Collegium Votes 3-2 in Favour of CJI Lalit’s Proposal to Select 4 New SC Judges, But 4-1 Majority Required

Gavel Law Insider

Tanisha Rana

Published on: October 9, 2022 at 18:33 IST

Two collegium judges rejected CJI UU Lalit’s proposal to suggest the appointment of three HC chief justices and a senior lawyer as SC judges, and two collegium members concurred, bringing the total number of collegium members in favour of the proposal to three.

However, that thin majority is insufficient legally.

“We have little doubt that if even two of the judges forming the collegium express strong views, for good reasons, that are adverse to the appointment of a particular person, the Chief Justice of India would not press for such appointment,” the Supreme Court had stated in its 1998 ruling in a Presidential reference case on “appointments and transfers of judges.”

Since that time, the collegium has only recommended candidates who have received the support of four of the collegium’s five members.

The Centre was adamant that recommendations for SC judge appointments required the agreement of at least four collegium members, hence an attempt to submit names with a 3-2 majority was unsuccessful in 2015.

The majority of former CJIs claim that they never forwarded a recommendation to the government that was backed by just three other judges.

Two judges disagree with the CJI’s proposal on two different grounds:

  1. The CJI is unable to hold collegium meetings because he has less than a month before retiring, and
  2. It is wrong to seek agreement for appointments to the top court without deliberations in a physical meeting.

On November 8, CJI Lalit will step down.

Instead of holding discussions in a normal physical meeting, the other four collegium members were sent the CJI’s proposal.

The fact that CJI Lalit had less than a month before retiring could prevent him from convening a collegium meeting.

He had himself established a rule on August 1 to prevent the previous CJI NV Ramana from doing so because he was scheduled to retire on August 26. In fact, Justice Lalit had made it clear to Chief Justice Ramana that he would not attend such a meeting, even if it were called.

Two days prior to the government asking CJI Ramana to request a recommendation for the choice of his successor, Justice Lalit had written the letter.

On August 3, at 9.30 p.m., the government’s letter was delivered to CJI’s office. Justice Lalit was suggested by CJI Ramana as his replacement less than 12 hours later.

Following Justice Lalit’s swearing-in as Chief Justice of India on August 27, collegium meetings were held.

The fact that the Centre has already asked him to name his successor—in this case, the most senior judge, Justice DY Chandrachud—means that CJI Lalit cannot convene the collegium meeting in addition to the time constraint.

It will be fascinating to see if CJI Lalit abides by the self-imposed rule and continues the custom of proposing Justice Chandrachud to the government as his successor as soon as practicable.

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