The story so far: Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Gujarat High Court Judge Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala were appointed as Supreme Court judges on Monday. The ceremony was held in an auditorium of the Supreme Court’s additional building complex. Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana administered the oath of office to the newly-appointed judges.
Justice Pardiwala will also be in line to become the Chief Justice of India.
With the new appointments, the Supreme Court will regain its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges till Justice Vineet Saran retires on May 10.
How are Supreme Court judges appointed?
The procedure to appoint judges to the Supreme Court of India is listed under clause 2 of Article 124 of the country’s Constitution.
To be a Supreme Court judge, a person must necessarily be a citizen of India and must have either been a judge of a High Court or two or more such courts in succession for at least five years, or must have been an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such courts in succession for at least ten years.
When a vacancy for the post of a Supreme Court judge arises, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) sends his recommendation to the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs. Kiren Rijiju is the current law minister of India.
The CJI decides on his recommendation in consultation with a collegium of the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. If the CJI’s successor is not among the senior-most judges, he/she will be made a part of the Collegium.
In case the person being considered for the post of the judge is from a High Court, the CJI takes into account the view of the Collegium member who may have worked in the same High Court. If this situation does not apply, the CJI can consult the next senior-most judge in the Supreme Court from the High Court in question.
The opinions of all Collegium members about each of the recommended candidates are given in writing and made part of the record. The opinion of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court from the same High Court as the prospective candidate is also included. The CJI’s opinion is recorded along with the opinion of all concerned and sent to the Government of India. Opinions from others, especially non-judges, need not be mentioned in writing but their essence should be conveyed to the central government.
The Union Law Minister presents the CJI’s final recommendation to the Prime Minister, who then advises the President of India in appointing the Supreme Court judges.
Once the appointment is approved, the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Justice informs the CJI and obtains a certificate of physical fitness from the appointed judge, signed by a civil surgeon or a district medical officer. The appointment is announced by the Secretary once the warrant of appointment is signed by the President of India. A notification is also issued in the Gazette of India.
What is the maximum number of judges that can be appointed to the Supreme Court of India at any given time?
The Supreme Court can have 34 judges, including the CJI. The number was raised from 30 to 33 (excluding the CJI) in 2019 when the government passed The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 in August.