Before these nine elevations of judges, judicial appointments remained frozen for almost two years since September 2019.
In a landmark event, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) N. V. Ramana administered oaths of office to nine new Supreme Court (SC) judges, including three women judges today morning.
This is for the first time in the history of the SC that nine judges took oaths of office at one go. CJI Ramana administered the oath of office to the new jurists during the swearing-in ceremony held in the auditorium of the SC’s additional building complex.
With these nine new judges being elevated to the apex court, the strength of the SC has now risen to 33, including the CJI, just one short of its sanctioned strength of 34.
The Judges Elevated to SC
Last week the government gave its nod for the elevation of the nine judges after the SC Collegium sent its recommendations, after which, the President notified their appointments.
The list of nine judges has three women judges, including Justice B. V. Nagarathna, who could potentially become the first woman CJI in 2027.
The list has three women, and includes Justice B V Nagarathna, who could become the first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027. Justice Oka will be the most senior among the nine judges.
Others judges in the list include (in order of seniority) Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court Vikram Nath, Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court J K Maheshwari, Chief Justice of Telangana High Court Hima Kohli, Justice B V Nagarathna of Karnataka High Court, Kerala High Court Judge Justice C T Ravikumar, Madras High Court Judge Justice M M Sundaresh, Gujarat High Court Judge Justice Bela Trivedi and senior advocate P. S. Narasimha.
Justice Narasimha is the ninth lawyer ever to be appointed a SC judge directly from the bar. The recommendation for the elevation of the senior lawyer came less than a week after Justice Rohinton F Nariman retired, who was only the fifth lawyer to be directly appointed a SC judge from the bar. Justice Narasimha will also be the third lawyer to become the CJI.
Justice Nagarathna, the daughter of former CJI E. S. Venkataramiah, is in line to become the first woman CJI in September 2027.
Justice Nath, Justice Nagarathna and senior advocate Narasimha are the three judges who will join the line of succession for the office of the CJI.
While the former two are likely to have a tenure as CJI of just over six months, the expected first woman CJI is likely to have a relatively short tenure of just over a month.
With these additions, for the first time, the apex court will have four women judges — Justices Nagarathna, Trivedi and Kohli besides Justice Indira Banerjee who is the only woman judge in SC at present.
Two Years Impasse
Since the retirement of the former CJI Ranjan Gogoi in November 2019, the SC collegium had not sent a single recommendation to the government for appointments in the top court.
Before these nine elevations, judicial appointments remained frozen for almost two years since September 2019. The last batch of appointments happened in September 2019 when Justices Krishna Murari, V. Ramasubramanian, S. Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy were appointed as SC judges.
The tenure of the former CJI S.A. Bobde did not see even a single judicial appointment to the SC even though the Collegium held frequent discussions because the SC had to weather the breakout of an unprecedented crisis in the form of Covid-19.
Nevertheless, CJI Bobde’s 17-month tenure turned out to be the only one in the judicial history of India when a CJI demitted office without making even a single recommendation to the government for appointment of SC judges after the advent of the ‘collegium’ system in 1990s.
The present collegium in the SC comprises of CJI NV Ramana as well as the four senior most judges which include Justice Uday Lalit, Justice A. M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao.