THE CHIEF Justice of the common High Court for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, Justice Gita Mittal, retired from office on Tuesday. Justice Rajesh Bindal, the senior-most judge of the court, has been appointed acting Chief Justice.
Justice Mittal became the first female Chief Justice of the High Court in August 2018. In a full court reference held in her honour on Tuesday, Justice Mittal said she broke a glass ceiling and made history when she was appointed the Chief Justice. “I believe glass ceilings are broken when you make an impact, when you help people and drive change,” she said. With her retirement, there is currently no female judge heading any of the 25 High Courts in the country.
It was during her tenure that Parliament passed laws to bifurcate the state of J&K and scrapped the special status accorded under Article 370 of the Constitution. The communications blockade that followed the August 2019 laws virtually halted the court’s functioning. Hearings in several cases were postponed “in the interest of justice”.
Two months later, swamped with writ petitions, Justice Mittal wrote to the Supreme Court Collegium, requesting for appointment of more judges. Although three permanent judges have been appointed, the HC currently has 11 judges against its sanctioned strength of 17. After the dilution of Article 370, Justice Mittal administered oath to new judges swearing on the Constitution of India – a first as until then judges of the J&K High Court took oath according to the state’s Constitution.
Justice Mittal was appointed a judge of the Delhi HC in 2004.