Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Justice Lalit appointed 49th CJI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Appointment of CJI

Mains level: Not Much

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was appointed the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI) after President Droupadi Murmu signed his warrant of appointment.

How is CJI selected?

  • Justice U.U. Lalit is the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court now.
  • The ‘Memorandum of Procedure of Appointment of Supreme Court Judges’ says “appointment to the office of the CJI should be of the seniormost Judge of the SC considered fit to hold the office”.
  • The process begins with the Union Law Minister seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI about the next appointment.

What is the time frame?

  • The Minister has to seek the CJI’s recommendation at the “appropriate time”.
  • The Memorandum does NOT elaborate or specify a timeline.

Making final appointment

The Memorandum says:

  1. Receipt of the recommendation of the CJI
  2. The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will put up the recommendation to the PM
  3. PM will advise the President in the matter of appointment
  4. President of India appoints the CJI

Chief Justice of India: A brief background

  • The CJI is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of India as well as the highest-ranking officer of the Indian federal judiciary.


  • The Constitution of India grants power to the President to nominate, and with the advice and consent of the Parliament, appoint a chief justice, who serves until they reach the age of 65 or until removed by impeachment.
  • Earlier, it was a convention to appoint seniormost judges.
  • However, this has been broken twice. In 1973, Justice A. N. Ray was appointed superseding 3 senior judges.
  • Also, in 1977 Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg was appointed as the chief justice superseding Justice Hans Raj Khanna.


The Indian Constitution says in Article 124 (3) that in order to be appointed as a judge in the Supreme Court of India, the person has to fit in the following criteria:

  • He/She is a citizen of India and
  • has been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
  • has been for at least ten years an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
  • is, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist


  • As head of the Supreme Court, the CJI is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law.
  • In accordance with Article 145 of the Constitution and the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure of 1966, the chief justice allocates all work to the other judges.

On the administrative side, the CJI carries out the following functions:

  • maintenance of the roster; appointment of court officials and general and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court


  • Article 124(4) of the Constitution lays down the procedure for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court which is applicable to chief justices as well.
  • Once appointed, the chief justice remains in the office until the age of 65 years. He can be removed only through a process of removal by Parliament as follows:
  • He/She can be removed by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present.
  • The voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proven misbehavior or incapacity.



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