A packed schedule: From bail plea of Siddique Kappan to Gautam Navlakha’s appeal, CJI UU Lalit has a busy first working

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After being sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India by President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday in a brief ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit will take charge of the apex court from Monday.

There are expectations from CJI UU Lalit, who will have a short tenure of 74 days and retire on 8 November at the age of 65. According to seniority and protocol, the next in line to head the top court will be Justice D Y Chadrachud, who will remain in office for two years and retire in 2024.

Incidentally, he is the second CJI after late Justice SM Sikri to be appointed directly from the Bar to the Supreme Court as a judge.

CJI UU Lalit’s first day is a packed schedule — he will be hearing the bail plea of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, a petition of activist Gautam Navlakha and some important PILs on Monday.

Also read: CJI UU Lalit to have 74-day tenure: How’s the top judge appointed and what are the retirement rules?

With little more than two months till retirement on 8 November, CJI Lalit, is looking at a tenure that is set to be a race against time. Especially given the holiday-heavy court schedule this time of the year.

Siddique Kappan’s bail plea

A bench of CJI UU Lalit and Justice Ravindra Bhat will hear the bail plea of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan today.

Kappan was arrested in October 2020 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other charges while he was on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to cover the infamous rape-and-murder case of a Dalit girl.

The police had claimed that the accused was trying to disturb the law and order in Hathras and also alleged that the accused had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI).

His appeal in the Supreme Court, in which he says that the “presently, the petitioner has spent almost two years behind bars, on the basis of trumped up charges, only because he sought to discharge his professional duty of reporting on the infamous case of the Hathras rape/ murder”, comes after the Allahabad High Court on 2 August rejected his bail application.

In his application to the apex court, the journalist has said that the high court has “grossly overlooked the well-established principles regarding the grant of bail, and without affording any cogent reasons, has mechanically dismissed Kappan’s bail application.”

The petitioner also took objection to the high court’s ruling that he had “no work” in Hathras.

“The conclusion of the high court to the effect that the petitioner had no work in Hathras is unfounded and baseless and reflects a total non-application of mind. The high court has glossed over the fact that the petitioner, in the discharge of his duties, has travelled extensively over the country for the purpose of reportage,” the plea said.

Kappan has been granted bail twice by the Supreme Court for visiting his ailing mother and for being treated for COVID-19. On both times, there had not been any allegations that he tried to jump bail or influence witnesses or tamper with evidence.

Gautam Navlakha appeal

Besides the Kappan bail plea, CJI UU Lalit along with Justice Ravindra Bhat will also hear the appeal filed by activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, against a Bombay High Court decision to reject his request to be shifted from Taloja jail and be placed under house arrest.

Navlakha, who is a human rights activist and former Secretary of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, was arrested in August 2018, but was initially placed under house arrest.

He was later moved to Taloja Central Prison in Maharashtra in April 2020 after a Supreme Court order.

Earlier on 26 August, the Bombay High Court had dismissed Navlakha’s appeal for house arrest instead of Taloja jail, as it lacked basic facilities. The activist had said that he was a senior citizen and suffered from several health ailments.

However, a bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap had dismissed the plea and said that if Navlakha had any grievances pertaining to the lack of medical aid and basic facilities at Taloja jail — the grounds he had cited while seeking house arrest — he should inform the special National Investigation Agency, or NIA, court about it.

Teesta Setalvad case

CJI Lalit’s bench will also be hearing the bail plea filed by activist Teesta Setalvad on 30 August. Setalvad is accused of fabricating evidence to frame high functionaries of the Gujarat government in a case related to the 2002 riots.

The Gujarat government had on 25 August 25 sought to downplay the urgency of the case, saying there was nothing “special” about it. The Hindu reported that Justice Lalit, who was sworn in as CJI on Saturday, retorted that though there may not be anything “special” in Setalvad’s case, the court would still have to consider and test whether her incarceration was necessary at all.

Hijab ban order

The Supreme Court will also hear the matter of the Karnataka hijab ban today. The apex court will be hearing the pleas and petitions which have been filed to challenge the order passed by the Karnataka High Court on 15 March, which upheld the hijab ban in educational institutions.

As per the order passed by the Karnataka High Court on 15 March, the uniform dress code for students which has been issued by the government, school management, committee, etc shall be followed. Due to this verdict, the ban on headscarves imposed by the state government in February for schools and PU colleges was upheld.

It appears that CJI UU Lalit means serious business and wants to bring in notable changes in his short tenure. The causelist published for Monday, shows an increase in the average number of daily cases listed per bench — around 60 — almost double the earlier average, reports Live Law.

It seems Justice Lalit is on a mission mode to achieve as much as possible during his brief term of 74 days.

With inputs from agencies

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A packed schedule: From bail plea of Siddique Kappan to Gautam Navlakha’s appeal, CJI UU Lalit has a busy first working
A packed schedule: From bail plea of Siddique Kappan to Gautam Navlakha’s appeal, CJI UU Lalit has a busy first working
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