The Supreme Court collegium led by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, in its meeting held on September 26, recommended the elevation of Justice Dipankar Datta, Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, as a Supreme Court judge.
Justice Datta, who was a senior judge at the Calcutta High Court, was appointed as the Bombay High Court Chief Justice on April 28, 2020. He will be elevated to the apex court after the central government clears his appointment and issues a notification in this regard.
The son of the late Justice Salil Kumar Datta, a former judge of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Datta was born on February 9, 1965. He obtained his LLB degree from the University of Calcutta in 1989. He enrolled as an advocate the same year and practiced in the Supreme Court and in high courts, dealing with constitutional and civil cases.
Justice Datta has served as the junior standing counsel for West Bengal between May 2002 and January 2004, and as a counsel for the Union government since 1998. He was elevated as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court on June 22, 2006.
He took over as the Chief Justice of Bombay HC after Justice Bhushan P Dharmadhikari during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensured the functioning of the court through virtual and hybrid modes. Justice Datta also passed several directions to authorities to provide medical assistance to citizens besides redressing the grievances of migrant workers during the lockdown. He also changed the working hours of the high court from 11 am-5 pm to 10.30 am-4.30 pm. Before him, the last Bombay HC Chief Justice to have been elevated to the Supreme Court was Justice Anil Dave, who became an apex court judge in April 2010.
In July 2020, a bench led by Chief Justice Datta passed directions to the state government to reduce overcrowding in jails during the pandemic and pulled up the prison department on the “sorry state of affairs”
On December 16, 2020, in a setback to the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led state government, a division bench including Justice Datta, while hearing the central government’s plea through its salt commissioner laying claim to the 102-acre Kanjurmarg salt pan land, stayed the order of the collector that transferred the said land to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for the Metro car shed project.
In a judgment on PILs filed by former police officers of Maharashtra seeking restraining orders against “media trial” in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case passed in January 2021, a bench led by Justice Datta had held that a “media trial” pending the investigation of any case violates the Programme Code under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act and does have an impact on the probe by “interference with administration of criminal justice.”
Moreover, on April 5 last year, a bench led by Chief Justice Datta directed the CBI to carry out a preliminary inquiry into the corruption allegations made by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh against the then state home minister Anil Deshmukh, while terming the case as “unprecedented”. In the same month, Justice Datta pulled up the state government over fire incidents in hospitals across Maharashtra and observed that the safety of patients was of paramount importance.
In July 2021, a division bench led by Justice Datta had directed the civic authorities to ensure that elderly and disabled persons have the benefit of Covid-19 vaccination at their residence as per the policy formulated by the state government, despite the Centre not being willing to adopt a policy for the same.
The following month, Justice Datta held it “desirable” for Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to take a decision at the earliest regarding the recommendation by the state council of ministers under then CM Uddhav Thackeray on the nominations of 12 members to the Legislative Council – pending for eight months at that point – and said the seats “cannot be kept vacant indefinitely”. Those 12 names were recently scrapped by the current dispensation under Eknath Shinde.
On February 26 this year, a bench of Chief Justice Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed a judgment in a suo motu PIL raising concerns over the collapse of unauthorised buildings and issued a slew of directions to the civic bodies and planning authorities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
The same day, Justice Datta refused to interfere in a PIL against special permission granted in 2002 to Lake City Corporation for purchasing lands for a private hill station Lavasa in Pune district and said that the “judicial hands-off” approach is best suited in the case due to “gross delay” in the filing of PIL. The court, though, observed “personal interest” and “exertion of influence and clout” by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule in the impugned project and that NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who was the irrigation minister and ex-officio chairman of Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) “failed to disclose the direct or indirect interest and was found to be remiss in his duty only to that extent.”
CJ Datta, on July 29 this year, directed the Mumbai suburban collector to take steps to remove 48 structures, including unauthorised portions of buildings near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), which flouted height norms and were in the way of the approach surfaces of the runaways.
On Monday, he dismissed as withdrawn a PIL filed by Jain Charitable Trusts seeking a restriction or ban on the advertisement of non-vegetarian food in print and electronic media. The high court asked the petitioners why they were seeking to encroach on others’ rights.