By LE Desk

New Delhi, April 8: The Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde is meeting on Thursday to consider names to fill the five judicial vacancies in the top court.

Normally, the incumbent Chief Justice does not go ahead with Collegium appointments when his successor has been officially named and appointed by the President. The time is used to effect a smooth transition.

Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, has already been appointed by the President on April 6 to take over as the Chief Justice of India effective from April 24. Chief Justice Bobde is retiring on April 23 and, probably, does not want to end his tenure without making a single appointment to the Supreme Court, The Hindu reported. During the last year, the court has strived to function without missing a day through the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Collegium, besides Chief Justice Bobde and Justice Ramana, are Justices Rohinton F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar and U.U. Lalit.

Several meetings of the Bobde Collegium in the last few weeks, even before the CJI’s recommendation of Justice Ramana as the 48th Chief Justice, had been inconclusive as the judges could not reach a consensus on the names.

The Collegium has been discussing diverse opinions from within on issues such as proportionate representation from various High Courts and seniority among High Court judges before finalising the names to recommend to the government for appointment. Proportionate representation from High Courts and seniority, though only conventions and not constitutional or legal mandates, carry weight during appointment process.

The last appointments to the Supreme Court were of Justices Krishna Murari, S. Ravindra Bhat, V. Ramasubramanian and Hrishikesh Roy in September 2019. The past several months has seen the Supreme Court function under a series of challenges posed by the pandemic even as its judicial strength faded to 29 with the recent retirement of Justice Indu Malhotra.

The oldest vacancy of the lot of current five in the Supreme Court is that of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who retired on November 17, 2019.

The year 2021 would further see four retirements in the top court, starting with Chief Justice Bobde, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Rohinton Nariman and Naveen Sinha. The latter two judges both retire in August and a few days apart.

The names of several High Court judges are in the zone of consideration.

Information published by the Law Ministry on March 1 show that the seniormost among current Chief Justices of the 25 High Courts, as per their initial appointment in 2003 and 2004, are A.S. Oka (Karnataka), Akil Abdulhamid Kureshi (Tripura), D.N. Patel (Delhi), Govind Mathur (Allahabad), Vikram Nath (Gujarat) and T.B. Radhakrishnan (Calcutta).

The name of Justice B.V. Nagarathna of the Karnataka High Court is also under consideration to replace Justice Indu Malhotra’s vacancy.

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