ENDING THE unprecedented 22-month-long impasse, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana is learnt to have recommended nine names to the government on Tuesday for appointment as judges to the top court. The list has three women judges, including one who could become the first woman Chief Justice of India.
The Indian Express has learnt that the Collegium, for the first time, has recommended the names of three women judges – Justice B V Nagarathna of the Karnataka High Court; Justice Hima Kohli, Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court; and Justice Bela Trivedi of the Gujarat High Court – for elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Nagarathna could become the first woman Chief Justice of India.
Significantly, the breakthrough comes just days after Justice Rohinton Nariman retired from the Supreme Court. Justice Nariman, who was a Collegium member since March 2019, is said to have been firm in his stand that no consensus could emerge on the names unless the two most senior judges in the all-India seniority list for high court judges – Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Tripura High Court Chief Justice Akil Kureshi – were recommended first.
The Indian Express has learnt that Justice Oka, along with Justices Vikram Nath and J K Maheshwari – the Chief Justices of the Gujarat and Sikkim High Courts respectively – have been picked by the Collegium.
Justice Oka, who is currently the most senior high court judge in the country, is known for his rulings on civil liberties. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Justice Oka, whose parent high court is the Bombay High Court, passed several orders protecting the rights of migrant workers. In many of these cases which questioned the government’s handling of the pandemic, Justice Oka sat with Justice Nagarathna.
Justice Nath also headed 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.
Justice Maheshwari, who was earlier the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, was transferred to Sikkim in December last year, just days after Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy alleged that a senior judge of the Supreme Court was interfering in the functioning of the high court to topple his government.
Justice C T Ravikumar, the second most senior judge of the Kerala High Court, and Justice M M Sundaresh, the third most senior judge of the Madras High Court, are the other judges recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court, sources told The Indian Express.
From the Bar, former Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha is the Collegium’s pick for the apex court. The senior advocate 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.
The recommendations, if accepted, will fill all current vacancies in the Supreme Court, and will take the court’s working strength to 33. There will be an additional vacancy on Wednesday, when Justice Navin Sinha retires.
Apart from CJI Ramana, the five-member Collegium includes Justices U U Lalit, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao.