By the time the 38th Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia, hangs up his cloak and collar on September 29, he would have added yet another landmark verdict in the form of an ‘opinion’ in deference to the Presidential reference raising the core issue: Whether all the natural resources can (have to) be allocated by public bidding alone or these can be handed over to select players who have the know-how to utilise them.
With Kapadia demitting office after 21 years of adorning the bench starting from Bombay, he would have vouched for what eminent former SC judge VR Krishna Iyer had said on his taking over the highest judicial office from KG Balakrishnan on May 12, 2010.
“There was hardly anyone to compare with Kapadia the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived and no human tongue can adequately tell,” said the vibrant judge who marveled the art of injecting socialistic character in the post reforms jurisprudence.
And why not, for, workaholic Kapadia, who hands over the baton to Justice Altamas Kabir on September 29, himself maintains the requisite aloofness and believes in the dictum: “When an institution no longer matters, we no longer matter.”
Always craving for striking a balance between the rights and duties and development with inclusive growth, Kapadia’s inimitable court management and his concern for speedy justice has always been ubiquitous.
At least 879 judgments and 27 pronouncements made by the constitution benches have been signed by Justice Kapadia till now. These numbers don’t account for the scores of orders that he signed along with other judges.
A fearless judge to the core of his soul, for he has always remembered the oath that he’ll uphold the Constitution and the law as laid down, Kapadia started his journey to the country’s top legal position some 38 years ago on September 10,1974, when he was enrolled as a lawyer with the Bombay High Court.
An ardent disciple of excellence and academic merit, Kapadia along with four other judges was a signatory to the controversial judgment in October, 2006, holding that “state is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions”.
However, if it (state) wants to, it must “collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment”.
Six years later, this verdict is a matter of concern for the government. It rarely happens that the exit of a CJI is a matter of concern — for, it’s a matter of debate whether the court management would be as transparent and smooth as it was experienced during the past 28 months.
A proud Indian as “this is the only country where a Parsi” could adorn the highest judicial position, Kapadia minces no words in deriving honour in saying: “I come from a poor family. I started my career as a class IV employee and the only asset I possess is integrity.”
Though Kapadia believes in excellence and advancement in studies and utilising the information technology in court management too, he wouldn’t upload his speeches on the court’s website. That’s when he had announced that his perspective and thinking would be known from his speeches.
For the judge who gives high regard to the judicial and institutional integrity, he had some indefensible moments too when faced with criticism of the institutions.
Kapadia believes that law isn’t separate from morality. “When people say there are several loopholes in law, I agree, but the problem arises when there are loopholes in our (judges) character too,” he has said.