a judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Bhat had ruled that the office of the chief justice of India was “public authority” under the Right to Information Act. 

In the landmark judgment, he had declared that the RTI was a “powerful beacon that illuminates unlit corners of state activity, and those of public authorities which impact citizens’ daily lives, to which they previously had no access”.

The Supreme Court registry appealed against this judgment in the Supreme Court, which reserved its judgment in April 2019.

Bhat’s judgment striking down the government’s ban on private sector manufacturing of oxytocin was also hailed as was his push for functional CCTV cameras in all police stations in the national capital, after the 2012 Delhi gang rape. 

More recently, under his chief justiceship, the Rajasthan High Court slotted video conferencing as a regular, need-based affair, designating specific courts for it as well.  

Also read: Supreme Court’s inconsistent stand on civil rights gives state a window to defeat them 

Justice Ramasubramanian: Got helpline for inter-caste couples

Ramasubramanian enrolled with the bar in February 1983 and was made a judge of the Madras High Court after practicing as a lawyer for 23 years in July 2006.

He was transferred to the Hyderabad High Court in April 2016 and was retained as a judge of the Telangana High Court at Hyderabad from January 2019, after the creation of a separate high court for Andhra Pradesh.

Ramasubramanian served as the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court for three months before being elevated to the Supreme Court.

His judgment in April 2016 led to the Madurai police launching a helpline to protect those marrying outside their caste or religion. He had then directed the state government to create special cells in every district to deal with complaints from “couples expressing fear of physical annihilation” by parents, relatives and khap panchayats.

Later the same year, he was a part of a bench that made it clear that it is a person’s upbringing that must be taken into account while determining his/her caste if they are born to inter-caste parents.

In another judgment, he intervened in a dispute between two sects of Vaishnavites, asking the Vadakalai sect not to shut the doors of a famous temple in Cuddalore district during a procession by Thenkalai sect.

According to lawyers who appeared before him in the Madras High Court, he often used humour as a tool to break the tension in the courtroom.  

Also read: Supreme Court’s rule for quota candidates availing age relaxation contradicts its own view

Justice Roy: Dismissed plea for entry of women in mosques

Roy, who belongs to Assam, enrolled as an advocate in 1982 with the Bar Council of Delhi; he later shifted to Guwahati. He was designated as a senior advocate in December 2004 and was made a judge of the Gauhati High Court in October 2006. He was appointed the chief justice of the Kerala High Court last year. 

In December 2015, Roy had come down heavily on Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa for advancing the assembly session against the advice of the Council of Ministers, while setting the agenda to discuss the removal of the Speaker of the House. 

Rajkhowa’s decision had been challenged by then Speaker Nabam Rebia, and was stayed by Roy, who lamented that the governor of a state who was expected to discharge his “role with dispassion and within the constitutional framework” had “facilitated the political battle to move in a certain direction in the tussle for power”, and that this reflected “the non-neutral role of the constitutional head”, which was “undermining the democratic process”.

In October last year, as chief justice of the Kerala High Court, he was a part of a bench that dismissed a Hindu Right-wing organisation’s petition for allowing Muslim women to enter mosques and offer prayers. The bench, also comprising Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar, had then said that Muslim women should approach the court if they were aggrieved. 

The bench, in December 2018, imposed costs of Rs 25,000 on BJP state general secretary Sobha Surendran, who was spearheading a protest against women’s entry into Sabarimala. She had sought a list of cases registered against Ayyappa devotees in various districts since the Supreme Court allowed entry of women into the Sabarimala temple.

The same division bench had, in March this year, prohibited use of flex and other non-biodegradable materials for campaigning throughout the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. 

Also read: How Modi govt tried to stall Akil Kureshi’s appointment as MP High Court chief justice


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