In 2018, the position of Chief Justice of India was referred to as the ‘First among Equals’ by a bench of the SC judges in a letter to the then CJI, Justice Arun Mishra. The CJI is a high constitutional functionary and is considered utmost important when it comes to deciding the landmark cases in India. The 47th Chief Justice of India, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde is set to retire on 23rd April, 2021. As we know ‘With Great Power comes Great Responsibility’ and in his tenure of 18th months, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde has been a part of some of the most consequential and watershed judgments in the history.
He was appointed as the Chief Justice to the Apex Court on 18th November 2019 and considered as the longest serving Chief Justice in the last 8 years. Hailing from a family of lawyers, Bobde is a son of an eminent senior advocate and has been involved in some of the most landmark judgments in India be it the Ayodhya verdict or the Right to privacy Case.
Bobde was often considered as a trouble shooter and his tenure has witnessed an unprecedented crisis in the Supreme Court due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. From video conference hearings to being criticized for mishandling of the migrant crisis, Bobde’s term as the CJI has seen it all.
CJI SA Bobde’s Landmark Verdicts
Here’s a list of 5 most important and controversial judgments which involved Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde in the bench-
1. Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid Case
Also known as the Ayodhya dispute, the Supreme Court of India in this case overturned the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that divided the title to the Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid Site. The bench which gave this judgment comprised of Ranjan Gogoi, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer and Sharad Arvind Bobde.
This case was one of India’s most controversial and debatable judgment which was pending since 1950. Sharad Arvind Bobde played a vital role in this judgment and was on the 5-judge constitution bench which gave the unanimous judgment.
2. Sexual harassment and The CJI Case
In Re: Matter of Great Public Importance touching upon the Independence of judiciary was a suo moto case which began in April 2019 after the publication of details of complaint by a SC Staff against the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by Ranjan Gogoi and sought an inquiry against him. The matter went to a bench comprising of Justice Arun Mishra, RF Nariman, and Deepak Gupta. And an in-house committee was set up to look into the allegations consisting of Justice SA Bobde, NV Ramana & Indira Banerjee. The committee submitted its report and it had found no substance in the allegations contained in the Complaint.
3. Justice Puttaswamy (Retd) & Others v. Union of India (2017)
In this landmark judgment, then Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde was a member of the 9 judge bench which ruled that Right to privacy was a constitutionally protected fundamental right in India under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Majority judgment in this case was authored by Justice Chandrachud and Sharad Arvind Bobde gave a concurring opinion in this case. It was a historic judgment in which the decision in M.P Sharma and Kharak Singh was overruled and right to privacy was realized as an intrinsic part of Right to life and personal liberty.
Justice Bobde in this case observed that consent was essential for distribution of inherently personal data such as health records.
4. Justice Bobde was also part of the three judge bench (along with Justice Jasti Chelameshwar and Chokkalingam Nagappan) that clarified no citizen of India without an Aadhaar can be denied basic services and government services.
5. Sale of firecrackers (2016)
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Sharad Arvind Bobde, TS Thakur and Arjun Kumar Sikri gave a judgment and suspended the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region due to the extreme air poluution
Controversy During CJI Bobde’s Tenure
Last year on June 28, CJI Bobde’s photo of seated on a Harley Davidson went viral which attracted controversy since he was not wearing a mask or a helmet. Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court tweeted this and was heavily criticized for contempt of the Court. The whole issue was widely in news at that time and received its fair share of controversy.
In March 2021 while hearing a case CJI Bobde made a statement asking the accused in a rape case whether he will marry the victim. The remarks caused a debate in the media regarding the CJI’s observation in the case but later he clarified that his statement was misreported and did not mean to say it like that.