ENDING speculation in a year that saw turbulence in the highest court, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra Tuesday recommended the name of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the most senior judge in the Supreme Court after him, as his successor.
Official sources confirmed that the government had received a communication from the CJI to this effect in which Justice Gogoi has been called “eminent” and “suitable.”
This will now be processed and forwarded to the President who will issue the warrant of appointment.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had recently said that the government’s intention on the appointment of the next Chief Justice of India should not be questioned. He had said that when the incumbent names the most senior judge of the Supreme Court as his successor as per convention, the executive will take a call.
Responding to a question at the Law Ministry’s annual press conference on whether the government would follow the laid-down conventions and procedures to appoint Justice Gogoi as the next Chief Justice, Prasad had said : “The question is imaginary…as far as the appointment of the Chief Justice of India is concerned, the convention is clear…the sitting chief justice names the senior-most judge (of the top court) as his successor. When the name comes to us, we will discuss it,” he had said.
During the Karnataka election campaign, BJP president Amit Shah was asked by The Indian Express about Justice (now retired) Chelameswar’s concern over the chance of supersession of Justice Gogoi. He had replied: “Yeh unka vyaktigat vichar hai. Sarkar ka vichar nahin hai.” (That’s his personal opinion, not the government’s).
When cleared, Justice Gogoi will take over as the 46th Chief Justice of India on October 3, a day after CJI Misra retires.
On January 12 this year, Justice Gogoi and three colleagues, Justices J Chelameswar (since retired), Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, called a press conference to raise questions on the CJI’s allocation of cases to benches in the Supreme Court. Justice Gogoi told reporters that “it’s the discharge of a debt to the nation that has brought us here”.
Ever since the January press conference, there was speculation whether his name would be overlooked for the CJI’s post, but CJI Misra adhered to the tradition of recommending the most senior judge after him for the high office.
Under the Memorandum of Procedure, the document that prescribes the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts, the appointment to the office of the CJI should be of the most senior judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold office.
The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will, at the appropriate time, seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI for this. Once the recommendation is received, the Minister will place it before the Prime Minister who will advise the President in the matter of appointment.
This convention has held, barring two exceptions, both during the tenure of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister — in 1973, Justice A N Ray’s name was cleared for the CJI, superseding three others, and in 1977 when Justice M H Beg was chosen ahead of Justice H R Khanna who had stood up to the Emergency and the Prime Minister.