SEATED in the “first court” of the Bombay High Court for the last time, an emotional Chief Justice Mohit Shah bid goodbye to a packed courtroom on Tuesday, calling lawyers the future torchbearers of justice.
“You are the future torchbearers of justice. I wish you all the best,” Shah said emotionally just moments before he would retire. He rose saying: “God bless Bombay High Court.” Shah had presided over the court for over five years, having assumed charge on June 26, 2010.
Shah, who turns 62 on Wednesday, served a little over five years as the 39th Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. Before coming to Mumbai, he had served as the chief justice of the Calcutta High Court for about six months.
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Some lawyers wished him good luck, while a few others left teary eyed. “He had given a humane face to justice. His greatest attribute was compassion while he adjudicated cases with handy common sense to do justice,” Milind Sathe, senior lawyer and Bombay Bar Association president told The Indian Express.
In February this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech at a function in Mumbai, was all praise for Shah’s efforts in preserving the high court’s history in the form of a museum.
Shah had felt the need to put artefacts, rare documents and historical information in the domain of a larger audience, an official had then said.
Some of the recent prominent judgments given by the bench he presided over include the cases of Vodafone transfer pricing, Maratha reservation, Mumbai Metro and several others.
“From my experience I feel the people here (Mumbai) have a better sense of social responsibility and civic sense. We should test the efficacy of a law from the point of view of a common man and not only lawyers. It should meet the expectations of the common man and not judges and lawyers,” he said later, while interacting with a few reporters.
Several of his orders pertaining to Mumbai’s incessant issue of potholes and never-ending traffic woes turned civic officials and the police officials into frequent visitors to the court.
From insisting on restoration of yellow lights along the “Queen’s Necklace” or Marine Drive to granting bail to English professor G N Saibaba on humanitarian grounds, his recent observations and orders set a precedent for cases of such nature.
Shah was born on September 9, 1953 at Vijapur, Gujarat, and his father was district and sessions judge, says the high court website.
He did his schooling in Baroda, Surat and Amreli before pursuing higher education at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Here he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
In 1976, Shah won a gold medal in his course of Bachelor of Law (special) examination.
He started his practice as a lawyer in the Gujarat High Court the same year and appeared in constitutional, civil and corporate law matters. Subsequently, he obtained a master’s degree in law from Gujarat University, where he was a part-time lecturer at a law college. He was elevated as judge on the bench of the Gujarat High Court on September 18, 1995.