At least two judges of the Supreme Court are learnt to have expressed their reservations to Chief Justice of India Justice S A Bobde over his decision to hold a meeting of the collegium Thursday to discuss possible candidates for appointment to the apex court.
Their argument is that since the President of India has issued warrants of appointment for the next Chief Justice of India, it would not be proper for the incumbent CJI to make any recommendations.
On April 6, President Ram Nath Kovind officially appointed the most senior SC judge N V Ramana as the next CJI. Justice Ramana is set to take oath to his office on April 24, a day after CJI Bobde retires.
It is learnt that although the meeting was scheduled before the notification was issued, CJI Bobde did not change his decision even after reservations were expressed.
The collegium to recommend judges to the SC consists of five judges. Apart from CJI Bobde and Justice Ramana, it currently includes Justices Rohinton Nariman, U U Lalit and A M Khanwilkar.
“There is no convention that the outgoing CJI cannot make recommendations in the fag end of his tenure but it all depends on how he takes his colleagues into confidence,” former CJI R M Lodha told The Indian Express.
CJI Bobde’s call for the collegium comes in the backdrop of its protracted impasse on recommending Justice Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, to the apex court even as the process of appointment of at least six SC judges is due.
The stalemate in the collegium has resulted in the blocking of any discussion on other potential candidates including Karnataka HC judge B V Nagarathna who, if appointed, could become the first woman CJI.
Sources said some members are on the fence on recommending Justice Kureshi’s name as it could face resistance from the government, like it happened during his appointment as CJ of Tripura HC. However, others insist the collegium must put the ball in the government’s court.
In 2019, Justice Kureshi was appointed Chief Justice of Tripura after the government raised objections to the collegium’s initial recommendation to appoint him as CJ of Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Although the SC is currently short of five judges, no recommendation has been made to the government in CJI Bobde’s 14-month long tenure.
Besides CJI Bobde, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Nariman and Navin Sinha will retire this year. The last appointment made to the SC was in September 2019.