The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, on Tuesday recommended the name of Bombay High Court’s (HC) Chief Justice Dipankar Datta to be elevated as a judge of the apex court.
He will be elevated after the Central government clears his appointment and issues a notification in this regard. However, the move will further reduce the existing strength of the HC, which is functioning with 62 judges as against the sanctioned strength of 94.
Son of former Calcutta HC judge Salil Kumar Datta, CJ Datta obtained his degree in law from the University of Calcutta in 1989 and enrolled as an advocate the same year. He practised primarily in the Supreme Court and high courts in Constitutional and civil matters before being elevated as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court on June 22, 2006.
He was elevated as the Chief Justice of Bombay HC on April 28, 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the nationwide lockdown and suspension of air and rail services, he drove down from Kolkata, covering over 2,000 km by road.
Since assuming charge as CJ, the benches headed by him have passed orders in various public interest litigations, thereby streamlining steps to be taken by the Maharashtra government, the BMC and other authorities to prevent the spread of COVID and manage its treatment.
A couple of judgments also protected the rights of prisoners, especially the ones pertaining to reducing overcrowding in jails by granting parole and giving access to audio and video calls with families and lawyers.
During his tenure, he has passed several landmark judgments, including in a PIL which sought directions to the Governor to decide on the appointment of 12 MLCs recommended by the erstwhile MVA government.
As per the Constitution, order cannot be passed against a Governor. In its order, the HC reminded the administrative leader of the obligation cast upon him by the Constitution to decide on issues in a reasonable time.
After a bench headed by CJ Datta took cognisance of the PIL challenging extensions given to then Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjay Pandey, the Maharashtra government appointed Rajnish Seth as his replacement. The government had appointed Pandey as DGP, superseding three other officers recommended for the post by the MPSC.