Bhupinder Nath Kirpal, the 31st Chief Justice of India, was born on the 8th of November, 1937 in Lahore, which is now in modern-day Pakistan. After the infamous India-Pakistan partition, the family of Kirpal, ever loyal to India, shifted to Delhi, leaving behind their prized possessions and life back in Pakistan. Here, Kirpal studied in The Modern School which is situated in Delhi itself. During his school years, Kirpal was an enthusiastic athlete and sportsman. He represented his school and college for cricket tournaments and was considered to be a top cricketer of the team. Following his initial school years, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from St Stephens College which again, is in Delhi and falls under the ambit of Delhi University. After this feat, Kirpal pursued and completed a degree in BA LLB (Hons).from Delhi University.
Professional Life timeline:
Bhupinder Nath Kirpal was an enrolled pleader in the year 1961. It was in the year 1962 that Kirpal officially started his career as an advocate. From here on till the year 1975, he worked as a Pleader for the Central Government before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court. He was also appointed as the Additional Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department and went on to become the official Standing Counsel for the Central Government as well. Following this, he was appointed as a Judge of the Delhi High Court on the 20th of November,1979, a good 18 years after he began his career. He was then elevated to a Permanent Judge in the Delhi High Court on the 19th of Novemeber, 1983 after serving as an Additional Judge for 4 years. The next milestone of his career came to be on the 14th of December,1993 when he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court. A honorary feat indeed. Just two years later, on the 11th of September in the year 1995, Kirpal was appointed as a Judge of the esteemed Supreme Court of India. From here, within the span of another two years, in the May of 2002, he went on to become to Chief Justice of India. He was appointed by K.R. Narayanan and served as the Chief Justice of India from the 6th of May, 2002 to the 7th of November of the same year. He was the 31st Chief Justice of India. Kirpal retired the following day, i.e. the 8th of November of 2002 and was appointed as the first chairman of the National Forest Commission on the 21st of February in the year 2003.
In the eight years he served at the Supreme Court, Kirpal authored 195 judgements and was a part of 916 benches. Most of the cases he dealt with were regarding civil and service issues. That said, he also heard quite a few cases involving property or constitutional law and was no stranger to cases regarding income tax and VAT matters.
The following are some of the notable judgements towards which Judge B.N. Kirpal had a significant contribution:
- M.C. Mehta vs Union of India and Ors: This case took place in the year 2002. It dealt with the allocation of Compressed Natural Gas. The bench deciding this case consisted of three judges namely Justice Kirpal, Justice V.N. Khare and Justice Ashok Bhushan. Through this judgement, the State was imposed with the duty of protecting and improving the health of the public by improving Delhi’s air quality.
- T.M.A. Pai Foundation and Ors. vs. State of Karnataka and Ors: This case was another landmark judgement wherein Jusitce Kirpal held that minority groups are, by way of Article 30 of the Indian Constitution, granted the right to establish educational institutions. He headed the 11 judge bench constituted to deal with this case. In this mudgement, Justice Kirpal also stated that Article 19 and Article 26 of the Constitution confers every citizen of India with the right to establish and administer educational institutions.
- T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs Union of India and Ors: In this 1996 case, a division bench consisting of Junstice Kirpal and Justice J. S Verma gave directions regarding how forests should be used sustainably and instructed that a monitoring system should be created in order to facilitate preservation of the nation’s forests. The term ‘forest’ under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was scrutinized and it was held that commercial activities in these places could take place only if the Central Government’s approval is obtained.
- Union of India and Anr vs Delhi High Court Bar Assosciation and Ors: This case took place in the year 2002. Here, Justice Kirpal, along with two other judges held that the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act of 1993 was constituionally valid and did not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. It was also opined that the Central Government reserved the power to legislate on matters related to banking and could, in furtherance of the same, set up an adjudicatory tribunal to overlook related matters.
- Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Union of India and Ors: In this landmark case which was heard in the year 2000, Justice Kirpal, along with Justice Anand upheld the rights of the tribal populations and stated that they were not to be displaced from their lands without their free consent unless such removal was consistent with national laws relating to the concerned matter.
Personal Life timeline:
In the personal life front, Kirpal is married to Aruna Sachdev (now Aruna Kirpal) and the couple has three children. Of the three, Mr. Saurabh Kirpal, a senior advocate with the honorable Delhi High Court was recently elevated to a a Judge of the same after being approved by the collegium of the honourable Supreme Court of India. In the year 2007, Kirpal suffered from a brain stroke. Fortunately, he recovered from it. Bhupinder Nath Kirpal is currently 84 years old (as of June, 2022). Apart from being credited as an exceptional lawyer, Kirpal is also praised for his contribution to the book “ Supreme not Infallible: Essays in Honour of the Supreme Court of India”. He edited this book along with Ashok Desai, Rajeev Bhavan, Raju R and Gopal Subramanium.
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