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India Disputes
3-4 November 2022

Justice Swatanter Kumar
Former Judge at Supreme Court of India


After completing BA LLB from Punjab University, he practiced at New Delhi for 23 years, and then he served as an Additional District & Sessions Judge at the Himachal Pradesh High Court from February, 1983 to October, 1983. He resigned and returned to practice at New Delhi.

During his practice, he was Legal Advisor, Standing Council to various Government and Non-Government Corporations and Public Bodies. He was also Legal Advisor at the Central Board for Prevention and Control of Pollution, which manages matters on pollution for all of India. He has practiced in Criminal, Civil, Appellate, Constitutional, Arbitration and Environmental jurisdictions in all courts including the High Courts and Supreme Court of India.

He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court on 10.11.1994. Then he was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 30.11.1994 from where in 2004, he was transferred to the Delhi High Court.

He was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court on 31st March, 2007 where he had the privilege of serving one of the best High Courts in the country. He had the occasion to deal with a variety of Administrative and Judicial Matters. One of his contributions was to establish courts at the Talukas (at village level). Having served as Chief Justice for nearly a period of three years, he was elevated as Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 18th December, 2009. Upon being appointed as the Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal. He resigned as Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 20.12.2012. He had the occasion to deal with cases in all Jurisdiction including Arbitration Cases of National and International Jurisdiction in the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.

He joined the National Green Tribunal on the same day. During his tenure, he was instrumental in delivering several landmark judgments widening the horizons of environmental jurisprudence in India. These judgments have related to cleaning of rivers Ganga and Yamuna, Lakes, Air Pollution, Himalayan Glaciers, Municipal Solid Waste and Protection of Forests. Some of his Judgments were of International Scope, like those dealing with oil spills because of sinking ships. He introduced for the first time ‘the practice of a consultative process of stakeholders’ in the dispensation of environmental justice. In consonance with the legislative intent of enacting the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 for expeditious disposal of cases, he assured that in the Principal Bench of the NGT, nearly 82% cases were disposed of within the year of his institution. Under his leadership, the National Green Tribunal has held various international as well as Regional Conferences on environment in various parts of the country, where many countries from all across the globe have actively participated and contributed to the burning issues of ecological conservation and climate change. In the National Green Tribunal he disposed of 209 cases in one day.

He disposed of a large number of cases in all fields of law while he was a Judge of the High Court, the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and Judge of the Supreme Court. He disposed of 670 cases in a day in the Punjab & Haryana High Court, 80 cases in a day when
he was the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court and 75 cases in a day when he was a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. In his long carrier as a Judge of various High Courts and Supreme Court of India, He has enunciated various legal principles, more particularly in the field of constitutional, criminal and arbitration jurisprudence.

For his contribution as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Judge and Chief Justice of High Courts and the Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, he has been bestowed with 12 different Awards including the National Law Day Award, lifetime achievement awards, International Human Rights Award, Bharat Jyoti Award, Distinguished Services Award by the Indian Medical Association and awards by other National and International organizations. He has, during his tenure in the judiciary authored and pronounced various landmarks Judgments in the field of Constitutional Law, Arbitration and Environment Jurisprudence.

He has also been nominated as the member of the Governing Body of the Global Judicial Institute for the Environment which works under the UNEP and has addressed various national and international conferences organized by the United Nations and various other national and international organizations.

It was to promote this educative and awareness driven impetus that he had, during his judicial tenure organized and addressed various lectures, seminars, colloquiums and conferences all across the globe sharing the dias and exchanging ideologies with the highest dignitaries of various countries around the world, including the President, Prime Minister, Home Minister, Minister of Environment of India on various occasions, as well as international dignitaries such as the President of France, Director UNEP, Judges of the Supreme Courts of various Countries and states including Lord Carnwath, Justice Michael Wilson and Justice Dr. Luc Lavrysen, to name a few. It was in this pursuit that he also availed of the opportunity to address the students and academia at various Universities and institutions around the globe including the University of Houston, Texas, Supreme Court of Hawai'i, UN, Geneva, amongst others. He do believe that in the present times, there is a definite need of academia – input from the legal education to interact with and provide guidance to Judges at various levels of the judicial hierarchy of India.

Post-retirement 2017, he has been involved in diverse activities relating to Education, Social and International lectures, in India and Abroad. He has been nominated by parties and as well appointed by the Courts as Sole Arbitrator, Presiding Arbitrator of the Multiple Member Arbitral Tribunal and Member of the Multi Member Arbitral Tribunal. He has been doing large number of National and International Arbitrations and has passed number of Arbitral Awards as Sole Arbitrator or Member of the Arbitral Tribunal. The specialized knowledge in the field of Environment provides another tool for him to handle such Arbitrations of Construction and Environmental Projects.

These Arbitration Proceedings, where he has been nominated or appointed, the opposite party Respondent amongst other is Union of India, State Government, National Highway Authority of India, Public Sector Undertaking Corporations and National and International Companies. He has also been nominated Arbitrator by Foreign Companies in India. In number of cases, Awards have been pronounced or matter settled with utmost expeditiousness.