SC’s working strength comes down to 26 judges against sanctioned judge strength of 34; No Collegium recommendation since Aug 2019

WITH the retirement of Justice Ashok Bhushan, the working strength of the Supreme Court has come down to 26 judges against the sanctioned strength of 34 judges including the Chief Justice of India. Two more vacancies will arise next month with the retirement of Justic Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Naveen Sinha.

Justice Nariman is part of the Supreme Court Collegium and is the senior-most judge at present. Besides him, the Collegium currently has Justices AM Khanwilkar, UU Lalit, DY Chandrachud and CJI NV Ramana as head of the body.

Justice NV Ramana took over as the CJI on April 24 this year.

The Supreme Court Collegium had last made recommendations to elevate judges to the top court on August 28, 2019. The Collegium then comprised the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and RF Nariman. Since then the Collegium headed by CJI SA Bobde between Novemeber 18, 2019 to April 24, 2021 failed to make a single appointment to the Supreme Court despite clear vacancies.

Since August 28, 2019, as many as seven judges have retired including Justice SA Bobde, while the one judge Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar passed away while in office.

The last recommedee of the Collegium were Justices Krishna Murari, S. Ravindra Bhat, V. Ramasubramanian and Hrishikesh Roy.

Eariler this year, a Parliamentary Committee said the composition of the higher judiciary should reflect the country’s socio-economic diversity and inclusiveness. At present, the Supreme Court has only one female judge – Justice Indira Banerjee. The report had also flagged the vacancies in the Supreme Court and the high courts.