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How is the Chief Justice of India Appointed?

Written by Naina Mahajan, a grade 6 student.

The first Chief Justice of India was appointed in 1950, Sir Harilal Jekisundas Kania and now in the year 2021, the incumbent Chief Justice is Mr. N.V Ramana…

By I Kid You Not , in Current Stories Did You Know Explained , at August 30, 2021 Tags: ,

Written by Naina Mahajan, a grade 6 student.

We all know that the Chief Justice of India is the chief judge of the Supreme Court and is the highest-ranking officer of the Indian Federal Judiciary.

The first Chief Justice of India was appointed in 1950, Sir Harilal Jekisundas Kania and now in the year 2021, the incumbent Chief Justice is Mr. N.V Ramana.

So how is the Chief Justice appointed?

Although the Constitution of India has neither any details nor guidelines about how a Chief Justice is to be appointed, Article 124 (1) does say that there “shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India”. The Constitution also does not contain information about the criteria or procedure for appointing a Chief Justice.

So, if the Constitution doesn’t help, what does?

Right now, the system in place is pretty straightforward: When the acting Chief Justice retires (all Supreme Court judges must retire at the age of 65), the senior-most judge of the remaining Court takes over. The senior-most judge is not necessarily the oldest; the longest-serving judge on the panel is the senior-most.

If the two judges in the reckoning were sworn in on the same day, these factors may be used to determine the order of seniority:

  1. It may depend on which judge was sworn in first;
  2. Or  which judge has more high-court experience;
  3. Or, if one of the judges has been appointed directly from the Bar (the attorneys, or lawyers, who are licesnsed to practice law in the Courts, or in any particular court, of any state), and one has had experience in a high court as a judge, the judge with experience in a high court will be given preference, as compared to a judge appointed from the Bar.

Now that we are aware of the criteria of selection, there is an interesting observation, one which cannot be ignored. In all these years, India has not witnessed a woman as its Chief Justice. However, the good news is, India is ready to make amends by finally clearing the way for a much-needed change.

Recently, 9 new judges have been recently appointed to the Supreme Court, and are prepared to take their oaths on Tuesday, August 31st.

The judges are:

  1. Karnataka High Court Chief Justice AS Oka,
  2. Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Vikram Nath,
  3. Sikkim Chief Justice JK Maheshwari,
  4. Telangana Chief Justice Hima Kohli,
  5. Justice BV Nagarathna from the Karnataka High Court,
  6. Kerala High Court Judge, Justice CT Ravikumar,
  7. Madras High Court Judge, Justice MM Sundresh,
  8. Gujarat High Court Judge, Justice Bela M Trivedi,
  9. Senior Advocate PS Narasimha, appointed from the Bar.

Hold your breath though…India is all poised to break convention in its 71 years history of appointing The Chief Justice of Supreme Court of our land. Amongst all these names, there is one name that stands out, one name which seems poised to go down as the “First”, in a particular category, and not just any first, it’s a groundbreaking change.

That special someone is none other than Justice B.V. Nagarathna. The obvious question here is:

Who is Justice BV Nagarathna and why is she so important?

Justice BV Nagarathna is in the reckoning for becoming Chief Justice six years down the line; once elevated from her position as a Karnataka High Court Judge, she will become the first woman Chief Justice of India, the second Chief Justice from her family.

She will, in all likeliness, serve as Chief Justice for a month-long period, from 25 September 2027, to 29 October 2027. This is a big step for women at the judiciary level, for as a Supreme Court advocate, Brijesh Kalappa said in The Week, “The country has never had a woman CJI. Justice Nagarathna’s elevation to the top post in 2027, will go a long way in projecting the Supreme Court in a different light, as it certainly brings a different perspective, a sense of intuition, purpose, and empathy.”

As they say, “Nothing is impossible to a determined woman”.

A proud moment for us all.

To Justice Nagarathna, everyone!

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