Justice Uday Umesh Lalit enrolled as an advocate in June 1983. He practised in the High Court of Bombay from 1983 to 1985 and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee from 1986 to 1992.
In 2004, the Supreme Court designated him as a Senior Advocate. He specialised in criminal law. He conducted trials as CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor in all 2G matters, under the Supreme Court’s orders. He also served as a member of the Supreme Court’s Legal Services Committee for two terms.
Lalit J was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court directly from the Bar on August 13th, 2014. In May 2021, Lalit J got appointed as the Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
In 2022, he is likely to preside as the Chief Justice of India.
During his tenure, Lalit J recused himself from several high-profile cases. In 2014, he recused himself from hearing Yakub Menon’s plea seeking review of the Supreme Court’s order upholding his capital punishment in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. In 2015, he recused himself from hearing a petition filed seeking a fair trial in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, as he had defended one of the accused earlier. In 2016, he recused himself from a plea hearing seeking a probe into the disappearance of a key prosecution witness in the trial of Asaram Bapu.
Furthermore, he also recused himself from hearing a plea by former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala in the teachers’ recruitment scam case. In 2017, he recused himself from hearing the appeals in the Suryanelli rape case since he had appeared for one of the accused persons earlier. In 2018, he recused himself from hearing the petition of an accused in the Malegaon blast seeking a probe into alleged torture and coercion by law enforcement authorities. In 2019, Justice Lalit recused himself from the Constitution Bench responsible for hearing the Ayodhya Title Dispute.
Lalit J and Goel J introduced three procedural safeguards to prevent the ‘misuse’ of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. In Kashinath Mahajan v State of Maharashtra, they set out the following procedure-
1. Conduct of preliminary enquiry before the registration of FIR
2. Investigation officer obtaining further approval before carrying out an arrest
3. Provision for grant of anticipatory bail under the Act
Lalit J, Gogoi J and Joseph J, in Ranjana Kumari v State of Uttarakhand, ruled that a migrant cannot be recognised as a Scheduled Caste person in the migrant state, merely because that state recognises the specific caste as a Scheduled Caste.
Lalit J was on the Constitution Bench that heard the controversial 2017 Triple Talaq case. The Shayara Bano Bench negated the validity of Triple Talaq. Justice Lalit held that Triple Talaq violated the fundamental right guaranteed in Article 14.
In Pradyuman Bisht v Union of India, Lalit J and Goel J directed that CCTV cameras (without audio recordings) be installed inside courts, and in important locations in the court complex, in at least two districts in every state. However, they ordered that these recordings will not be subject to the Right to Information Act.
Lalit J was on the 2-judge Bench of the Supreme Court that held that the prescribed 6 month waiting period under Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, for divorce by mutual consent, is not mandatory. His judgement with Goel J in Amardeep Singh v Harveen Kaur settled a contentious issue by holding that the prescribed waiting period can be waived under certain circumstances.