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Friday, September 24, 2021

Collegium recommends 8 High Court judges, advocate, to Supreme Court; 3 are in line for CJI

If the recommendations are accepted, three more judges could be added to the line of succession for the CJI’s post — till mid-2028 — including what could be the first woman CJI.

Written by Apurva Vishwanath | New Delhi |
Updated: August 19, 2021 7:16:37 am
Supreme CourtJustice B V Nagarathna, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice Bela Trivedi, whose names are on the list (File photo)

The Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana Wednesday officially notified its recommendation of nine names for appointment as judges to the top court.

If the recommendations are accepted, three more judges could be added to the line of succession for the CJI’s post — till mid-2028 — including what could be the first woman CJI.

As The Indian Express reported Wednesday, Justice B V Nagarathna of the Karnataka High Court could become the first woman CJI. The other two on the list who could become CJI are Justice Vikram Nath, Gujarat High Court Chief Justice; and Senior Advocate P S Narasimha. However, all three are likely to have relatively short tenures.

Besides these three names, the Collegium has also recommended Karnataka High Court Chief Justice A S Oka, Telangana High Court Chief Justice Hima Kohli, Sikkim High Court Chief Justice J K Maheshwari, and Justices M M Sundresh (Madras High Court), C T Ravikumar (Kerala High Court) and Bela M Trivedi (Gujarat High Court) for appointment as judges to the apex court.

This also ends the 22-month-long deadlock, days after Justice Rohinton Nariman retired.

Justice Nariman, a member of the Collegium since 2019, is said to have put his foot down that no consensus could emerge on the names unless the two most senior judges in the all-India seniority list of High Court judges, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Oka and Tripura High Court Chief Justice Akil Kureshi, were recommended first.

All the nine names were reported by The Indian Express Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, CJI Ramana expressed anguish over “speculations” in the media about the Collegium’s recommendations, and said he was “extremely upset about it”.

Speaking at a farewell function for Justice Navin Sinha, who demitted office Wednesday, the CJI said: “The process of appointment of judges is sacrosanct and has certain dignity attached to it. My media friends must understand and recognise the sanctity of this process. As an institution, we hold the freedom of media and the rights of individuals in high esteem. Today’s reflection in some sections of the media, pending the process, even before formalising the resolution is counter-productive. There were instances of deserving career progression of bright talents getting marred because of such irresponsible reporting and speculation. This is very unfortunate and I am extremely upset about it”.

The CJI placed on record the “tremendous amount of maturity and responsibility displayed by majority of the senior journalists and media houses in showing restraint and not speculating on such a serious matter”. He said “such professional journalists and ethical media are the real strength of the Supreme Court in particular and democracy in general… I expect all the stakeholders to uphold the integrity and dignity of this institution”.

While CJI Ramana is set to retire on August 26, 2022, those next in line for the top post, in order of seniority, are Justices U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjeev Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

Justice Nath, whose parent High Court is the Allahabad High Court, is likely to succeed Justice Surya Kant in 2027. He will have a tenure of just over seven months, from February 9, 2027, to September 24, 2027.

Justice Nath has been heading the Gujarat HC’s intervention on the government’s handling of the pandemic, raising questions on issues including lack of hospital beds and availability of essential drugs. He brought in the first-ever live telecast of a courtroom, streaming the hearings on the Covid crisis on YouTube.

After he retires, Justice Nagarathna is slated to take office as the first woman CJI. Her tenure will last just over a month, from September 25, 2027, to October 29, 2027. The last time a CJI served such a short tenure was in May 2004, when Justice Rajendra Babu served for just 29 days.

The daughter of former CJI E S Venkataramaiah, Justice Nagarathna practised commercial law in Bengaluru before being appointed an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2008. She is currently the second most senior judge in the high court.

Justice Nagarathna, along with Justice Oka, presided over the Covid bench which made several interventions. Justice Nagarathna also recently headed the bench that quashed the 25% domicile reservation introduced in the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.

Senior Advocate P S Narasimha is slated to succeed Justice Nagarathna as CJI, and remain in the post from October 30, 2027, to May 3, 2028. The only other instance of a direct appointee serving as CJI was Justice S M Sikri in 1971.

Justice Sikri, who was the first member of the Bar to be appointed a judge of the SC, headed the 13-judge bench that delivered the landmark Kesavananda Bharati ruling which established the basic structure doctrine in constitutional law.

Narasimha, originally from Andhra Pradesh, is the son of Justice P Kodanda Ramaiah, a former judge of the Telangana High Court (then High Court of Andhra Pradesh). He has appeared in several important cases, including the Ram Janmabhoomi case, and was appointed an amicus by the Supreme Court in the BCCI matter for resolving disputes related to cricket administration in India.

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