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Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

GS Paper 2

Topics Covered: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.


Context: Swearing-in of the nine new judges of Supreme Court

  • Nine new Supreme Court judges were administered their oaths of office by Chief Justice NV Ramana. It is for the first time in the history of Supreme Court that nine judges took oath of office at one go.
  • With the swearing-in of the nine new judges, the strength of the Supreme Court has now increased to 33, including the CJI, out of the sanctioned strength of 34.
  • Three of them were women judges. One of them, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, is slated to be Chief Justice of India in 2027. With this addition, the apex court will have four women judges for the first time.
  • It was the first time the Supreme Court allowed a live telecast of the ceremony.


Collegium System:

  • It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  • There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the CJI and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
  • A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.


Related Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 124(2)of the Indian Constitution provides that the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President after consultation with such a number of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.
  • Article 217of the Indian Constitution states that the Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court.


Evolution of the Collegium System in Judiciary:

First Judges Case (1981): It declared that the “primacy” of the Chief Justice of India (CJI)s recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”

The ruling gave the Executive primacy over the Judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.

Second Judges Case (1993): Supreme Court introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.

It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.

Third Judges Case (1998): Supreme Court on President’s reference expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.



Prelims Link:

  1. What is collegium?
  2. How are Judges of Supreme Court and high courts appointed?
  3. Appointment of retired judges.
  4. Related constitutional provisions.
  5. Powers and functions.

Mains Link:

Discuss the issues associated with collegium system for the appointment of judges.

Source: The Hindu