The Union Law Ministry has cleared the names of four High Court Chief Justices and a High Court judge for appointment as Supreme Court judges on recommendations of the Collegium led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar.
Among those recommended are the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, S.K. Kaul, the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court, M. Santhanagouder, the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, Naveen Sinha, the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court, Dipak Gupta, and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer of the Karnataka High Court.
The Supreme Court, which has the sanctioned strength of 31 judges, now has eight vacancies. The decision comes when the working strength of the court is at an all-time low in recent years. While three more judges are to retire this year, seven more will superannuate in 2018.
The issue of vacancies in the higher judiciary and the Memorandum of Procedure for the appointment of judges had not long ago caused some friction between the government and the Supreme Court, with the then Chief Justice of India, Tirath Singh Thakur, publicly expressing concern and asking the government to expedite the appointments.
The draft Memorandum of Procedure is yet to be finalised, with the government still in discussions with the court. In October 2015, a Constitution Bench struck down the National Judicial Appointment Commission law.