New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium has recommended the names of four Chief Justices of High Courts and a practising senior lawyer of Supreme Court for elevation as judges of the top court.
The collegium has recommended the elevation of the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court A.S. Oka, Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court Vikram Nath, Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court J.K. Maheshwari, and Chief Justice of Telangana High Court Hima Kohli.
Besides the Chief Justices of four High Courts, the collegium has recommended the names of Justice B.V. Nagarathna, Justice C.T. Ravikumar, Justice M.M. Sundresh and Justice Bela M. Trivedi — judges of Karnataka, Kerala, Madras and Gujarat High Court respectively.
The obvious casualty is the Chief Justice of Tripura High Court Akil Kureshi who is perceived to be at the receiving end of the ruling establishment. Justice B.V. Nagarathna, if cleared, will go on to become first woman Chief Justice of India – though for a brief period.
Incumbent Chief Justice N.V. Ramana will be succeeded by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit (tenure from Aug. 2022 — Nov. 2022), Justice D.Y. Chandrachud (tenure from Nov. 2022 — Nov. 2024), Justice Sanjiv Khanna (tenure from Nov. 2024 — May 2025),Justice Sanjiv Khanna (tenure: May 2025 - Nov. 2025), Justice Surya Kant (tenure: Nov. 2025 - Feb. 2027), Justice Vikram Nath (tenure: Feb. 2027- Sept. 2027) and Justice B.V. Nagarathna (tenure: Sept. 2027 - Oct. 2027).
If all the names recommended by the top court collegium are cleared by the government, then the top court will have four women judges. At present the top court has just one woman judge, Justice Indira Banerjee. Other three judges will be Justice Hima Kohli, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, and Justice Bela M. Trivedi.
The collegium has also recommended the appointment of senior lawyer P.S. Narasimha as the top court judge. The recommendation of Narasimha for appointment as top court judges is continuation of initiative taken by former Chief Justice R.M. Lodha who had recommended the names of then senior lawyers Gopal Subramanium, L. Nageswara Rao, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Uday Umesh Lalit for appointment as top court judges.
While Modi government cleared the names of Nageswara Rao, Nariman and Lalit and they are now serving as top court judges, it stalled the name of Subramanium as he was amicus curiae in 2002 Gujarat riot cases and was perceived to be critical of then Modi led Gujarat government.
Another top court practising lawyer Indu Malhotra was appointed as judge of the top court. Besides her other judgments, Justice Malhotra is remembered for her dissenting judgment in the Sabrimala temple case relating to the entry of women.
If Narasimha’s name is cleared by the government then he will be seventh judge to be appointed directly from the top court Bar. Before 2014 the green judge — Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice Santosh Hedge were appointed as top court judges directly from the Supreme Court Bar.
As per August 17, 2021, resolution of top court collegium, there will be elevation of two judges from the Karnataka High Court and two from Gujarat High Court.
Earlier in the morning, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana had expressed anguish over the “speculative” reports in a section of the media about the top court collegium’s recommendations.
Venting his displeasure over the “speculative” media reports, CJI Ramana said, “Today’s reflections 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.”
CJI Ramana’s disapproval of the reports in a section of media on the collegium recommendations came in the open court while he was presiding over a ceremonial bench on the last working day of Justice Navin Sinha in the top court.
Describing the process of judicial appointments as a sacrosanct function of collegium, and asking the media should refrain from denting the integrity and dignity of the process by resorting to speculation.
Imploring the media to be mature and circumspect in reporting collegium proceedings on the appointment of judges, CJI Ramana said, “You are all aware we need to appoint judges to this court. The process is ongoing. Meetings will be held and decisions will be taken. 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.”
Urging all the stakeholders to uphold the “integrity and dignity” of the top court, CJI said, “I must also place on record the tremendous amount of maturity and responsibility displayed by the majority of the senior journalists and media houses in showing restraint and not speculating on such a serious matter. Such professional journalists and ethical media are the real strength of the Supreme Court in particular and democracy in general.”