Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde’s decision to call for a meeting to discuss possible candidates for appointment as judges in the apex court has been labelled ‘unprecedented’.
It is practiced convention that after the President appoints the CJI-designate, all files go through the next CJI and the incumbent CJI is refrained form holding collegium meetings for recommending appointment or transfer of judges or Chief Justices for Supreme Court or High Court.
The difference of opinion between CJI Bobde and member judges prevented the CJI from recommending a single name for appointment as a Supreme Court Judge ever since the retirement of CJI Ranajn Gogoi, two years ago.
Since former CJI, Gogoi’s retirement, four other judges – Justices Deepak Gupta, R Bhanumati, Arun Mishra and Indu Malhotra, have also retired resulting in 5 vacancies in the apex court.
CJI SA Bobde chose to not alter his collegium meeting which was scheduled prior to the appointment of CJI designate in order to not retire as the only CJI who did not appoint a single judge for the apex court.
At least two Supreme court judges expressed their dissatisfaction over the decision and sitting of Court No. 2 comprising Justices NV Ramana and Aniruddha Bose was cancelled in the backdrop of non-availability of Justice Ramana.
Former CJI RM Lodha stated, “There is no such convention hat the outgoing CJI cannot make recommendations in the fag end of his tenure. It is up to individual CJIs to take their colleagues into confidence”.
The eagerness to end the stalemate in the collegium is because after CJI Bobde, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Rohinton Nariman and Navin Sinha are also retiring this year which would result in 9 vacancies.
This subtle impasse within the collegium is triggered by the lack of consensus on recommending Justice Akil A. Kureshi who is presently the CJI of Tripura High Court.
On the other hand, timely elevation of Karnataka High Court judge, Justice BV Nagarathna, could give India her first female CJI in 2027.
Such an impasse on judicial appointments was seen previously during the term of CJI HL Dutta when there was an unprecedented standoff between the judiciary and the government considering National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).