Justice Hima Kohli was born on September 2, 1959 in Delhi and did her schooling from St Thomas School, New Delhi and graduated in History Honours from St Stephens College, University of Delhi. She completed her Post Graduation in History in First Division and joined the LLB course at the Law Faculty, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. On completing the law course in 1984, she got enrolled as an Advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi in the same year.
She was the Standing Counsel and Legal Advisor of the New Delhi Municipal Council in the High Court of Delhi from 1999-2004. Justice Kohli was appointed as the Additional Standing Counsel Civil, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi in the Delhi High Court in December, 2004. She had also represented Government of Delhi in several important public interest litigations.
Justice Kohli, in an illustrious career as an Advocate, has also been the Legal Advisor to the Public Grievances Commission, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India, National Co-operative Development Corporation and other private organisations and banks.
She was also a member of the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee. Justice Kohli was appointed as an Additional Judge of the High Court of Delhi on May 29, 2006 and took oath as a permanent Judge on August 29, 2007, an office that she occupied till the time she took charge of the Telangana High Court as its Chief Justice.
She also provided guidance to the West Bengal National University of Judicial Sciences, Kolkata as a Member of its General Council and to the National Law University as a Member of its Governing Council. Nominated as a Member of the Editorial Committee of Nyaya Deep, the official journal published by National Legal Services Authority from May 7, 2019.
She was appointed as the Chairperson of the Committee of the Delhi Judicial Academy from March 11, 2020, and as Chairperson of a High Powered Committee constituted by the Government of NCT of Delhi on March 26, 2020, in terms of the order dated March 23, 2020, passed by the Supreme Court of India for decongestion of jails in all States and UTs in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justice Kohli was appointed as the Executive Chairperson of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority from May 20, 2020. Further, she was also the Chairperson of the Delhi High Court Middle Income Group Legal Aid Society. Justice Kohli was a member of the Administrative and General Supervision Committee of the High Court and the Chairperson of Delhi High Court Building and Maintenance Committee, Mediation and Conciliation Committee and the Family Courts Committee.
Apart from performing her official duties as a Judge, she takes keen interest in promoting mediation as an alternative dispute resolution forum, in highlighting the role of the judiciary in preservation of the ecology and environment and the role of Family Courts in resolving family disputes. She has participated in and presented papers at several national and international symposiums and conferences on these subjects.
Justice Kohli was sworn-in as the Chief Justice of High Court for the State of Telangana on January 7, 2021 and was the first woman to hold that office. She is one of the three women judges to be elevated to the Supreme Court, along with Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Bela Trivedi.
Justice Kohli has delivered many laudable judgments. Her insightful judicial mind has reaffirmed the faith of many in the country’s judicial system.
Recently, the Bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justie B. Vijaysen Reddy considered the matter of R. Sameer Ahmed vs State of Telengana and Others, where the State Government of Telengana had stopped ambulances carrying Covid-19 patients into the state at its borders. The Bench held this to be a blatant violation of the Constitution as it offended Articles 15, 19(1)(d) and 21 of the Constitution. It was rightly held that the citizens were entitled to move freely throughout the territory of India without any fetters and access medical facilities.
The Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and B. Vijaysen Reddy had also pulled up the government by observing, “People had to mortgage gold to pay bills”. This came in the context of the high fees being charged by private hospitals for treatment of Covid-19.
In June 2020, Justice Kohli, sitting with Justice Subramonium Prasad in Rakesh Malhotra vs Government of National Capital Territoty of India and Others, considered the question of reservation of beds in private hospitals as the pandemic had just started to show its hydra headed form. The Delhi High Court had directed all private hospitals to reserve 20 percent of its beds for Covid-19 patients and also to conduct tests for those seeking hospitalisation for other purposes.
Judicial cognisance of the pandemic was a very important factor in curbing spread of the pandemic. Justice Kohli had also headed Delhi’s High Powered Committee that had prescribed criteria for releasing prisoners on interim bail/parole. The Committee had considered the rising cases and recommended that if the bails are not extended and the undertrial prisoners and convicts are asked to surrender, they may bring in the infection to the jails. It had recommended the extension of interim bail granted to 3499 UTP (undertrial prisoners) for a period of 45 days.
In 2020, Justice Kohli also headed a judicial committee that monitored the Delhi Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in India. She had pulled up the Central Government and the Indian Council for Medical Research for delaying approvals that would allow private laboratories to conduct testing in relation to the pandemic.
Justice Kohli’s humanitarian approach in interpreting the law was also seen when in 2017, Justice Hima Kohli sitting with Justice Rekha Palli, considered the case of Mukesh Yadav vs Union of India and Others, where the petitioner was dismissed from the service of a constable in the Railway Protection Force for omitting to furnish details of his previous criminal cases. They directed reinstatement holding that Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act prohibits publication of the name of the juvenile and the underlying object was to prevent any stigma.
“Once the juvenile has been extended a protective umbrella under the said enactment, there was no good reason for the respondents to have insisted that the petitioner ought to have disclosed the information relating to the allegations against him pertaining to an offence that was committed during his childhood where he was tried by the Juvenile Justice Board, and subsequently acquitted,” it held.
In another fine example of a humanitarian approach, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Asha Menon in Vishal Singh vs Priya alias Pihu & Anr held that the wife’s “conduct of being interested in remaining in her room or not showing initiative in doing household work can by no stretch of imagination be described as cruel behaviour and that too upon the appellant/husband.”
It is her humble and down to earth nature that Justice Kohli, during her farewell from the Delhi High Court, remarked, “The Bar and the Bench has always been one. That is unique and unparallel strength of our High Court.”
It is her immaculate articulation of justice through her orders and judgments that has brought her to the Supreme Court.