The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended senior advocate L. Nageswara Rao, counsel for >Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a disproportionate assets case in the Supreme Court, for appointment as Supreme Court judge. Mr. Rao also served as Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court for the UPA-II government and the present NDA government before he resigned from the post.
Mr. Rao is also spearheading the Tamil Nadu government's objections against the conduct of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test in 2016-17.
If the appointment goes through, Mr. Rao would be the seventh person in India's legal history to be directly appointed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court collegium had also recommended the names of Allahabad High Court Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar and Kerala High Court Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan for appointment as Supreme Court judges.
The three names have reached the Ministry of Law and Justice, which is processing the files, sources in the ministry said.
The recommendation comes after a 15-month hiatus since the appointment of Justice Amitava Roy to the Supreme Court in February 2015. These three would be the first appointments to the Supreme Court since > the collegium system of judicial appointments was restored.
A Constitution Bench of the apex court in October 2015 struck down the NDA government’s National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) laws meant to replace the 22-year-old collegium system and give equal say to politicians in appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The appointments, if finally made, would augment the judicial strength of the Supreme Court from the present 25 to 28. The collegium recommendations follow Chief Justice Thakur’s emotional outpouring of the “impossible burden” shouldered by a skeletal number of judges who work day in and day out to clear pending cases.
The three appointments would also be a relief in a year in which the apex court would see five of its judges retiring — Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla in July, Justices V. Gopala Gowda and C. Nagappan in October, Justices Anil R. Dave and Shiva Kirti Singh in November.
Any further delay in appointment of Supreme Court judges, even as the government is yet to finalise the Memorandum of Procedure for Appointment of Judges, would have reduced the apex court’s strength to 20 by the end of 2016.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud hails from Maharashtra and is a graduate from St. Stephen’s College. He did his post-graduation in Law and is also a Doctor of Juridical Sciences from Harvard. He has appeared in several PILs, including cases dealing with the rights of bonded women workers, HIV positive workers in the workplace, contract labour, and the rights of religious and linguistic minorities.
Justice A.M. Khanwilkar also hails from Maharashtra and has been the top judge of the State’s High Court since 2013.
Justice Ashok Bhushan hails from Uttar Pradesh and was sworn in as the State’s Chief Justice in March 2015.
The last such direct appointments from the Bar were that of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and U.U. Lalit after a gap of 15 years.
The first to be appointed from the Bar was Justice S.M. Sikri in 1963. He became the Chief Justice of India in January 1971 and retired in April 1973.
Justice S.C. Roy was appointed judge in 1971 and he died after holding the post for four months.
In 1988, Justice Kuldip Singh was appointed directly from the Bar. He retired in December 1996.
Three years later in January 1999, Santosh Hegde was appointed Supreme Court judge and he retired in June 2005.