Know Thy Judge | The Remarkable Odyssey of Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia – from bar to bench

justice sudhanshu dhulia

“A marital relationship which has only become more bitter and acrimonious over the years, does nothing but inflicts cruelty on both the sides. To keep the façade of this broken marriage alive would be doing injustice to both the parties. A marriage which has broken down irretrievably, in our opinion spells cruelty to both the parties, as in such a relationship each party is treating the other with cruelty.”

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia1

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was born on 10-08-1960 in in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand to Shri Keshav Chandra Dhulia, who was also a Judge at Allahabad High Court and Smt. Sumitra Dhulia, a Sanskrit Professor.2 His grandfather, Pundit Bhairav Dutt Dhulia, was a freedom fighter who sentenced to jail for seven years (severed for three years and later was released) for participating in the Quit India Movement.3 He has two brothers – the elder Himanshu Dhulia, a retired naval officer, and the younger Tigmanshu Dhulia is a filmmaker.4

✤ Did You Know? Justice Dhulia is the elder brother of national award-winning film director and actor Tigmanshu Dhulia.5

Educational Background

His early years were characterized by a diverse educational experience that laid the foundation for his later achievements. He did his earlier schooling from Dehradun, Allahabad and Lucknow. He graduated from Allahabad University in 1981 and completed his masters Masters in Modern History in 1983. Justice Dhulia completed his L.L.B. in 1986.6

Carrer as an Advocate

Justice Dhulia is a second-generation legal professional and joined the Bar at Allahabad High Court in 1986. Initially, his legal practice revolved around the Civil and Constitutional aspects of the law before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad. As the legal landscape evolved, he transitioned his practice to the newly established High Court of the State of Uttarakhand, situated in the serene city of Nainital.7 He was designated as Senior Advocate in June, 2004 at High Court of Uttarakhand.8 After the creation of the new State of Uttarakhand, Justice Dhulia became its First Chief Standing Counsel and was later appointed as State Additional Advocate General.9

Judicial Journey

Justice Dhulia was elevated as a permanent Judge of Uttarakhand High Court on 01-11-2008.10 He was also appointed as the judge in-charge of education at the Uttarakhand Judicial and Legal Academy. He was elevated as Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court on 07-01-202111 and took the oath on 10-01-2021.

✤ Did You Know? Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia is the second judge to be elevate from Uttrakhand High Court.12

The pinnacle of Justice Dhulia’s career was his elevation as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 07-05-2022.13

Notable Judgements

Last seen evidence does not lead to irrevocable conclusion without complete chain of evidence establishing guilt; SC acquits convict in a 23-year-old murder case

In a criminal appeal against the order of Punjab and Haryana High Court, wherein the conviction and life sentence order under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) of the Trial Court to the accused/ convict was upheld by the High Court, the Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia* and Sanjay Kumar, JJ., allowed the convict’s appeal and set aside the life sentence under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) of the convict as the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. [Dinesh Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 564]

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Reservation in favour of residents of a State permissible, but wholesale reservation unconstitutional; Supreme Court reiterates

In an appeal filed by a training institute (appellant) against the judgment and order of Madhya Pradesh High Court, wherein the appellant has challenged the Government policy dated 12-05-2022 (‘Admission Process and Guiding Principles 2022-2023’) on the ground that it was violative of Articles 14, 15 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, as the government had made 75% of the seats reserved for the residents of Madhya Pradesh which is not permissible in law, division bench of Dinesh Maheshwari and Sudhanshu Dhulia*, JJ. has held that though reservation in favour of residents is permissible, yet reservation to the extent of 75% of the total seats makes it a wholesale reservation, which has been held in Pradeep Jain v. Union of India, (1984) 3 SCC 654 to be unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. [Veena Vadini Teachers Training Institute v. State of M.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 535]

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Continuation of irretrievably broken-down marriage spells cruelty to both parties; can be read as a ground for divorce under Hindu Marriage Act

In a case where a married couple, who after barely staying together as a couple for four years, have been living separately for the last 25 years, the bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia* and JB Pardiwala, JJ has held that in such cases where the marital relationship has broken down irretrievably, where there is a long separation and absence of cohabitation, with multiple Court cases between the parties; then continuation of such a ‘marriage’ would only mean giving sanction to cruelty which each is inflicting on the other.

While the Court noticed that Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage is not a ground for dissolution of marriage, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, but a marriage can be dissolved on the ground of cruelty, it further observed that,

“A marriage which has broken down irretrievably, in our opinion spells cruelty to both the parties, as in such a relationship each party is treating the other with cruelty. It is therefore a ground for dissolution of marriage under Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act.”

[Rakesh Raman v. Kavita, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 497]

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Section 149 CPC acts as an exception, or even a proviso to Section 4 of Court Fees Act, 1870; Supreme Court reiterates

In an appeal challenging the order passed by Himachal Pradesh High Court, wherein the Court had dismissed the condonation of delay applications filed under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, declining to condone a delay of 254 days, because the reasons assigned for the condonation were not sufficient reasons for condonation of the delay, the division bench of PS Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia*, JJ. held that the High Court was right in dismissing appellant’s application, as insufficient funds could not have been sufficient ground for condonation of delay, under the facts and circumstance of the case. [Ajay Dabra v. Pyare Ram, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 92]

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PILs against Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren ‘bald allegations’ & ‘abuse of process of court’; High Court should have dismissed the PILs at the very threshold

The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, CJ and S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia*, JJ has set aside the order of Jharkhand High Court, wherein the two PILs filed against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, were held to be maintainable and hence, it had decided to proceed in the case. The Supreme Court, however, was of the opinion that PILs were not filed with clean hands and hence, were not maintainable and were liable to be dismissed at the very threshold itself.

“It was not proper for the High Court to entertain a PIL which is based on mere allegations and half baked truth that too at the hands of a person who has not been able to fully satisfy his credentials and has come to the Court with unclean hands.”

[State of Jharkhand v. Shiv Shankar Sharma, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1541]

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Hijab Ban Split Verdict: Justice Gupta says no right to wear Hijab to a secular school; Justice Dhulia bats for right to education of Hijab wearing girls

The Hijab Ban controversy in the State of Karnataka is far from coming to an end as the bench of Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ delivers a split verdict and refers the matter to a larger bench.

Justice Dhulia stated that by asking the girls to take off their hijab before they enter the school gates, is first an invasion on their privacy, then it is an attack on their dignity, and then ultimately it is a denial to them of secular education. These are clearly violative of Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India. Hence, there shall be no restriction on the wearing of hijab anywhere in schools and colleges in Karnataka. [Aishat Shifa v. State of Karnataka, (2023) 2 SCC 1]

“If she wants to wear hijab, even inside her class room, she cannot be stopped, if it is worn as a matter of her choice, as it may be the only way her conservative family will permit her to go to school, and in those cases, her hijab is her ticket to education.”

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SC grants Bail to Juvenile Delinquent who spent 489 days in custody as an Adult and 242 days in Juvenile Home

In a special leave petition (‘SLP’) under Section 136 of the Constitution of India filed against the Judgment and Order of the Rajasthan High Court, wherein an appeal against the order of the Special Judge, POCSO, denying bail to the minor/accused was dismissed for offences under Sections 363, 366-A, 368, 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3, 4, 16 and 17 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., allowed the SLP and released the accused on bail. [V.K. (Juvenile) v. State of Rajasthan, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 841]

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Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court order seeking report on rape victim’s mangal dosh

Taking Suo Motu cognizance of the matter where the Allahabad High Court had directed the Astrology Department of Lucknow University to determine if the alleged rape victim is a Mangalik, after the accused refused to marry her, the vacation bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Pankaj Mithal, JJ has stayed the said direction “in the interest of justice” [Gobind Rai v. State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 730]

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Inter-faith couple, live-in relationship and Section 376 of IPC: Supreme Court grants bail after 9 months’ jail

In an appeal challenging the decision of Rajasthan High Court dated 25-04-2023 rejecting bail application of the petitioner for offences under Sections 366, 376, 384, 323, 328, 120-B of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Sections 3 and 4 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’), the Division Bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ. granted bail to the accused considering three weighty factors favouring the petitioner, which also included a live-in relationship agreement with the prosecutrix. [Imamudin v. State of Rajasthan, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 782]

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Tihar Jail Crime Syndicate| Supreme Court directs conman Sukash Chandra to reveal names of persons involved in Rs. 200 crores extortion case

In a highly controversial extortion case of about Rs. 200 crores in Delhi’s Tihar jail, the 3-judge Bench of Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., has directed conman Sukash Chandra to reveal names of the persons involved in the alleged crime syndicate. [Sukash Chandra Shekhar v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 894]

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Supreme Court allows Project 39A of NLU Delhi to conduct psychological evaluation of a death row convict to bring out mitigating factors

Adopting a humanitarian approach, the 3-judge Bench of Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., allowed Project 39- A of the National Law University, Delhi, to have access to the appellant, a death row convict to interview him and conduct a psychological analysis in order to bring out mitigating circumstances. [Karan v. State of M.P., (2023) 5 SCC 504]

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Person languishes in jail for 2 years despite being granted bail by Supreme Court; Supreme Court criticizes Trial Judge for misinterpreting bail order

In a significant case, the 4-judges Bench comprising of Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, P.S. Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., issued directions to all the High Courts of the country to submit reports indicating status of cases where bail has been granted by the Supreme Court i.e. if any of such persons are deprived of the opportunity of being released on bail for some reason or the other.

“…where the custody of a person for 9 years was found to be sufficient to entitle him to be released on bail, is now turned into custody for 11 years. This is nothing but reincarnation of Hussainara Khatoon [(1980) 1 SCC 81] & Motil Ram [(1978) 4 SCC 47].”

[Gopisetty Harikrishna v. State of A.P., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 654]

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Husband seeking personal information such as salary of wife under Right to Information Act, 2005; Whether acceptable or not?

Dismissing the petition being devoid of merits, Sudhanshu Dhulia J., held that it cannot be any anybody’s case that a Government authority being Government school does not come under the definition of ‘public authority’. The only exception as to the information given under the Act under Section 8 of the RTI Act, is an exemption from disclosure of information. It further observed that the nature of information sought by respondent 8 is not covered under any of the exemption given under Section 8 of the RTI Act. [Jasmeet Kaur v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 SCC OnLine Utt 2276]

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Mere installation of CCTV cameras in hospitals is not enough; HC directs to connect Hospital cameras to the nearest Police Station

The Division Bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ, and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., directed to connect CCTV cameras of Hospitals to the nearest Police Station to put a check on increasing instances of violence against medical practitioners amid Covid-19. [Asif Iqbal v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1529]

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Not in interest of the child; HC stays Sessions Court’s order granting custody of teenage rape victim to relatives of accused

The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ., and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., addressed a suo motu PIL concerning the plight of a rape victim, where the victim was a child between 12-15 years of age.

Observing the sensitivity of the matter, the Bench issued strict directions to the State to depute a team of medical officers, including a lady doctor to conduct medical examination on the victim, only for the determination of her age. The Bench emphasised strictly that the examination shall be limited to a bone ossification test and no other test be done as the victim had already been medically examined. [State of Arunachal Pradesh, In Re., PIL (Suo Moto) No. 5 of 2021, decided on 30-06-2021]

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Violence against Doctors; HC directs State to take immediate actions if any medical practitioner is manhandled or abused

The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ., and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., addressed the issue of violence against doctors. The Bench ordered the State to ensure that no medical practitioner is manhandled or abused in any manner. [Suo Motu v. State of Assam, PIL (Suo Moto) No.4 of 2021, Order dated 14-06-2021]

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Court directs ration be provided to struggling sex workers and their families who have been identified; further asks AIDS societies to identify the rest and give relief

The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ. and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., took up a petition filed in the nature of PIL; concern raised was the present condition of sex workers in Assam who, according to the petitioner in most cases, were on the verge of starvation, considering the strange and difficult times of the present COVID-19 pandemic, which is now in its second wave. [Debajit Gupta v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1169]

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“What kind of test is being done for determination of COVID-19 infection?”; HC directs Assam government to set up Mobile Medical Units in Tea Gardens

The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ., and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., addressed the issues relating to situation under the Covid-19 pandemic in the Tea Gardens of Assam and conditioner of workers in these Tea Gardens.

“We have absolutely no doubt that since the Government already has the resources, these Mobile Medical Units must be put in use for testing and other purposes in the Tea Gardens as well, if not already being done.”

[Anjan Nagg v. Union 0f India, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1105]

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Court rejects Plea of bias against the Enquiry officer; Dismisses petition in the matter of departmental proceedings

The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Kumar Verma, JJ., dismissed a writ petition which was filed in the nature of certiorari and mandamus for quashing of certain orders passed by the enquiry officer and with a prayer to change the enquiry officer on grounds of bias. [Kanwar Amninder Singh v. High Court of Uttaranchal, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 722]

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State contractual employees entitled to claim Child Care Leave

A 3-judge bench of Ramesh Ranganathan CJ, Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Kumar Verma JJ, held that contractual state employees are also entitled to child care leave, and that its denial would mean the denial of the rights of a child. [Tanuja Tolia v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 337]

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Law provides a remedy at two stages, one before authority concerned and later before appellate authority, both must be fair and in compliance with the norms of natural justice

A single-judge bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia*, J., contemplated a petition presented before him by the petitioner who was a member of Waqf Board and was subsequently disqualified, aggrieved by which he filed the instant petition.

The Court observed that though the petitioner had a remedy under sub-section (2) of Section 83 of the Waqf Act, 1995 however, in this particular case the existence of an alternative remedy before the Tribunal not operated as a bar inasmuch as the present order had been passed without affording opportunity of hearing to the petitioner. [Haji Rao Sharafat Ali v. State of Uttarakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 893]

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Voluntarily depriving husband of wife’s company and comfort of matrimonial life amounts to cruelty; Divorce granted

A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Narayan Singh Dhanik*, JJ., contemplated the special appeals preferred against the judgment of Family Court, where the divorce petition was filed under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and was subsequently dismissed but the counterclaim of the wife-respondent for the right of residence was decreed in the favor of the respondent. [Raghuveer Kaintura v. Meera Kaintura, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 718]

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Compensation increased considering raise in annual notional income of a non-earning member pursuant to 1994 amendment in MV Act

A single-judge bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia*, J., allowed the appeal filed by the appellants against the award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Rudrapur in MACT Case No. 153 of 2013, whereby compensation of Rs 3,00,000 was awarded to the claimants. [Parwati Devi v. Paramjeet Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 672]

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Reservations in favor of sportsperson is traceable to Article 16(1); atrocities of exhaustiveness of reservation under Art. 16(4) observed by the Court

A 3-judge bench of Ramesh Ranganathan* CJ and Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Singh, JJ., entertained a writ petition calling into question the exhaustiveness of Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India. [Dhananjay Verma v. State of Uttrakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 373]

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Biological resources are property of Nation; Divya Pharmacy’s challenge to Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing dismissed

A single-judge bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia, J. stated that Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS) under the Biodiversity Act, 2002, was welfare legislation that was made to cater the needs of the local and indigenous communities. [Divya Pharmacy v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine Utt 1035]

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Judge has to be protected from vexatious charges and malicious litigations; Judge of Court of Record cannot be tried for committing contempt of his own Court

A Division Bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Rajiv Sharma, JJ., dismissed a contempt petition against a ‘Judge of a court of record’ purely on the question of law.

“The duty of a Judge, after all, was to dispense justice — without fear or favour, affection or ill will, without passion or prejudice. It is not a part of his duty to please litigants or keep lawyers in good humor. A Judge, ironically, with respect to the office he holds, does not enjoy much liberty and freedom. The principal requirement for all Judges, and particularly for a Judge of Court of Record, is to maintain his independence. A Judge can also be very helpless at times with respect to the position he holds hence for the sake of the independence of judiciary, a Judge has to be protected, from vexatious charges and malicious litigations.”

[Chhitij Kishore Sharma v. Justice Lok Pal Singh, CCP No. 03 of 2018, Order dated 04-09-2018]

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In the matter of appointments to higher echelons, fairness should be the hallmark of selection

A Division Bench comprising of U.C. Dhyani* and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., dismissed a challenge against the appointment of State Chief Information Commissioner. The main challenge in the petition was that the office of the State Chief Information Commissioner has become the ‘dumping ground’ for retired bureaucrats, who are rewarded for their loyalty to the State Government. [Chandra Shekhar Kargeti v. State of Uttarakhand, 2018 SCC OnLine Utt 29]

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*Judge who has penned the judgment.

1. Rakesh Raman v. Kavita, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 497.

2. Dhulia’s promotion as Chief Justice proud moment for U’khand, Gharwal Post

3. Sudhanshu Dhulia, Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala take oath as Supreme Court judges, The Hindu

4. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia’s name recommended by SC collegium, The Times of India.

5. Two judges appointed to SC, top court set to regain full strength of 34, Deccan Herald

6. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, Supreme Court of India.

7. Supra.

8. Judges Profile, e-Committee, Supreme Court of India.

9. War Heroes & Alumni, Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey U.P. Sainik School, Lucknow

10. Former Hon’ble Judges, High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital

11. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia appointed as Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court, SCC Blog

12. Sudhanshu Dhulia, Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala take oath as Supreme Court judges, The Hindu

13. Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, Gauhati HC & Justice J.B Pardiwala, Guj HC appointed as Judges of Supreme Court, SCC Blog

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