New Delhi: Justice Konakuppakattil Gopinathan Balakrishnan, the senior-most Supreme Court judge, was on Sunday sworn in 37th Chief Justice of India, succeeding Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, who retired after a tenure of about 15 months.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam administered the oath of office to Justice Balakrishnan at a brief ceremony held at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Justice Balakrishnan will have a tenure of office for three years and four months — till the forenoon of May 12, 2010. He touched the feet of his octogenarian mother K.M. Sharada both before and after the ceremony and sought her blessings. His wife Nirmala Balakrishnan was also present.
Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, outgoing CJI Justice Sabharwal, former CJIs Justice Rangnath Misra, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Justice A.S. Anand, Justice V.N. Khare, Justice R.C. Lahoti and acting Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Shivraj Patil, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Tamil Nadu PWD Minister Durai Murugan, former and present Supreme Court and High Court Judges, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association M.N. Krishnamani, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the All-India Bar Association Adish C. Agarwala and S. Prabhakaran, Attorney-General Milon K. Banerjee, Fali S. Nariman, other senior lawyers and family members of Justice Balakrishnan were among those who attended.
At the beginning of his career as an advocate in 1968, Justice Balakrishnan pleaded both civil and criminal cases in the Ernakulam court.
He was appointed as a Munsif in the Kerala Judicial Services in 1973. He later resigned and resumed practice as an advocate in the Kerala High Court.
In 1985, he was appointed a judge of the Kerala High Court, and was transferred to the Gujarat High Court in 1997. He became the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in 1998, and in 1999, he assumed charge as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. On June 8, 2000, he was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court.
As a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Balakrishnan delivered several landmark judgments dealing with Constitutional and other matters, Criminal Laws and in Public Interest Litigations.
Setting aside a long-standing convention, Justice Balakrishnan declined to show any leniency to two sisters found guilty of kidnapping 13 children and murdering nine of them in Mumbai.
He awarded them the death sentence.
Justice Balakrishnan was part of the Bench that held that courts could not interfere in criminal proceedings in public interest litigation and thus gave relief to Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in the income tax cases.
Last week, he was part of a nine-judge Bench that ruled that all laws inserted in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution would be subject to judicial review if they violated the Basic Structure of the Constitution and infringed on the fundamental rights of citizens.