Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Friday administered the oath of office to Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and K.V. Viswanathan, bringing back the court to its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges.
Justices Mishra and Viswanathan would replace Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and M.R. Shah, both of whom had retired earlier in May.
May 19 would also see the court bid farewell to Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi and V. Ramasubramanian, who are all retiring in June during the summer vacation. Friday is the last working day of the Supreme Court before it goes into recess until reopening on July 2. All three judges would share Ceremonial Benches with the Chief Justice of India in the First Court as per convention.
Justices Mishra and Viswanathan were sworn in as judges in the presence of the full court in an auditorium filled with members of the Bar.
The government had cleared their appointments in record speed. The Collegium had recommended them for appointment to the Supreme Court on May 16. The government’s notifications were published on May 18 and coincided with the first day in office of the new Law Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal. Mr. Meghwal also took care to tweet that the two names had been cleared.
The clearance of the two names within a 48-hour window is a welcome change from the erratic manner in which the government has treated collegium recommendations for appointments, taking months to approve some while acting quickly on others. The roller-coaster had been so apparent in recent months that a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had observed how the government at times cleared names “overnight” but kept some other names pending for months together without offering an explanation.
The acrimonious comments made by Mr. Meghwal’s predecessor, Kiren Rijiju, against the Collegium system of judicial appointments had also not helped. At one point, the court had said the delay on the part of the government in clearing names recommended by the Collegium was a “direct interference in the administration of justice”.
Justice Viswanathan would be in line to be the 58th Chief Justice of India in August 2030, succeeding Justice J.B. Pardiwala as top judge. He is also only the ninth lawyer to be elevated directly to the Supreme Court Bench. If appointed Chief Justice of India seven years from now, Justice Viswanathan would only be the fourth direct appointee from the Bar to make it as top judge.
Justice Mishra was the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court before his appointment to the Supreme Court. His appointment wins the State of Chhattisgarh a representation on the Supreme Court Bench.
The Supreme Court would see more retirements in 2023. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat retires in October and Justice Kaul, who is number two judge in the Supreme Court, retires in December.