Sunday, April 18, 2021

Tremendous satisfaction in giving nod: Justice Chandrachud on permanent commission for women officers

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New Delhi It is “tremendously satisfying” to be a judge when you can deliver a judgment making women equal contributors to growth and safety of the nation, said Supreme Court judge Dhananjay Y Chandrachud on Tuesday, citing his February 2020 verdict that gave permanent commission to women in the armed forces.

“I can very well remember authoring this judgment and delivering it just before the lockdown. When I can see 365 women officers granted permanent commission and there are more officers who are going to get it exactly after a year of this judgment, there is a great sense of satisfaction for a judge,” said justice Chandrachud.

Constituting the bench along with justice MR Shah, justice Chandrachud added: “There is tremendous amount of satisfaction of being a judge. With the assistance and the vision of lawyers, we could deliver a judgment which led to opening up of more public spaces for women, making them equal contributors to growth and safety of the nation.”

The judge further said: “Yes, you do a lot of routine work every day; you do exactly the same kind of work almost every day; your routine from morning to evening is almost the same, but I have no second thought about why I chose to be a judge. I guess judgeship is something that grows on you”.

Justice Shah agreed: “I also have great satisfaction that you have done something for the society as a judge. As a lawyer, you have to mostly worry about the interest of your clients. I can remember when an order of mine in the Gujarat high court helped 23,500 retired primary teachers get the benefit of revised pension. Days later, I got a letter addressed to me from a remote village with only one sentence written: Justice is still alive.”

The justice Chandrachud-led bench was hearing a clutch of petitions by around 60 women army officers who have complained against fixing of allegedly arbitrary criteria to deny them permanent commission when the judges and the lawyers had a brief exchange about “role reversal”.

Following arguments spanning three hours, additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain and senior counsel R Balasubramaniam, who represented the ministry of defence (MoD) in the matter, took a brief break from the submission and asked the judges if they missed being lawyers.

Justice Chandrachud replied saying although lawyers had greater freedom than judges did, he would not have second thoughts about being a judge.

With senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi appearing for one of the women officers, the judge also recalled an episode from 1997 when he went to meet Huzefa’s father, former Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi at his hotel room in Mumbai after an arbitration case.

“I was around 38 then. I went to see justice Ahmadi in his suite and asked him what his thoughts were about judgeship since he was a judge since 1964. I asked him if he thought judgeship was worth it. And justice Ahmadi said: ‘Absolutely! Every minute of it!’ I was appointed judge around two and half years later when I was 40. And now, I feel the same way,” said justice Chandrachud.

He shared another incident when he went to meet another retired Supreme Court judge with a colleague, SA Bobde – the present CJI. Both justice Chandrachud and justice Bobde practised as lawyers in the Bombay high court in 1997. They were both designated as senior advocates in 1998 and were also elevated as judges in the Bombay high court at the same time in 2000.

“I and justice Bobde had gone to meet justice AP Sen when he was in Nagpur. He also told us it is a matter of immense satisfaction being a judge and that lawyers help a judge leave his footprints on the sands of time,” said justice Chandrachud.

Referring to his conversations with some young lawyers, justice Chandrachud said that a lot of young counsel were worried about the constant grind of being a judge. “They say we cannot do this day in and day out. I believe it is a matter of temperament after all.”

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