Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Supreme Court pushes for ‘full’ strength of 31


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Collegium system

Mains level : Judiciary and associated issues

  • At one stroke, the Supreme Court Collegium, led by CJI has recommended two judges’ names for elevation to the apex court.
  • If the four judges are elevated without delay, the Supreme Court would reach the full sanctioned strength of 31.

Supreme Court Collegium

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the CJI and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
  • Article 124 to 147 in Part V of the Indian Constitution envisages the powers, independence and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • However there is no direct mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • This system of appointment of judges came into existence after the Third Judges Case which interpreted constitutional articles on October 28, 1998.
  • The recommendations of Collegium are binding on the government.

Size of the court

  • Initially the Constitution of India provided for a supreme court with a chief justice and 7 judges.
  • In the early years, a full bench of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them.
  • As the work of the court increased and cases began to accumulate, parliament increased the number of judges(including CJI) from the original 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009 (current strength).

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the Supreme Court, who has been:

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India
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