Justice Datta was chief justice from April 28, 2020, till his elevation to the Supreme Court on December 11, 2022
Justice Dipankar Datta, former chief justice of the Bombay High Court and is a current sitting judge of the Supreme Court, on Saturday said that despite his best efforts, he could not rid the city of hoardings. Justice Datta was chief justice from April 28, 2020, till his elevation to the apex court on December 11, 2022. He was appointed chief justice when the country was under a strict lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and air and rail services were suspended.
Non-compliance of authorities
As CJ, Justice Datta passed several orders regarding defacement of the city and state by posters, hoardings and banners. However, after returning to the city nearly six months after his elevation, one thing that continued to trouble Justice Datta was the non compliance of the high court orders asking the authorities to take down illegal hoardings.
“I also failed in another matter regarding the boards with the photos of politicians. I did my best to remove them. I became hopeless when I found one such board on the bungalow of the chief justice… I decided to let someone else handle this otherwise everyone would have said I had become a judge in my own cause,” he said.
Justice Datta was speaking at a function organised by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa to felicitate him. Expressing that he had more time as CJ, Justice Datta said he could have worked faster in two or three cases, one of them being land allotment for a new high court complex at Bandra Kurla COmplex (BKC) and another being the demand of an HC bench at Kolhapur.
“I really wish I could have continued as the chief justice of Bombay High Court. The two-three instances where I felt that I should have worked at a faster pace, one of them was the land allotment for HC at the Bandra Kurla Complex,” he said.
During Justice Datta’s tenure here, the Maharashtra government said it would allot land at BKC. Recently, the government asked the HC registrar to take advance possession of the plot.There has been a long-standing demand for an HC bench at Kolhapur. Justice Datta said he never said there could not be a bench there.
“I just said that if the state government wants to create a bench, first let them allot the land for the principal benc,” he said.The principal bench caters to 13 districts, Aurangabad bench caters to 13 districts, and the Nagpur bench caters to 11 districts. If six districts are taken from the principal bench for Kolhapur bench, it will be left with only seven districts. Then Aurangabad or Nagpur may stake a claim that they are the principal bench… I said this needs to be deliberated,” Justice Dutta said.
Justice Dipankar Datta is a cricket fan
Justice Datta’s love for cricket is well known. Comparing cricket and the law, he said: “What is cricket? It is a game of uncertainty… As a captain you have to know the strengths of your players. As a chief justice also you have to decide which judge will be good for which subject. ”Justice Abhay Oka, who was elevated from the Bombay High Court to chief justice of Madras High Court and finally to the Supreme Court C, appreciated Justice Datta’s humility and acumen as a judge.
“The Maharashtra government had offered a chartered plane to bring him [Justice Datta] to Mumbai. It is his humility that he drove to Mumbai from Kolkata,” said Justice Oka.Referring to some of his judgments, Justice Oka said: “Justice Dipankar Datta dealt with about 40 structures near the Mumbai airport that violated height norms. He directed a preliminary inquiry in a police officer’s allegations against a politician.” (He was referring to former top cop Param Bir Singh’s allegations against former home minister Anil Deshmukh.)
Lauding Justice Datta’s efforts towards allotment of plot for new HC complex, Justice Oka said although everyone highlights how the HC is functioning with fewer judges, no one thought where would the new judges sit.
Too many judges sitting on benches
“There is a huge issue in Bombay HC. The sanctioned strength is 94 judges. Only once we have crossed 70... One problem is the appointment of judges. But when appointed, where will they sit?.... That's why I am very happy that Justice Dipankar Datta has worked on this,” said Justice Oka.