Born on 13th February, 1948 at Solapur – comes from a family of lawyers – his grand father, father and uncles were in the legal profession. Later on his father became Judge of Bombay High Court and upon retirement served as Lokayukta in the State of Maharashtra.
Justice Shah did his graduation from Solapur and degree of law from Government Law College, Mumbai. After a short span of practice in the District Court at Solapur he shifted to Bombay High Court in 1977 and joined the chambers of the then leading Advocate Justice Shri S.C. Pratap. He then gained experience in civil, constitutional, service and labour matters. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of Bombay High Court on 18th December, 1992 and became permanent Judge of Bombay High Court on 8th April, 1994. He assumed charge of the office of Chief Justice, Madras High Court, on 12th November, 2005 and on transfer took over as Chief Justice, Delhi High Court on 11th May, 2008. Retired on 12-02-2010.
Important judgments on various significant issues
1. Freedom of Speech and Expression: – In Anand Patwardhan v. Union of India, 1997 (1) BCR 90, and Anand Patwardhan v. Union of India, 1997 (3) BCR 438 – Quashed the orders of the Government not to telecast the President’s Award winning documentaries “In Memory of Friends” (based on terrorism and violence in Punjab) and ‘Ram Ke Naam’ (based on Ayodhya issue) and directed Doordarshan to telecast the said Documentaries – also stuck down the decision of Censor authorities not to release documentary “Aakrosh” on recent Gujarat communal riots and directed grant of certificate.
2. Environment and Ecological matters: - Issued directions for beautification and maintenance of Girgaon Chowpaty and Juhu Beach – Interpreted Maharashtra Forest (Acquisition) Act highlighting the restrictions and dereservation of forest and use of forest land for non forest use – issued directions to save Hill Stations like Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani.
3. Protection of disabled person: - Restrained the Central and Western Railways, Railway police and Municipal Corporation from taking any action against the blind vendors/hawkers and directed them to frame a scheme for earning of their livelihood – protected the rights of students suffering from Displexia – issued directions to ensure implementation of reservation policy for disabled in the State Government and State Corporations as well as Local Bodies – Recently delivered a judgment where a staff nurse who was made to retire on the ground of mental illness i.e., Schizophrenia was held entitled to full benefit of Section 47 and salary till retirement - Adopted a proactive attitude towards the rights of the disabled persons, ordered Railways and Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Chennai to ensure barrier free environment in their premises, also directed the MTC to make their buses disabled friendly- initiated steps to make the Chennai High Court disabled friendly.
4. Law relating to women: - Recognized the right of muslim women to receive maintenance under Sections 125 and 127 beyond iddat period and recognized the right of second wife to receive maintenance under Hindu Marriage Act. Both the judgments have been affirmed by the Supreme Court – in Yashaswinee Merchant and others v. Air India, held that the circular issued by Air India directing grounding of air hostesses at the age of 58 years is bad in law. The judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court, but later on Government accepted the High Court's judgment and allowed the Air Hostesses to fly till the age of retirement.
5. PIL: - issued various directions for reforms of prisons and particularly in the context of women prisoners and their children – took note of newspaper report of death of children due to malnutrition belonging to tribal areas and directed various measures to save the lives of children – in B. G. Deshmukh and others v. State of Maharashtra held that no political party had any legal right to call for Bombay Bandh and such bandh caused encroachment upon the fundamental rights of citizen and political parties cannot hold the public members at ransom by calling such bandh. The political party was directed to deposit Rs.20,00,000/- towards fine/token compensation – issued directions for proper rehabilitation of nearly 2000 families displaced by Tarapur project – laid down an elaborate scheme for improvement of institutions wherein women and children are housed and for constitution of juvenile Boards – recognized rights of AIDS patients in employment – acted strictly against unscrupulous builders involved in unauthorised constructions while showing a humane approach towards residential buildings – initiated action to improve the conditions of inmates of prisons, juvenile homes and vigilance homes.
6. Other laws: - Delivered several important judgments pertaining to Admiralty Act, Trade Mark and Patent Act, Service and Labour laws.
7. He gave impetus to mediation movement in Maharashtra – recognized movement of Lok Adalat and also started Pension Lok Adalats – took keen interest in legal literacy mission – prepared panel of Arbitrators including retired High Court Judges, retired District Judges and senior members of the Bar who agreed to work on nominal fees and sometimes without charging any fee.
8. He took leading role in organizing the programmes, relating to sensitization of Judicial Officers, Judges, Family Court Judges etc., regarding Gender Justice – took initiative in starting ADR certificate course in collaboration with Mumbai University, - organized various training programmes for imparting training to Judicial Officers on the subject of Juvenile Justice with the help of TISS and UNICEF.
9. Taking note of the environmental issues, directed the bleaching and dyeing units in Tamil Nadu to pay for every litre of untreated effluents let out by them.
10. Directed various steps for computerisation and networking of all courts in Tamil Nadu, including introduction of touch-screen kiosks, digital boards etc.