The Supreme Court of India has recently appointed 9 judges in one go thereby creating a history. In an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by CJI N V Ramana has recommended as many as 68 names in one go for appointment as judges in 12 high courts. Those recommended high courts include Allahabad, Rajasthan, Calcutta, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Madras, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, and Assam. The decision was based on the matter that these high courts are facing a severe crunch of judges.
The collegium considered 112 candidates for High Court appointments. Sixty-eight of 112 names have been recommended for appointments to 12 High Courts. Of the 68, there are 44 from the Bar and 24 from the Judicial Service. In total there have been recommended names of 10 women on the list.
On the same day, a five-member collegium of Supreme Court had recommended 9 names for elevation to the Bench of Supreme Court.
The appointment of Supreme Court judges
Articles 124 and 217 of the constitution govern the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts respectively. Under this Article, the judges of the Supreme Court are to be appointed by the President of India. However, unlike the procedure followed in other countries, such as the USA, the appointment of Supreme Court judges in India happens with the involvement of the Judiciary. Article 124(2) says that the President shall appoint the judges after consultation with such of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.
The word “consultation” has been at the center of debate on the executive’s power to appoint judges over the years. The article said only Central Government had the final say and could reject the views of the judges when it came to deciding who would be appointed to the top court. The tussle between the executive and the judiciary over judges’ appointment began following the Indira Gandhi-led government’s move in 1973 to supersede three senior judges and appoint Justice A N Ray as the CJI. In 1981, 1993, and 1998, the Supreme Court evolved the collegium system for appointing judges.
Later in 1993, it was changed that the word “consultation” should be read as “concurrence” and laid out a new set of principles for appointments. Under these new principles, the CJI was to have primacy when it came to judicial appointments, with the consultation of the next two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. Then the name Collegium occured.
About the number of Supreme court judges
Including the CJI, the Supreme Court has 34 judges at present. Parliament, which has the power to increase the number of judges, has gradually done so by amending the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act — from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986, 31 in 2009, and 34 in 2019. With the new nine appointments, the court continues to have one vacancy, and eight more judges are due to retire next year.
Eligibility to become a supreme court judge
- According to Article 124(3), the following people can become Supreme Court judges:
A High Court judge who has held the post for five years or longer.
2. An advocate who has practiced in a High Court (or the Supreme Court) for ten years or longer.
3. A distinguished jurist – technically this could include a scholar though no judge has ever been appointed on this basis