In a first, the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, is accessing records of past judicial performances to make recommendations for appointment of judges to the top court, The Indian Express has learnt.
In its meeting held on September 26, the five-member Collegium recommended the appointment of Justice Dipankar Datta, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, as Judge of the Supreme Court. This is the first recommendation to the apex court made by the Collegium led by CJI Lalit since he took charge on August 27.
Sources told The Indian Express that the Collegium meeting for recommending judges to the Supreme Court took place only this week since information involving potential candidates was being collated.
It is learnt that this information ranges from the number of judgements delivered to their quality and rates of disposal. Sources said the move is aimed at building an institutional practice to assess candidates objectively.
The data would also help the Collegium counter any apprehension or objection raised against a candidate, both within the Collegium or by the government.
The five-member Collegium also comprises Justices D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer and K M Joseph.
For appointment to High Courts, the Collegium has evolved criteria to assess performance of a lawyer including a minimum annual income, number of reported judgements etc.
In the past, some Chief Justices have also met candidates as an informal interview before making recommendations. However, such practices had not evolved for recommendations at the Supreme Court-level since most candidates would have already spent more than a decade in the judicial system and would be Chief Justices of High Courts.
Currently, the Supreme Court has 29 judges, including the CJI, against a sanctioned strength of 34 judges. With Justice Hemant Gupta retiring on October 16 and CJI Lalit retiring on November 8, the vacancies will increase to 7 judges.
The Collegium is expected to meet again on September 30 to discuss more appointments to the top court.
At a meeting held Wednesday afternoon, the Collegium is learnt to have finalised recommendations for appointments of Chief Justices to various High Courts.
Given the relatively short tenure of CJI Lalit, the Collegium he heads has time until October 8 to make recommendations. Conventionally, a month before retirement, the outgoing CJI recommends his successor after which Collegium meetings are put on hold until the next CJI takes charge.