With a month left for the retirement of Chief Justice of India U U Lalit on November 8, the government Friday initiated the process for the appointment of the next CJI, asking the incumbent to recommend his successor.
Union Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju has written to CJI Lalit, seeking his views on appointing the next CJI.
“As per the MoP on appointment of Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court Judges, today the Hon’ble Minister of Law and Justice sent a letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India for sending his recommendations for appointment of his successor,” the Union Ministry for Law and Justice said.
As per the Memorandum of Procedure governing the appointment of members of the higher judiciary, “appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office”.
Justice D Y Chandrachud is the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court. If appointed, he will have a tenure of two years until November 10, 2024.
As per the MoP on appointment of Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court Judges, today the Hon’ble Minister of Law and Justice sent a letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India for sending his recommendations for appointment of his successor.
— Ministry of Law and Justice (@MLJ_GoI) October 7, 2022
The MoP stipulates that the Law Minister would, at an “appropriate time,” seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI for the appointment of the next CJI. Under this process, after receipt of the recommendation of the CJI, the Law Minister puts it before the Prime Minister who advises the President in the matter of appointment.
This process is conventionally done a month before the retirement of the incumbent CJI.
After the recommendation process, once a new CJI is designated, as per convention, the Collegium headed by the outgoing CJI also freezes.
The Supreme Court will reconvene on October 10 after its Dussehra vacation – it is likely the last opportunity for the CJI Lalit-led Collegium to make recommendations.
Currently, there is division within the five-member Collegium over the CJI’s proposal to recommend four new judges to the Supreme Court through “circulation” or a written note.
Other than the CJI, the four Collegium members are Justices Chandrachud, S K Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer and K M Joseph.
While one member of the Collegium has agreed with the CJI’s proposal, two judges have opposed the idea, saying the process of “holding a Collegium meeting by circulation” instead of face-to-face deliberations is unheard of and they cannot be a party to it.
The Indian Express has learnt that the fifth member has now written, supporting the CJI’s proposal to recommend the four new judges through a written note instead of a formal meeting.