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Rising judicial vacancies a challenge to SC Collegium

The resignation of Judge Rohinton Nariman and the entry of Judge L. Nageswara Rao into the powerful five-member Supreme Court Collegium under the direction of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana comes at a crucial time when the number of Supreme Court vacancies drops to 10 . will increase with Judge Navin Sinha’s retirement in three days.

The current College of Chief Justice Ramana, Judges UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Rao will remain intact for about 10 months and could even make history by appointing a female judge who will one day be India’s first female Chief Justice in India can.

Judge Rao, a direct appointee from the Bar Association, may be interested in more direct appointments from the Bar of the Supreme Court to the Bank of the Supreme Court in light of admonitions from the Bar. Judge Rao would also be the first to leave the college with his resignation in June 2022, followed by Judge Khanwilkar in July and Chief Justice Ramana himself in August that year.

Judge Lalit would then take over the senior judge depending on seniority. However, his tenure as Chief Justice of India will only last just over two months until November 2022. Judge Chandrachud would succeed Judge Lalit as CJI until November 2024, again depending on seniority.

Appointments of judges to the Supreme Court have been frozen since September 2019. That year there were 10 Supreme Court appointments in three batches. Judges Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjeev Khanna were appointed in January 2019. Thereafter, in May 2019, the judges BR Gavai, Surya Kant, Aniruddha Bose and AS Bopanna were appointed. The last Supreme Court appointments in September 2019 were Justices Krishna Murari, S Ravindra Bhat, V. Ramasubramanian and Hrishikesh Roy. The oldest vacancy is that of Judge Ranjan Gogoi, who retired in November 2019.

There was not a single judicial appointment to the Supreme Court during Supreme Court Judge SA Bobde’s tenure, although the College held frequent discussions. Judge Bobde’s tenure as CJI had to weather the outbreak of an unprecedented crisis in the form of COVID-19.

The current college could, with time on its side and improve public health, correct the decline in the judicial strength of the Supreme Court. Proportional representation by high courts and seniority, although only convention and not constitutional or statutory mandates, carry weight during the appointment process. Performance is a dominant criterion.

According to Justice Department records dated August 1, after their first appointments in 2003, 2004 and 2005, the highest ranking Chief Justice of the High Courts is the Chief Justice of Karnataka AS Oka in 2003, followed by the Chief Justice of Delhi DN Patel and the chief of Tripura Judge AA Kureshi. Both Chief Justice Patel and Kureshi share the same date of their first appointment – March 7, 2004. Vikram Nath was originally appointed in September 2004 while Chief Justice of Uttarakhand RS Chauhan, Punjab and Haryana, Ravi Shanker Jha and the Colonel Sikkim Judge JK Maheshwari were all first appointed in 2005. With the exception of the Chief Justices Jha and Maheshwari, the higher courts of these judges are already represented in the Supreme Court. The highest court of the two judges is Madhya Pradesh.

As for proportional representation, the Patna Supreme Court, Patna Supreme Court, Sanjay Karol, in Himachal Pradesh, is not currently represented on the Supreme Court. Likewise, Rajasthan’s chief judge Indrajit Mahanty, the Orissa Supreme Court, is not represented in the Supreme Court. After Judge Navin Sinha’s resignation on August 18, there will be no representation of the Patna Supreme Court before the Supreme Court. Jharkhand’s Chief Justice, Dr. Ravi Ranjan, is Patna.

Telangana Chief Justice Hima Kohli is now the only female presiding judge on the Supreme Court. The name of Judge BV Nagarathna of the Karnataka High Court is due to be considered a few months ago to replace Judge Indu Malhotra on the Supreme Court.

An equally serious problem is the dwindling judicial strength in the 25 high courts. The Ministry’s August figures show 455 vacancies in the Supreme Courts, with the total number of people sanctioned being 1,098. That’s less than 50%.

A few days ago, a Supreme Court Bank led by Judge SK Kaul hit against the Center’s months and years of delay in following the College’s recommendations and appointing Supreme Court judges. The bank issued an order stating that the government’s “recalcitrant attitude” influenced the early resolution of important cases, particularly high-level commercial matters.

In June, Chief Justice Ramana informed the government of the assurance from the chief magistrates of the high courts that they would take “positive and accelerated action” in filling vacancies in their respective high courts from their end.

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