Justice Pankaj Mithal

Justice Pankaj Mithal, who was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2023, began his tryst with law in the 1980s. After 2 decades of legal practice, Justice Mithal entered the next stage of his legal journey when he was appointed as a Judge in the Allahabad High Court, and then as Chief Justice of the High Courts of Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan.

Early Life and Education

Justice Pankaj Mithal was born on 17-06-1961, in Meerut, in a family of lawyers. He received his early education at St. Mary’s Academy, Meerut and graduated in B. Com (Honours) in 1982 from the University of Allahabad. Later joined Meerut College Meerut and obtained his law degree from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 19851.

*Did you Know? Justice Pankaj Mithal is a third-generation lawyer and a second-generation High Court Judge. His father, Justice Narendra Nath Mithal was also a Judge of the Allahabad High Court from 14-12-1978 to 07-04-19922.

Career as an Advocate3

Post graduation Justice Mithal enrolled with the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh in 1985 and started practicing under the guidance of Sudhir Chandra Verma who later adorned the bench of Allahabad High Court as a Judge and then became a Lokayukt (UP).

Justice Mithal mainly practiced on the civil side and dealt with large number of cases of land acquisition, rent control, education, motor accident, labour and other miscellaneous matters including service and constitutional.

He served as the Standing Counsel for the Uttar Pradesh Awas Evam Vikas Parishad, Lucknow and for Dr. B.R Ambedkar University, Agra.

*Did you Know? During his days as an advocate, Justice Pankaj Mithal was well-known for his writing. His work ‘The Birth and Life of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad4, tracing the history of Allahabad High Court, remains widely read even today.5

Career as a Judge

Justice Pankaj Mithal was appointed as an Additional Judge of Allahabad High Court on 07-07-2006 and then elevated as Permanent Judge on 02-07-20086. He was also posted as Senior Judge of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the year 20207.

After serving Allahabad High Court as a Judge till 03-01-2021, Justice Mithal was elevated as Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court on 04-01-20218. Justice Mithal was later transferred to Rajasthan High Court where on 14-10-2022 he took oath as Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court9.

Justice Pankaj Mithal’s and 4 other Judges’ elevation to the Supreme Court was recommended by the Collegium in December 2022, consequent to which the Ministry of Law and Justice in a notification issued on 04-02-2023, notified the appointment of Justice Mithal to the Supreme Court.

Justice Pankaj Mithal was thus elevated to the Supreme Court on 06-02-2023 and is due to retire on 16-06-202610.

Other Responsibilities/ Nominations11

Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Anandiben Patel nominated Justice Mithal to the Executive Council of Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut.

Justice Mithal is also a trustee of Etawah Hindi Sewa Nidhi and the founder trustee of Justice Narendra Nath Mithal Memorial Foundation, which was established by his mother in memory of his late father.

Notable Judgments of the Supreme Court

No automatic vacation of stay order in six months: SC Constitution Bench overturns Asian Resurfacing judgment

The Constitution Bench comprising of Dr. DY Chandrachud, CJI along with Abhay S. Oka*, JB Pardiwala, Pankaj Mithal** and Manoj Misra, JJ., in High Court Bar Assn. v. State of U.P., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 207, reversed its own 2018 ruling of a 3-Judge Bench and held that Constitutional Courts should not fix a timeline for disposal of cases pending in any court while exercising powers under Article 142. The Court further justified the stance that pattern of cases pending in various courts including High Courts is different.

The three-Judge Bench of Supreme Court in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency (P) Ltd. v. CBI, (2018) 16 SCC 299 had held that interim orders passed by High Courts for stay on trials in civil and criminal matters would expire automatically after 6 months, unless the same was expressly extended by the High Court. The same was reversed in the instant decision. Justice Abhay S. Oka wrote the majority judgment, which was concurred by Justice Pankaj Mithal through a separate judgment.

Inside Supreme Court verdict on easementary rights and powers of Appellate Court

In Manisha Mahendra Gala v. Shalini Bhagwan Avatramani, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 530, concerning easementary rights over a road situated over land, which is presently owned by the respondents, the division bench of Pankaj Mithal* and Prashant Kumar Mishra, JJ. held that the appellants have not acquired easementary right over the disputed ‘rasta’ in any manner much less by prescription, necessity or under an agreement. Therefore, the Appellate Courts and the High Court have not committed any error of law in dismissing suit appellants and in decreeing suit of respondents.

Enrollment in Army based on Fake relationship certificate with servicemen/ex-servicemen: SC orders reinstatement of army personnels with consequential benefits

While hearing Babanna Machched v. Union of India, (2024) 5 SCC 306, under Section 31 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 against the Armed Forces Tribunal’s order, whereby the Appellants were dismissed from their service for adopting fraudulent means by producing false relationship certificate for recruitment under the Unit Headquarters Quota, the Division Bench of Bela M. Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal*, JJ. allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned orders.

In Re: Right to Privacy of Adolescent | SC frowns upon Calcutta HC’s advise to girls to control sexual urge; ‘Judges to avoid expression of Personal views’

In a suo motu cognizance of the Calcutta High Court’s decision, whereby the High Court issued a slew of advisories to the male and female adolescents regarding the respect of a woman, protection of self-worth, dignity and privacy, and right to autonomy of the female’s body, the Division Bench of Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., In Re: Right to Privacy of Adolescent, frowned upon the High Court’s suggestion to adolescent girls to control their sexual urge.

HC Judges taking up case not assigned by the Chief Justice an act of gross impropriety: Supreme Court

A “shocking case of gross abuse of process of law” wherein, the respondents’ failure to get interim relief for quashment of First Information Reports (‘FIRs’) and proceeding with filing of civil writ petition prompted the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., in Ambalal Parihar v. State of Rajasthan, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1374, to slam the respondents with costs and reprimand the Judge concerned for not converting the writ petition to criminal writ petition for roster Judge taking up criminal writ petitions.

Can Arbitration proceedings be terminated on claimant’s failure to request Arbitral Tribunal to fix a date for hearing?

In Dani Wooltex Corpn. v. Sheil Properties (P) Ltd., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 970, concerning the issue about the legality and validity of the order of termination of the arbitral proceedings under Section 32(2)(c) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (‘the Arbitration Act’) passed by the Arbitral Tribunal, the division bench of Abhay S. Oka* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ. held the following:

  • The power under Section 32 (2)(c) of the Arbitration Act can be exercised only if, for some reason, the continuation of proceedings has become unnecessary or impossible. Unless the Arbitral Tribunal records its satisfaction based on the material on record that proceedings have become unnecessary or impossible, the power under Section 32(2)(c) cannot be exercised.

  • If the said power is exercised casually, it will defeat the very object of enacting the Arbitration Act. It is the Arbitral Tribunal’s duty to fix a meeting for a hearing even if parties to the proceedings do not make such a request. It is the duty of the Arbitral Tribunal to adjudicate upon the dispute referred to it. If, on a date fixed for a meeting/hearing, the parties remain absent without any reasonable cause, the Arbitral Tribunal can always take recourse to the relevant provisions of the Arbitration Act, such as Section 25.

  • The failure of the claimant to request the Arbitral Tribunal to fix a date for hearing, per se, is no ground to conclude that the proceedings have become unnecessary. The abandonment of the claim by a claimant can be a ground to invoke Section 32(2)(c).

  • The abandonment of the claim can be either express or implied. The abandonment cannot be readily inferred. There is an implied abandonment when admitted or proved facts are so clinching that the only inference which can be drawn is of the abandonment. Only if the established conduct of a claimant is such that it leads only to one conclusion that the claimant has given up his/her claim can an inference of abandonment be drawn. Even if it is to be implied, there must be convincing circumstances on record which lead to an inevitable inference about the abandonment. Only because a claimant, after filing his statement of claim, does not move the Arbitral Tribunal to fix a date for the hearing, the failure of the claimant, per se, will not amount to the abandonment of the claim.

[Financial Debt v. Operational Debt] SC clarifies when a ‘debt’ is considered as financial debt and operational debt under IBC

In the civil appeal titled Global Credit Capital Ltd. v. Sach Marketing (P) Ltd., 2024 SCC OnLine SC 649, against separate judgments and orders of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (‘the NCLAT’), the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., dealt with the question that, when a debt is considered as financial debt and operational debt under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘the IBC’). The Bench said that the test to determine whether a debt is a financial debt within the meaning of Section 5(8) is the existence of a debt along with interest, if any, which is disbursed against the consideration for the time value of money.

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., in Gobind Rai v. State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 730, has stayed the said direction “in the interest of justice”.

Whether power of attorney, will, agreement to sell can be recognised as title documents conferring rights in any immovable property?

After having lost from all the three courts below, the defendant (appellant) to the eviction suit has preferred this appeal, wherein the division bench of Dipankar Datta and Pankaj Mithal*, JJ., in Ghanshyam v. Yogendra Rathi, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 725, said that the respondent is in settled possession of the suit property at least in part performance of the agreement which cannot be disturbed or disputed by the transferer, i.e., the appellant. Thus, it was held that the respondent is entitled for a decree of eviction with mesne profits, and there is no error or illegality in such a decree being passed. Further, it was held that will or general power of attorney cannot be recognised as title documents or documents conferring rights in any immovable property.

Allopathy/ Ayurved Doctors not on a par with MBBS Doctors; Can’t claim equal pay

In a Civil Appeal challenging the common order passed by the High Court of Gujarat, wherein, the High Court had held that the doctors having degrees in alternative systems of medicine are entitled to be treated on a par with doctors holding MBBS degree, the Division Bench led by V. Ramasubramanian* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., in State of Gujarat v. P.A. Bhatt, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 503, set aside the impugned order holding that non-MBBS doctors do not perform equal work as compared to doctors with MBBS degree.

Pronouncing unprepared judgments is gross negligence and callousness of Judicial Officer

While hearing an appeal filed by the Registrar General of Karnataka (‘appellant’) challenging the order of the Karnataka High Court that set aside the penalty of dismissal from service of a Civil Judge (‘respondent’), the Division Bench of V. Ramasubramanian* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., in The Registrar General, High Court of Karnataka v. M. Narasimha Prasad, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 376, set aside the impugned order of the High Court and upheld the penalty of dismissal imposed upon the respondent.

Can Government employees claim Double Overtime Allowance as per the Factories Act?

The Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited appealed against the common order passed by the Bombay High Court which had affirmed the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (‘Tribunal’) which had stated that the employees working as Supervisors were entitled to Double Over Time Allowance. While exercising its civil appellate jurisdiction, the Division Bench of V. Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal JJ., in Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Limited v. Vijay D. Kasbe, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 439, held that the government employees cannot claim double overtime allowance as per the Factories Act, 1948 (‘The Factories Act’), if the service rules do not provide for it.

Supreme Court affirms Gauhati HC’s reversal of Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi’s discharge in anti-CAA protest case but grants bail

The bench of V. Ramasubramanian* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., in Akhil Gogoi v. State, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 438, affirmed Gauhati High Court’s order reversing an Order of discharge passed by the Special Court, NIA, Guwahati, Assam against Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi in relation to the anti-CAA protest case but has directing his release on bail, pending trial, subject to conditions imposed by the Special Court. The Court noted that, “This is not a case where the petitioner should be allowed to be detained in custody, especially after having secured an order of discharge, rightly or wrongly.

Supreme Court grants interim relief to homebuyers for deferred payment of EMIs till possession of homes

In a petition against the Judgment and Order of the High Court of Delhi, wherein the relief to the homebuyers/ petitioners for deferment of payment of Equated Monthly Instalment (‘EMIs’) to the Banks and financial institutions was lifted, the Division Bench of V. Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal, JJ., in Rohit Kumar v. Union of India,12 issued notice and granted interim protection to the homebuyers for deferred payment of EMIs.

Notable Judgments of the High Courts

Allahabad High Court

Govt. employee not entitled to death cum retiral gratuity until conclusion of departmental proceedings or judicial proceedings

A Full Bench of Pankaj Mithal, Suneet Kumar and Rohit Ranjan Agarwal, JJ., in Shivagopal v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2239 dismissed a batch of writ petitions seeking entitlement to receive death-cum-retirement gratuity while judicial proceedings were pending. The petitioners were government employees (Lekhpal/Police Officials), who had retired on attaining the age of superannuation, and by the impugned orders, their full pension and gratuity had been withheld due to pending judicial proceedings against them. The petitioners had sought quashing of the impugned orders declining full pension and gratuity during pendency of the judicial proceedings and further sought an additional direction to the respondent authority to release/pay full pension and gratuity.

Decree of divorce by mutual consent is appealable where the consent itself is disputed: Allahabad HC

An appeal filed by the wife against the decree of divorce by mutual consent, was allowed by a Division Bench comprising of Pankaj Mithal and Rajiv Joshi, JJ., in Pooja v. Vijay Chaitanya, 2018 SCC OnLine All 513.

A decree was passed by the family court under Section 13-B of Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955 for dissolution of the marriage of the appellant-wife and her husband by mutual consent. The wife preferred the appeal under Section 28 HMA read with Section 19 of Family Courts Act 1984, against the said decree contending that her consent was obtained by undue influence. The question before the Court was ‘whether an appeal under Section 19 of Family Courts Act would lie against a decree passed under Section 13-B HMA?

Is the District Magistrate under obligation to provide protection to senior citizens being harassed by their children? Allahabad HC explains

The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal and Saurabh Lavania, JJ., in Krishna Pal Singh v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1467, directed the District Magistrate to provide protection to senior citizens being troubled by their children. The Uttar Pradesh Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2014 framed under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 casts an obligation upon the district administration, especially, the District Magistrate to ensure that the life and property of senior citizens of the district are protected and they are able to live with security and dignity.

Bench stated that in view of Rule 21 of above-stated Rules, District Magistrate is duty-bound to take appropriate steps and action on the aforesaid application of the petitioners.

Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court

Is there any law requiring registration of News portals? Which authority is examining content of News before it is circulated? J&K and Ladakh HC asks Government

The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal, CJ, and Sanjay Dhar, J., in Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Forum v. UT of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 714, asked Jammu and Kashmir government if there exist any law to regulate news portals in the Union Territory and whether there exist any provisions to keep a check on circulation of fake news.

Hyderpora Encounter| J&K and Ladakh HC allows the family of deceased Amir Magrey to perform Fatiha Khawani; upholds compensation awarded by the Single Judge Bench

While deciding the instant appeal directed against the decision of the Single Judge Bench in Mohd. Latief Magrey v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine J&K 433; the Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal, CJ., and Javed Iqbal Wani, J., in Union Territory of J&K v. Mohd. Latief Magrey, 2022 SCC OnLine J&K 516, directed the appellants to allow Mohd. Lateif Magery and his family to perform Fatiha Khawani (religious rituals/prayers after burial) of deceased Mohd. Amir Magrey at the Wadder Payeen graveyard, subject to taking into account the required security measures and COVID-19 guidelines. The Court also upheld the compensation of Rs. 5 Lakhs awarded to the respondents in the afore-stated case.

Death by consumption of spurious cough syrup; is government vicariously liable? J&K and Ladakh HC backs NHRC’s order directing State to pay 3 lakh compensation

The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal, CJ. and Sindhu Sharma, J., in UT of J&K v. NHRC, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 321, upheld National Human Rights Commission’s order regarding compensation, whereby the commission had held the government vicariously liable for the death of children in Udhampur district due to consumption of spurious cough syrup.

Rajasthan High Court

Rajasthan High Court quashes notice issued under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act for non-supply of ‘reasons to believe’

The division bench of Pankaj Mithal, CJ and Rekha Borana, J., in Micro Marbles Private Limited v. Office of Income Tax Officer, 2023 SCC OnLine Raj 58, quashed the notice issued to the petitioner under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (‘The Act’) as well as the order dismissing the objections of the petitioner by the Income Tax Officer (‘respondents’) in relation to the belief of the revenue officer that the petitioner had escaped assessment for the year 2017-2018, stating that material referred to by the respondents were on the basis of ‘reason to believe’ which was not even supplied to the petitioner resulting into the entire proceedings for reopening of the assessment being vitiated in law.

Vacancy caused due to resignation of selected candidate must be readvertised and filled up by fresh selection: Rajasthan HC

In a challenge to the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Jaipur Bench1, which had dismissed the original application of the petitioner praying for his appointment for a post vacant after the previous candidate’s resignation, the division bench of Pankaj Mithal, C.J. and Shubha Mehta, J., Sumer Singh v. Union of India,13 upheld the order of the Tribunal stating that the vacancy advertised stood exhausted with the appointment of a candidate, and the petitioner thus, is not entitled to the appointment on the post so advertised.

*Judge who has authored the Judgment

1. Chief Justice & Judges | SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (sci.gov.in)

2. Supra

3. Rajasthan High Court (hcraj.nic.in)

4. BrithLifeofTheHighCourtPankaj_Mithal.pdf (allahabadhighcourt.in)

5. Pankaj Mithal – Supreme Court Observer (scobserver.in)

6. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Pankaj Mithal (Sr. Judge, Lko.) (allahabadhighcourt.in)

7. Chief Justice & Judges | SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (sci.gov.in)

8. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court (jkhighcourt.nic.in)

9. Rajasthan High Court (hcraj.nic.in)

10. Chief Justice & Judges | SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (sci.gov.in)

11. Supra

12. Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No(s). 10173/2023

13. Civil Writ Petition No. 14472 of 2022

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