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Altamas Kabir (19 July 1948 – 19 February 2017) was an Indian lawyer and judge, who served as the 39th Chief Justice of India.[1]

Altamas Kabir
39th Chief Justice of India
In office
29 September 2012 – 18 July 2013
Nominated byS. H. Kapadia
Appointed byPranab Mukherjee
Preceded byS. H. Kapadia
Succeeded byP. Sathasivam
Judge, Supreme Court of India
In office
9 September 2005 – 18 July 2013
Chief Justice, Jharkhand High Court
In office
1 March 2005 – 8 September 2005
Preceded byJustice P. K. Balasubramanyan
Succeeded byJustice N. Dhinakar
Judge, Calcutta High Court
In office
6 August 1990 – 28 February 2004
Personal details
Born(1948-07-19)19 July 1948
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died19 February 2017(2017-02-19) (aged 68)
Spouse(s)Meena Kabir
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta, Kolkata

Early life and educationEdit

Altamas Kabir was born in Calcutta in 1948 to a prominent Bengali Muslim family from the district of Faridpur (now in Bangladesh).[2] He studied law at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata.[3] His father, Jehangir Kabir was a leading Congress politician and trade union leader from West Bengal who served as the Minister in the B.C. Roy and P.C. Sen ministries and also went on to become a minister in the first non-Congress government in West Bengal in 1967 with Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee as the Chief Minister of West Bengal.[4] He studied in the eminent Mount Hermon School, Darjeeling and Calcutta Boys' School of Calcutta. Impressed by one of his argumentative article on social issues and their solutions, a teacher at Calcutta Boys' School advised him to pursue a career in law. After graduating with history from Presidency College, then affiliated with the University of Calcutta, he studied law.[4]

His uncle Humayun Kabir was Bengali writer and minister in the Union Cabinets of Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shashtri.


After completing his M.A and LL.B. from the University of Calcutta, Justice Kabir was admitted to the bar in 1973 and practiced civil and criminal law in Kolkata at the district court and the Calcutta High Court, Kolkata.[5] He was made permanent judge of Calcutta High Court on 6 August 1990. Justice Kabir held the office of acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court on 11 January 2005.[6] Justice Kabir has the credit for the computerization of the Calcutta High Court and the City Civil Court and other Courts in Kolkata. He was appointed as Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) on 14 January 2010.[6] Under his chairmanship a national plan of action was taken up to be executed by all State Legal Services Authorities and Calendar for activities was put in place and also legal services to Transgender people was taken up as a new project of NALSA.

He became the Acting Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court on 3 January 2005, an elevation made permanent on 1 March 2005. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of India as Justice on 9 September 2005. On 29 September 2012 he became the 39th Chief Justice of India.[7] After a tenure of a little over nine months as CJI, he retired on 18 July 2013. During his tenure as Chief Justice he was the Chancellor of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, the Chairman of the General Council of the Gujarat National Law University and the Visitor of the National Law School of India University.[8] He also taught as a Professor at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, where he used to teach a course on Law and the Child.


During his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, Justice Kabir delivered several important judgements, particularly relating to human rights and election laws.[9] One of the most important cases he presided over was that of Sandhya Manoj Wankhede of Amravati district in 2011. In this case the Supreme Court bench, composed of Justices Kabir and Cyriac Joseph, ruled that female relatives of a husband can also be booked under the Domestic Violence Act. Kabir also presided over the contempt case against prominent advocate and the (now disbanded) Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan after he alleged that half out of the last 16 CJIs had been corrupt.[4]

On 8 May 2012, the Supreme Court bench composed of Altamas Kabir and Ranjana Desai ordered the government to end the Haj subsidy by 2022.[10][11]

On 19 October 2012, he granted bail to journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, arrested for his alleged involvement in the Israeli embassy vehicle blast case in which an Israeli diplomat's wife was injured. Pronouncing the order, Justice Kabir said, "We are unable to appreciate the procedure adopted by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which has been endorsed by the High Court and we are of the view that the appellant (Kazmi) acquired the right for grant of statutory bail on 17 July 2012, when his custody was held to be illegal by the additional sessions judge."[12]


In 2013, Justice Kabir, then serving as CJI, got embroiled in a controversy involving his lawyer sister Shukla Kabir Sinha and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya. In a letter to the President, the Prime Minister and CJI Kabir, Justice Bhattacharya claimed that, as Chief Justice and head of the Supreme Court collegium, Justice Kabir had blocked his (Bhattacharya's) elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Bhattacharya alleged that the reason was his opposition to the appointment of Shukla Kabir Sinha to the bench of the Calcutta High Court, while he was a member of that court's collegium in 2010.[13]

On 18 July 2013, in what was claimed to be a rushed judgement, a bench headed by Justice Kabir quashed the National Eligibility and Entrance Test for admissions to medical colleges in India. This judgement was later set aside by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court.[14]

In July 2013, the Supreme Court collegium had stalled Justice Kabir's move to appoint an SC judge just before his retirement, because a warrant of appointment designating Justice P Sathasivam as the next CJI had already been signed, and Justice Kabir's move would have been unprecedented and improper.[15]

In 2016, former Chief Minister and Arunachal Pradesh politician Kalikho Pul claimed that Justice Kabir Altamaas (sic) had passed wrong judgements regarding the public distribution system (PDS) scam in the state, in sections 10.2 and 15.2 of his suicide note.[16]


  1. ^ "Justice Altamas Kabir takes oath as CJI". Zee News. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  2. ^ Mahapatra, Dhananjay (30 September 2012). "Justice Altamas Kabir takes oath as 39th CJI". Times of India. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  3. ^ IANS (13 September 2012). "Justice Altamas Kabir to be next Chief Justice of India". IBN Live. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Swamy, V. Kumara (12 September 2012). "Batting for the underdog". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Kabir, by convention". Frontline.
  6. ^ a b ANI (29 September 2012). "Justice Altamas Kabir sworn in as new Chief Justice of India". Deccan Chronicle.
  7. ^ "Altamas Kabir sworn in as Chief Justice of India". The Times Of India. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Hon'ble Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir". Supreme Court of India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  9. ^ Venkatesan, J. (29 September 2012). "Altamas Kabir sworn in as CJI". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  11. ^ "kabir ranjana haj".
  12. ^ IANS (20 October 2012). "SC grants bail to journalist in Israeli embassy vehicle blast". MSN India. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Lost SC berth for opposing HC judgeship for CJI Kabir's sister: Guj CJ". Indian Express. 24 July 2013.
  14. ^ TNN. "CJI Altamas Kabir's final judgment comes as boon for private medical colleges". The Times Of India.
  15. ^ TOI. "Collegium stalls outgoing CJI's attempt to push judge's appointment to SC". The Times Of India.
  16. ^

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
S. H. Kapadia
Chief Justice of India
29 September 2012 – 18 July 2013
Succeeded by
P Sathasivam