Justice Dipankar Data of the Supreme Court stated on Saturday that attorneys who decline elevation to the bench because it pays less should consider their duty to the nation.
“wish to touch upon the disinclination of advocates of some standing not respecting the call of the Chief Justice to switch sides. Some may have genuine difficulties…But those who decline on economic considerations must be impressed upon to consider the duty they owe to the people of the nation and revisit their decision not to switch”, Justice Data said.
Justice Datta was speaking at a gathering in Mumbai organised by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMG) to honour him. Supreme Court Justice Abhay S. Oka, Acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Justice Nitin Jamdar, and several other Bombay HC judges also attended the occasion.
Recalling his time as chief justice of the Bombay High Court, Justice Data stated that he frequently received complaints about the court’s insufficient number of judges. However, he said the Chief Justice’s hands are bound in this matter, adding that there must be a pool of solicitors to recommend for elevation.
Justice Data emphasised the significance of promoting attorneys at a younger age, as appointing justices aged 53 to 54 will result in shortened tenures.
“And there’s no good appointing judges say at the age of 53, 54, they would be there only for 7-8 years. I have always stressed upon catching the advocates young. But for that I need the concurrence of the advocate to join the bench. That was sadly lacking in many a case”, Justice Datta said.
He also requested senior solicitors emphasise the significance of joining the bench to their junior colleagues. He stated that unless this concern is addressed, there will not be enough justices in the Supreme Court’s collegium. “Otherwise, as Justice Oka has stated, there will not be a single Bombay High Court judge in the collegium of the supreme court from November 2025 until at least 2029…if we appoint judges at the Bombay High Court at the age of 48, 49, or 50, we do not have a sufficient number of judges in the collegium.
During his tenure as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Justice Data felt that he should have worked more quickly on three issues. First was the establishment of new headquarters at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). The second issue concerned a high court jury in Kolhapur. Justice Datta stated that he never said no to a new bench but that it requires deliberation and can only be considered after much deliberation. The third issue involved a PIL filed in the Bombay High Court against citywide political leader portraits. Justice Data revealed that he attempted to remove numerous such placards but felt helpless when he discovered one on the compound wall of the Chief Justice’s residence.
Justice Data, an ardent cricket fan, concluded his speech by comparing the position of Chief Justice to that of a cricket team captain.
“As the captain of the cricket team, you know who are your best players on the field, while you position them for taking catches or obstructing boundaries. As a Chief Justice, you will also have to think who are your players that can cater to a particular subject best. That is how you set the roster. So therefore, I owe a lot to cricket, my first love.”
In his address, Justice Abhay Oka also addressed the issue of space on the premises of the Bombay High Court. Only once has the actual number of justices on the HC exceeded 70 out of a total authorised complement of 94. He concurred with retiring Justice RD Dhanuka that the HC’s principal panel requires at least 50 judges. However, according to Justice Oka, even if the judges are appointed, they need more capacity to convene. Thus, he admired Justice Data’s endeavours for ensuring land allocation for the new BKC courthouse.
At the event were also the Advocate General of Maharashtra, Dr Birendra Sara, Additional Solicitor General of India, Anil Singh, BCMG Chairman Vivekananda Ghatge, Vice Chairman Uday Warunjikar, BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, and members of the bar committees of various states.