Uday Lalit to be India's next Supreme Court chief justice

Former criminal lawyer has served on the top court in 2014

Uday Umesh Lalit, the newly appointed chief justice of India's Supreme Court, addresses the 18th All India Legal Services Authorities Meet in Jaipur, Rajasthan on July 16, 2022. Photo: Vishal Bhatnagar / NurPhoto
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Justice Uday Lalit has been selected to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, the Law Ministry said.

Justice Lalit, 64, will succeed the current Chief Justice N V Ramana, whose 16-month tenure will end on August 26.

“The President is pleased to appoint Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Judge of the Supreme Court, to be the Chief Justice of India with effect from August 27,” the ministry said.

The top court’s chief justice is appointed on the basis of seniority and retires at the age 65, which means Justice Lalit will serve in his new role for only about 75 days. The shortest tenure for a chief justice in the court’s history is 17 days for Kamal Narain Singh in 1991.

The son of a judge, Justice Lalit was born in Maharashtra in 1957 and began his legal career in 1983. He worked for two years in the state's Bombay High Court before moving to the capital Delhi.

In 2011, he was appointed special public prosecutor in cases related to alleged corruption in the 2G spectrum auction by the telecoms ministry under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

He was appointed as a Supreme Court judge in 2014 — one of the rare occasions when lawyers are appointed directly to the top court.

As Supreme Court judge, he has been involved in several high-profile and controversial cases.

Justice Lalit was on the judges' panel who ruled in favour of outlawing the "triple talaq" in 2017 — a practice that allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying the word "talaq" three times.

He also presided over the a bench that overturned the Bombay High Court's acquittal of a man accused of groping a minor and the judgment held that "groping a minor's breast without 'skin to skin contact' can't be termed as sexual assault".

Justice Lalit recused himself hearing the Babri Masjid case in 2019, citing his appearance for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh under whose government the demolition of 16th-century mosque took place in 1992.

The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by mob who claimed that it was built on the birthplace of the Hindu deity Lord Ram.

Updated: August 11, 2022, 2:55 PM