Justice Altmas Kabir is new Chief Justice of India

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) Justice Altmas Kabir, the seniormost judge of the Supreme Court, was Saturday sworn in as the 39th Chief Justice of India.

He was administered the oath of the office by President Pranab Mukherjee.

Justice Kabir has succeeds S.H. Kapadia, who demitted office Saturday. He will be the Chief Justice of India for nine months, till July 19, 2013.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav were also present at the swearing in, as were scores of cabinet ministers, including Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and Farooq Abdullah.

All the sitting and some former judges of the apex court, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati and other law officers of the government too were present.

Born on July 19, 1948, Chief Justice Kabir is only the second Chief Justice, along with his predecessor, to be born in post-independence India.

Chief Justice Kabir is the fourth Muslim to occupy the top position after Chief Justice M. Hidayatullah, Chief Justice M. Hameedullah and Chief Justice A.M. Ahmedi.

After doing his MA and LLB, Chief Justice Kabir enrolled as an advocate in 1973 and practised in the district court and the Calcutta High Court.

Chief Justice Kabir was appointed permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court August 6, 1990. Thereafter March 1, 2005, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High court.

He was elevated as a judge of the apex court September 9, 2005.

It goes to the credit of Chief Justice Kabir that irrespective of the stature of the counsel appearing for the litigant - senior or greenhorn - he would get an equal measure of the court's attention.

Chief Justice Kabir is also instrumental in the design of the additional complex of the apex court that would be coming up at Pragati Maidan, in the site that once housed the famous Appu Ghar.

The building has certain features which make it an amalgamation of all religions traditions within the country.

Chief Justice Kabir said, on the sidelines of the function organised to bid adieu to his predecessor, Chief Justice Kapadia: "I wanted to show that the Supreme Court is a place where all religions have equal respect."

One of the most important cases that Chief Justice Kabir is hearing is the appeal by the Italian government asserting sovereign immunity to its two marines, accused of shooting down two Indian fishermen, mistaking them for pirates.

That incident occurred off the Kochi coast in February this year.