The six-member collegium led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on Tuesday recommended five judges, including Justices Pankaj Mithal and Sanjay Karol, the chief justices of high courts of Rajasthan and Patna, for elevation as judges of the apex court which currently has six vacancies.
The collegium’s recommendations, if accepted, will raise the total number of judges in the apex court to 33 against the sanctioned strength of 34 including the CJI.
The recommendations come on the heels of the central government returning 20 names to the collegium for reconsideration amid a festering dispute between the executive and the judiciary over the collegium system where sitting judges appoint judges to constitutional courts.
The collegium had recommended these 20 people for appointment as judges of different high courts. The names included nine whose names the collegium had reiterated for appointment as HC judges.
The six-member collegium, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer, K M Joseph, M R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna, also recommended the names of three high court judges for appointing them as chief justices of the high courts of Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and Gauhati.
The collegium, in its first meeting after the centre cleared Justice Dipankar Datta for elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court, also recommended the elevation of Justice P V Sanjay Kumar, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice Manoj Misra as judges of the top court.
“The Supreme Court Collegium in its meeting held on December 13, 2022 has resolved to recommend elevation of the following chief justices/judges of the high courts, as judges in the Supreme Court: 1. Justice Pankaj Mithal, Chief Justice, Rajasthan High Court 2. Justice Sanjay Karol, Chief Justice, Patna High Court, 3. Justice P V Sanjay Kumar, Chief Justice, Manipur High Court, 4. Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah, Judge, Patna High Court and 5. Justice Manoj Misra, Judge, Allahabad High Court,” said a statement uploaded on the apex court’s website.
The Supreme Court Collegium recommended the elevation of three high court judges as chief justices.
While Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra of the Uttarakhand High Court has been recommended as the chief justice of the Jharkhand High Court, Justice N Kotiswar Singh of the Gauhati High Court has been recommended for elevation as the chief justice of the Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court.
The collegium has recommended Kerala High Court judge Justice K Vinod Chandran as the chief justice of the Gauhati High Court.
Out of the 28 apex court judges at present, nine are scheduled to retire in 2023.
The composition of the Collegium, which usually comprises the CJI and four senior-most judges who decide the appointment of judges to the apex court, has undergone a change and now it has six members with the entry of Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
The change in the collegium has occurred due to the fact that after the CJI, none of the four senior-most apex court judges — justices S K Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer, K M Joseph and M R Shah — would become the head of the judiciary.
The convention has it that besides the CJI there is at least one future CJI in the collegium that makes recommendations to the Union government for appointment of judges in the apex court.
On Dec. 11, the Department of Justice in the Union Law Ministry had issued a notification announcing the appointment of Justice Datta, the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, as a Supreme Court judge.
CJI Chandrachud had on Monday administered the oath of office to Justice Datta as a judge of the apex court.
In its meeting held on Sept. 26, the collegium led by the then CJI U U Lalit had recommended the name of Justice Datta as a judge of the apex court.
Of late, the collegium system has become a major flashpoint between the Supreme Court and the central government, with the mechanism of judges appointing judges drawing criticism from different quarters.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had on Nov. 25 launched a fresh attack, saying the collegium system is “alien” to the Constitution.
On the judicial side, a bench led by Justice Kaul has been very critical of the delay by the centre in clearing the names recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges to constitutional courts, saying the system is the law of the land and comments against it are “not well taken”.
On Dec. 8, the apex court had observed that any law declared by it is “binding” on all stakeholders and the collegium system must be followed.