Why the Supreme Court Collegium under CJI DY Chandrachud will have six judges instead of five till May 2023
Besides the CJI, the Collegium till May 15, 2023 will comprise Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer, KM Joseph, MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna.
The successor to CJI Chandrachud is Justice Sanjiv Khanna. However, since he is not currently one of four seniormost puisne judges of the Supreme Court, the Collegium’s strength is raised to six to make space for him.
As stated in an article by Advocates K Parameshwar and A Sregurupriya, the increased strength of the Collegium is due to the unique situation arising from the fact that if the composition of the Collegium is restricted to the usual strength of five judges, the Collegium will not have a successor CJI.
Having a successor CJI in the Collegium is one of the requirements enumerated by the Supreme Court itself in its judgment in the Three Judges’ Case.
The Court first stated that, “it is desirable that the collegium should consist of the Chief Justice of India and the four seniormost puisne judges of the Supreme Court.”
It then went on to qualify this general rule and stated that,
“Ordinarily, one of the four senior-most puisne Judges of the Supreme Court would succeed the Chief Justice of India, but if the situation should be such that the successor Chief Justice is not one of the four senior-most puisne Judges, he must invariably be made part of the collegium. The Judges to be appointed will function during his term and it is but right that he should have a hand in their selection.”
With the retirement of Justice MR Shah on May 15, 2023, the Collegium will revert to its usual strength of five.
The last time such a situation arose was during the tenure of the 37th CJI, KG Balakrishnan, who had a long tenure of 3 years and 117 days,
When Justice Balakrishnan took oath on January 14, 2007, there were eight puisne judges (Justices BN Agarwal, Ashok Bhan, Arijit Pasayat, BP Singh, HK Sema, SB Sinha, AR Lakshmanan and GP Mathur) who were senior to Justice SH Kapadia, the successor CJI.
Since CJI Chandrachud has a very long tenure, the composition of the Collegium will also undergo many changes during his term at the helm.
The Collegium will start with Justices Kaul, Nazeer, Joseph, Shah and Khanna as its members.
At various points during CJI Chandrachud’s tenure, Justices BR Gavai, Surya Kant, Hrishikesh Roy, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose and AS Bopanna will all be members of the Collegium. The last three will retire over the course of this time period.
By November 2024, the Collegium will comprise Justices Khanna, Kant, Gavai and Roy, who will all be elevated as CJI in the coming years. Justice Abhay S Oka will take a seat on the Collegium after Justice Chandrachud retires.
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