Supreme Court judge Navin Sinha retired from the top court today signaling the last of the four retirements this year. His superannuation, shortly on the heels of Justice Rohinton Nariman's retirement last week on August 12, has left the Supreme Court 10 judges short of its sanctioned strength.
However, news reports suggest that the Supreme Court collegium— comprising of the five senior-most judges—has allegedly recommended nine candidates for elevation to the top court. The said recommendations, which comprise eight high court judges and a senior advocate would be the first set of proposals in 22 months. According to the procedure, the Centre will now decide whether to accept the names proposed by the collegium. The government may even ask the collegium to reconsider any of the names proposed. In such an eventuality, the collegium has the final say - it may reiterate its suggestion, or drop the name the Centre asked to reconsider.
Reacting to the news Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, while bidding Justice Sinha farewell at the ceremonial bench earlier today, expressed his disappointment with the media over speculations made with regards to the collegium's alleged recommendations. "The collegium's process is ongoing. It is sacrosanct and has a dignity to it," he said. "Reporting on the same before the process is finalised is counterproductive," he added.
CJI Ramana added that careers get marred due to irresponsible reporting. "I am extremely upset and disappointed. I am grateful that senior journalists didn't speculate on such a process, such journalists are the strength of our democracy," CJI Ramana said.
Will India get its first female Chief Justice of India?
The collegium's proposal is significant because if the Centre accepts the same, two of the nine names proposed are set to create history. If cleared, Karnataka judge BV Nagarathana will possibly become the country's first female chief justice of India in 2027, whereas senior advocate PS Narasimha will become the third chief justice who was elevated directly from the bar.
Remarkably, the collegium has also proposed three female candidates at one go. Apart from Justice Nagarathana and Narsimha, the seven other names proposed are Gujarat Chief Justice Vikram Nath, Sikkim Chief Justice Jitendra Maheswari, Telangana Chief Justice Hima Kohli, along with Justices Bela Trivedi (Gujarat High Court), CT Ravikumar (Kerala High Court), and MM Sundresh (Madras High Court).
Gujarat Chief Justice Nath is also in line to become a Chief Justice of India if his proposal is accepted.
Collegium's proposal ends 22-month impasse
The collegium's recommendation is a first in almost 22 months. Chief Justice of India SA Bobde who retired earlier this year in March, became the only judge not to make any recommendations despite a relatively long tenure of almost 17-months.
The proposal also comes days after Justice Nariman retired last week on August 12. Justice Nariman, who was part of the collegium since March 2019, was the senior-most judge after CJI Ramana at the time of his retirement.
During Justice Nariman's tenure, the collegium was at an impasse over his alleged insistence to recommend Justices Abhay Oka and Akil Kureshi, Chief Justices of Karnataka and Tripura respectively.
While Chief Justice Oka made it to the list, Justice Kureshi, who in 2010 during his tenure as a high court judge in Gujarat, had sent incumbent Union Home Minister Amit Shah to police custody in connection with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, did not.
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