Born on 04-10-1961, in the serene town of Udaipur, Tripura, Justice Subhasis Talapatra has carved a remarkable path in the legal landscape of India. His relentless pursuit of justice, unwavering dedication, and vast expertise have earned him the admiration and respect of colleagues and citizens alike. Justice Talapatra brings with him a wealth of experience and a stellar career that spans several decades. Let’s take a closer look at the life and career of this eminent jurist.
Early Life and Education
Hailing from a humble background Justice Subhasis Talapatra completed his graduation in Arts and Law from the prestigious University of Calcutta and then embarked on his legal journey.1
Career as a Lawyer
Upon enrolling with the Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh on 12-09-1990, Justice Talapatra primarily practiced at the Agartala Bench of Gauhati High Court. He established himself as a proficient lawyer, handling a wide array of constitutional, civil, and criminal matters with utmost diligence and integrity. He was designated as a Senior Advocate on 21-12-2004 after more than 14 years of litigation practice.2
Journey as a Judge
Recognizing his legal acumen and immense contribution to the field, Chief Justice Talapatra was appointed as an Additional Judge of Gauhati High Court on 15-11-2011.3 It was a testament to his prowess and dedication to justice that he was later sworn in as a Permanent Judge of the High Court of Tripura on 13-09-2013.4
Did You Know? On establishment of a separate High Court of Tripura in 2013, Chief Justice Talapatra opted the Tripura High Court as his parent High Court.5
In the years that followed, Chief Justice Talapatra’s contributions extended beyond his regular duties as a Judge and he donned the role of the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Tripura on two occasions — first from 02-11-2018 to 13-11-2018,6 and then from 11-11-2019 to 15-11-2019.
However, as the saying goes, change is the only constant, on 01-06-2022, Justice Talapatra was transferred to the High Court of Orissa7 and officially took oath as a Judge of the High Court of Orissa on June 10-06-2022, marking a new phase in his judicial career.
Did You Know? The Supreme Court Collegium considered Justice Talapatra’s considerable experience in dispensing justice in High Courts of Tripura and Orissa and the fact that Tripura High Court since its establishment did not yet had representation among the Chief Justices of the High Courts, recommended Justice Talapatra’s name as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court.8
Some important judgments by Justice Talapatra
While deciding a matter regarding opening and repair work of ‘Ratna Bhandar’ (Treasury) of Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri, in Samir Mohanty v. State of Orissa,10 a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra,* CJ., and Savitri Ratho, J., directed the State Government to constitute a High Level Committee, if they are approached by the SJTMC for supervising the process of inventorisation of the valuables including jewelries stored in the Ratna Bhandar. With regards to question of maintainability of the PIL, the Court stated that “even if we dismiss the writ petition on the question of locus standi, that dismissal may not refrain the court from delving deeper into these questions as Shri Jagannath Temple is the beacon of ultimate faith of millions of people.”
In Shankarlal Patwari v. Jagannath Mahaprabhu,11 a case pertaining to condonation of delay of 1391 days, a division comprising of Subhasis Talapatra, CJ., and S.K. Sahoo,* J., held that delay in filing the petition is inordinate and no sufficient cause has been shown by the petitioner in condoning the delay and the explanation offered by the petitioner is fanciful one. The Court stated that “it is very easy to change lawyer and to put blame on the earlier lawyer for his/her negligence, but the Court cannot turn a blind eye to the surrounding circumstances, eventualities and most importantly, the conducts of the party before it marches on to believe the allegations leveled by the party against his Advocate as a gospel truth.”
While hearing a civil writ petition in Biyat Pragya Tripathy v. State of Odisha,12 seeking implementation of Section 19(b) of the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Act, 2013), the Court noted that the order dated 07-12-2022, whereby the government officers and other authorities were directed to implement the mandate of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013 was not complied with by the authorities till date, the division Bench of S. Talapatra, CJ. and Savitri Ratho, J., directed the authorities under the Central Government and the State Governments to comply with the direction of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013 within a period of three months from the date of order.
In National Law University of Odisha v. Cuttack Municipal Corpn., 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 5507, a case where the stray dogs gone in biting spree at National Law University of Odisha in Cuttack, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra, CJ., and Savitri Ratho, J., directed the Cuttack Municipal Corporation to relocate the stray dogs from the campus within next 24 hours.
In Tunu v. State of Orissa, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 2429, an appeal preferred by the convict from the jail, challenging his conviction under Section 302 of the IPC for committing murder, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra* and Savitri Ratho, JJ., opined that the cumulative effect of all the divergent evidence, such as, the FIR (First Information Report) did not mention the appellant’s name, and the witnesses’ testimonies contained inconsistencies and lacked clarity and the confessional statement made by the appellant, which led to the arrest of the co-accused, did not provide conclusive evidence regarding the weapons used in the assault, destroyed the reliability of the prosecution case, therefore, the appellant is definitely entitled to get the benefit of doubt. The Court set aside the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence on benefit of doubt.
In Pradyumna Kumar Patra v. State of Odisha, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 2064, a bunch of writ petitions challenging the substitution of the method of selection contained in Rule 7 of the Odisha Engineering Service (Method of Recruitment and Condition of Service) Rules, 2012 (in short OES Rules, 2012) by Rule 4 of Odisha Engineering Service (Methods of Recruitment & Conditions of Service) Amendment Rules, 2021 (the Amendment Rules, 2021), and by which the marks awarded for career marking, written test and vive voce have been substituted by the highest GATE Score obtained in the last three years, preceding the advertisement, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra and Savitri Ratho,* JJ., held that Rule 4 of the Amendment Rules which amends Rule 3 and 4 of the OES Rule 2012 is liable to be struck down. Consequently, the impugned advertisement having prescribed the highest valid GATE scores of the preceding three years to be the basis of selection is also liable to be quashed. Subhasis Talapatra* J., concurring with the judgement, held that “a responsible Executive cannot slight the status of a Constitutional Institution like the Public Service Commission. The State may frame the rules observing the procedure as prescribed by the law, not in defiance thereof.”
In Sk. Irshad Ali v. State of Orissa13, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra and Savitri Ratho, JJ., directed the Superintendent of Police, Balasore, to review the limitations imposed on the observance of the Moharram Tazia procession within the Balasore district, taking into consideration the potential law and order implications.
In Nesar Ahmed Khan v. State of Orissa, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 2403, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra* and Savitri Ratho, JJ., restoration of custody of a minor girl to her father through a writ of habeas corpus under the parens patriae jurisdiction. The Court emphasized that technical objections, including those related to territorial jurisdiction, should not hold significant weight when the High Court exercises its parens patriae jurisdiction. The Court further clarified that Muslims cannot seek adoption of minor children under their personal laws and instead, they must adhere strictly to the guidelines outlined in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act for any adoption proceedings.
In D. Anita Majhi v. State of Orissa14, a Division bench comprising of Subhasis Talapatra* and Savitri Ratho, JJ., issued instructions to trial courts to fast-track the trials of three female tribal individuals who have been unjustly incarcerated for more than eight years, falsely labeled as ‘extremists’ by the State.
In Registrar v. Nakul Kumar Nayak, 2022 SCC OnLine Ori 3826, a Division bench comprising of S. Talapatra and S.K. Panigrahi, JJ. directed for the issue of notice to the President of Tangi Bar Association, seeking reply on framing of criminal contempt charges against him for abusing and threatening the Judicial Magistrate and interfering with the due course of judicial proceedings.
In Smrita Singha v. Sankar Chakraborty, 2022 SCC OnLine Tri 154, a Division Bench of S. Talapatra* and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ. dismissed an appeal which was filed under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 from the judgment by the Additional District Judge declining to grant the divorce and consequently dismissing the suit. It was observed that case did not reflect any such situation which can demand the dissolution of marriage between the parties. It was found by the Court that it was the appellant who was not ready to continue the marital life and she had left the matrimonial home by advancing a pretext. The Court believed that they were unable to approve this kind of matrimonial conduct or file a suit for divorce on such coloured narrative.
In Parthajit Majumder v. Anita Rani Barman, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 593, a Division Bench of S. Talapatra* and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., dismissed an appeal which was filed aggrieved by the order whereby the petition for dissolution of marriage subsisting between the parties as filed under Section
In Court on its own motion, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 353, a Division Bench of Akil Kureshi, CJ. and S. Talapatra, J., suo motu took cognizance of untimely death of a young married women which was preceded by some unfortunate incidents of the village people gathering and humiliating her for her alleged extra marital activities and constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for investigation. While withdrawing from the matter, the Court held that it was satisfied with the investigation carried out by the SIT and the normal criminal justice delivery system should take over.
While discussing what amounts to irretrievable breakdown of marriage, in a case where the couple lived apart for 13 continuous years, a Division Bench of S. Talapatra and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., in Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that the present matter where a wife abandoned the husband along with her daughter when he lost his vision and was in dire need of their company and the support of his wife is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage in light of cruelty and desertion.
While deciding whether Hindu Marriage Act have application on a couple belonging to Scheduled Tribe for purpose of dissolution of marriage, a Division Bench of S. Talapatra* and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., in Rupa Debbarma v. Tapash Debbarma, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 425, held that Section 2(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act has the imminent effect of the statutory exclusion that the person belonging to any Scheduled Tribe within the meaning of clause (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution will in the matter of marriage, continue to be governed by their customary laws, which are akin to the personal law and not any provision of the Hindu Marriage Act.
A Single Judge Bench of S. Talapatra J.*, in Rirasatnai Halam v. State of Tripura, 2018 SCC OnLine Tri 115, addressed a petition seeking claim under the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 by stressing upon the categories of employees constituted under the definition of ‘employee’ under Section 2(dd) of the said Act and held that an ‘employee’ covered under ‘MGNREGA’ is not entitled to claim compensation under the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923
A single bench comprising of S. Talapatra, J., departed from Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 in Jhuma Roy v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 80, and allowed termination of 20-weeks pregnancy of a 12-year old rape victim in response to necessity created by a human emergency. The Court stated that “having considered the injury that might torment the mental health of this young girl, this Court has taken the undertaking made by the mother seriously. In the circumstance, the foetus be terminated forthwith, making a departure from Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 for responding to the necessity created by human emergency.”
A single bench comprising of S. Talapatra, J., in Samudra Debbarma v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 145, allowed a petition directing Tripura Public Service Commission (TPSC) to complete the recruitment process within eight months from the date of judgment and observed that respondent had utterly failed to provide any reason for cancelling the recruitment process because no foundation had been raised to show that action has been taken to protect any greater or public interest the mode prescribed by those service rules for selection is infested impediment in following that procedure.
While deciding a case, Jayanta Kalai v. State of Tripura, 2013 SCC OnLine Gau 331, related to gang rape of two victims, a Division bench comprising of U.B. Saha and S. Talapatra,* JJ., held that the prosecution has succeeded to establish that both the prosecutrix were the victim of gang rape and directed the State Government to provide compensation to both the victims of the gang rape in terms of Section 357 of the CrPC. The Court further directed the Government of Tripura to determine the compensation on humane consideration, since the compensation has not been quantified by this Court with expectation that a reasonable compensation would be determined by the Government of Tripura.
While deciding a compensation case where the deceased was abducted from bus by the extremists without any motive to kill him but to frighten by their ferocity but later died , a single-judge bench comprising of S. Talapatra,* J., in Basu Mati Debbarma v. Anita Debbarma, 2013 SCC OnLine Gau 514, held that the said death has to be inferred as death occurring from the use of motor vehicle and the victim should be paid compensation in terms of Section 168 of Motor Vehicles Act.
Justice Subhasis Talapatra’s Contributions
Throughout his career, Justice Talapatra actively participated in various national and international legal forums, demonstrating his commitment to improving the justice system and promoting legal education. Notably, he attended the World Congress on Justice for Children at UNESCO, Paris, from 28-03-2018 to 30-03-2018.15
Justice Talapatra was part of a Faculty Exchange Programme on Counter-Terrorism Phase-II Training, organized by the National Judicial Academy (NJA) and the Federal Judicial Center (FJC), Chief Justice Talapatra visited Washington DC and Orange County, California, from 10-09-2018 to 14-09-2018.16
In addition to his judicial duties, Justice Talapatra actively held significant positions such as the Executive Chairman of the Tripura State Legal Services Authority since 2017, Chairman of the Juvenile Justice Committee, Chairman of the Computer Committee and e-Courts Project, Chairman of the Committee for the Establishment of National Law University, and a member of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal since 2018.17
Justice Talapatra has always displayed a dedicated interest in improving the lives of children entangled in legal matters. During a one-day State Level Consultation on the effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, organized by the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Odisha and the UNICEF,18 Justice Subhasis Talapatra expressed his strong disapproval of the prevalent practice of interrogating children who find themselves in conflict with the law. He emphasized the need for a more humane and constructive approach, suggesting that investigating agencies replace interrogation with meaningful conversations when dealing with children in such cases. Furthermore, the Chief Justice Talapatra urged Judicial Officers and all personnel involved in the Juvenile Justice Legislature to approach their responsibilities with utmost sensitivity when dealing with children. Additionally, He underscored the importance of providing children in conflict with the law with a nurturing and homely environment, as opposed to resorting to custodial measures. These remarks by Justice Subhasis Talapatra signify a progressive stance towards juvenile justice and a dedication to improving the lives of children entangled in legal matters. His insights will likely contribute to more compassionate and effective practices in the field of juvenile justice.
Chief Justice Subhasis Talapatra’s journey from a law student in Calcutta to the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court is a testament to his dedication, commitment, and unwavering pursuit of justice.
As a law student or legal professional, we can learn from him about his unwavering commitment to uphold the principles of justice and fairness. His decisions as a judge consistently reflected a deep understanding of legal principles and a dedication to upholding the rights of individuals. His extensive legal knowledge and exceptional skills as a lawyer and proficiency in handling a wide range of cases, including constitutional, civil, and criminal matters, set him apart as a legal luminary. His participation in international events showcased his commitment to staying informed about global legal issues which added depth to his contributions to the Indian legal system.
Chief Justice Talapatra’s exemplary career serves as an inspiration to aspiring lawyers and judges. His dedication to justice, pursuit of knowledge, and commitment to public service set a high standard for those entering the legal profession. His contributions to the legal field and the Indian judiciary will continue to have a lasting impact, shaping the course of justice and legal discourse in the country for generations to come.
*Judge who penned the judgment.
10. W.P.(C) PIL No.20481 of 2023, order dated 29-09-2023.
11. I.A. No.348 of 2019, order dated 29-08-2023.
12. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3300 of 2022, order dated 15-09-2023.
13. WPC No. 23817 of 2023, order dated 28-07-2023
14. WPCRL No. 93 of 2022, order dated 09-02-2023
18. Odisha: Chief Justice disapproves interrogation of children, The Stateman.