Known to Mumbai as the whip-cracking judge who set several things straight, justice Bilal Nazki of the Bombay high court was promoted and transferred as the chief justice of the Orissa high court on Thursday.
Nazki who is due for retirement on November 18 will assume the chief justice’s office in Cuttack on November 14. Nazki, born on November 18, 1947, in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, obtained his law degree in 1973 from the Aligarh Muslim University. After working as the advocate general of J&K, he became a judge of the J&K high court. He was transferred to the Andhra Pradesh high court in 1997 and then to the Bombay high court in January 2008.
During his tenure in the Bombay high court, Nazki heard and decided several prominent cases, including the Sion Hospital baby theft, the appeal of paedophilia accused Duncan Grant and Allan Waters, the rise in the number of missing persons in the state, a PIL for the implementation of the Traffic Restraint System, and the latest being the Altaf Sheikh custodial death where he dispensed justice in just five days.
His “no-nonsense” attitude may have given many a police officer sleepless nights. But mothers like Preeti Chugh from Ulhasnagar will always be grateful to Nazki.
Chugh’s 4-year-old son was missing for nine months. He was found within 10 days after Nazki roped in former director general of police SS Virk for the job. When Virk appeared before the court, Nazki had said, “Sometimes we are ashamed that we are not able to help people. What is the use of our privileges? What is the use of you being the DGP and me being a judge if we can’t help?”
The acquittal of Grant and Waters who were convicted by a trial court for paedophilia led to a public outcry. Nazki, however, took it in his stride. At a seminar he said, “The court goes only by the evidence before it. If the prosecution has not produced enough evidence to convict a man, how can the court send him behind bars?”
The judge who came across to most as “humane” has led no ordinary life. In 1991, while he was an advocate in the J&K high court, Nazki was kidnapped and kept in captivity by a militant outfit. The militants shot him while he was trying to escape. Despite five bullet injuries, Nazki ran 6km to a hospital, and miraculously survived.
His absence in court room 40 — earlier occupied by another firebrand, justice RM Lodha, now a Supreme Court judge — will be felt not only by lawyers but also litigants and court staff members.