Biography of Chief Justice Gopal Ballav Pattanaik

Early Life:

Justice Gopal Ballav Pattanaik, the 32nd Chief Justice of India, was born on the 19th of December, 1937 in Cuttack (present day Odisha). He was the first born son to his parents Bidulata Dei and Rashbehari Pattnaik. Justice Pattanaik did his early schooling in the city of Cuttack itself and completed his initial education there too. He is an alumni of Ravenshaw College which is situated in Cuttack. Post this, Justice Pattanaik went on to complete his graduation from Ewing Christian College which is located in Allahabad University. An eager student, he immediately enrolled in Madhusudan Law College under Utkal University and completed his law degree soon thereafter. He is married to Meera Pattanaik and has three children; Amar Pattanaik, Rinku Pattanaik, and Anjan Pattanaik. He is also the grandfather to Aaryaman, Ayushman and Devansh. 

Professional Life timeline:

Justice Gopal Ballav Pattanaik was an enrolled pleader in the year 1962. He was affiliated with the Hon’ble High Court of Orissa. Here, he went on to practise in various corporate, civil, constitutional and criminal cases as well. He is a first generation lawyer who began his inspirational career in the chambers of acclaimed lawyer Bimal Pai and barrister B.M. Pattanaik. He credits Justice Souri Prasad Mahapatra as the one who weaned him towards becoming a lawyer. Justice Pattanaik appeared before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India very early in his career. A feat only a handful have achieved. 

In the year 1971, a decade after he was enrolled as an advocate, Justice Pattanaik was appointed as the Standing Counsel for the State, namely the Government of Orissa. This was a leap for him in his career given the significance of the position. Just 3 years later, in the year 1974, he went on to become the Additional Government Advocate and then the Government Advocate for the State. He was elevated to constitute a part of the Hon’ble Orissa High Court Bench in the year 1983.  Over a decade after being appointed as a permanent judge, in the year 1995, Justice Pattanaik became the Chief Justice of Patna High Court. Shortly after, he was elevated to the ranks of a Supreme Court Judge. He served as a judge in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India thereon. On the 8th of November, 2002, Justice Pattanaik was made the 32nd Chief Justice of India, one of the highest judicial posts in the country. Despite the fact that initially people believed he wouldn’t be able to bring about much of a difference in the administration of the judiciary owing to his short tenure, Justice Pattanaik is credited with starting the practise of in-house procedures to deal with the infamous misconduct allegations against members within the judiciary. 

On the work front, some of the cases which Justice Pattanaik weighed in on which went on to be considered as landmark judgements today include the Narmada Dam Project case, the case which led to the Central Government being denied the authority to grant Hindu organisations the right to perform ceremonies at the highly disputed Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya and the contempt of court case of controversial author Arundhati Roy. In addition to this, Justice Pattanaik has also been involved in various cases that led to the acquittal of a number of people belonging to minority communities. Most of these cases were in relation to the Bombay riots that took place post a misunderstanding with respect to the Constitution and it’s stance on educational institutions run by minority groups and communities. Another highly acclaimed case of Justice Pattanaik is the 2001 case of Daniel Latifi v. Union of India. Here, the bench headed by Justice Pattanaik gave the landmark decision that held muslim men liable for the maintainence of their divorced spouses even after the iddat period. Prior to this, post the iddat period, all divorced men were completely absolved of their liability to maintain their wives. This landmark judgement is considered to be a catalyst towards progressive decisions in favour of women and Justice Pattanaik is, even today, credited to being a contributor towards the same.

Justice Pattanaik, as one can already infer from the above, is one of the Indian judiciary’s most acclaimed and respected judges. Post his tenure as the country’s 32nd Chief Justice, he was awarded the Utkai Ratna Award which is essentially a lifetime achievement award pertaining to the field of law and justice. Along with this title, he has also been the Jal Nigam Chief of Uttar Pradesh and was the Chairman of the committee that was entrusted with the responsibility of selecting a recipient for the Saraswati Samman award, which is a prestigious award for achievers in the field of Indian literature. Furthermore, Justice Pattanaik is the former Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Auuthority of India, more commonly known as NALSA and the National Judicial Academy of India as well. Justice Pattanaik was also a revered member of the Indo-British and Indo-US judicial exchange programmes and has visited both the aforementioned places frequently during his tenure so as to participate in workshops and seminars with his contemporaries, namely judges of the House of Lords in Britiain and the US Supreme Court. 


Image Source: Court Express

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