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Analyzing the Appointments

The naming of Karnataka High Court judge BV Nagarathna, among the nine judges, is highly significant as she may become India’s first woman chief justice.

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The Supreme Court Collegium, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, after a meeting on August 17, 2021, recommended nine names to the centre for elevation to the post of Supreme Court judges. The naming of Karnataka High Court judge BV Nagarathna among the nine judges is highly significant as she may become India’s first woman chief justice. Another significant move which has sent positive signals to the representation of women in the highest judiciary is the recommendation of three woman judges in one single resolution. The recommendations also show that the trend to go for direct appointments from the Supreme Court Bar to the Bench continues.

If the government approves the names, three of the nine names recommended would eventually become chief justices of India. The top court currently has 10 vacancies and there has been no appointment to it since September 2019.

The Collegium is a high-powered appointment panel led by the CJI and comprises four senior judges of the top court. At present, it is headed by CJI NV Ramana and has justices UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao as its members.

The names recommended by the collegium are:

1. Justice AS Oka, Chief Justice, Karnataka High Court

2. Justice Vikram Nath, Chief Justice, Gujarat High Court

3. Justice JK Maheshwari, Chief Justice, Sikkim High Court

4. Justice Hima Kohli, Chief Justice, Telangana High Court

5. Justice BV Nagarathna, Judge, Karnataka High Court

6. Justice CT Ravikumar, Judge, Kerala High Court

7. Justice MM Sundresh, Judge, Madras High Court

8. Justice Bela M Trivedi, Judge, Gujarat High Court

9. PS Narasimha, Senior Advocate

The Collegium has recommended only one name from the Bar, that of former Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha. If the central government accepts the recommendations and appoints all the recommended names, the Supreme Court will have a working strength of 33 judges against a sectioned strength of 34.

The Supreme Court would have four women judges, if the names are approved, including sitting judge Indira Banerjee, who was the eighth woman judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

1.Justice AS Oka

Born on May 25, 1960.

Did his B.Sc., LL.M. from University of Bombay.

Enrolled as an Advocate on June 28,1983.

Started practising in Thane District Court in the chamber of his father Shreeniwas W Oka.

In 1985-86, he joined the chamber of VP Tipnis, a former judge of the Bombay High Court and former Lokayukta.

Appeared in serveral important matters and in public interest litigations.

Elevated as Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court on August 29, 2003.

Appointed as a permanent Judge from November 12, 2005.

Took oath as the Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka on May 10, 2019.

During the pandemic, several of Oka’s rulings in the Bombay High Court protected the rights of migrant workers in Mumbai and also questioned the state government’s handling of the pandemic.

2. Justice Vikram Nath

Born on September 24, 1962.

Presently, he is Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court and former Judge in the Allahabad High Court.

He was earlier recommended as Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court but the centre disapproved the recommendations.

He is the first chief justice of a High Court in India to livestream its proceedings on YouTube during the 2020 pandemic. He questioned the state government’s management of Covid-19 in Gujarat, addressing issues like lack of hospital beds and shortage of emergency medicines.

3. Justice JK Maheshwari

Born on June 29, 1961 in Joura, Madhya Pradesh. 

In January 2021, he assumed office as the Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court.

Before that, he served as Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court and a Judge in Madhya Pradesh High Court.

He was a practicing lawyer in Gwalior before he got elevated to the bench.

4. Justice Hima Kohli

Born on September 2, 1959 in Delhi.

She did her schooling at St. Thomas School and graduated in History (Hons) from the St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi.

She completed her post-graduation in History and joined the LLB course at the Law Faculty, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.

On completing the course in 1984, she got enrolled as an Advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi.

She was appointed as an Additional Judge of the High Court of Delhi on May 29, 2006.

Took oath as a permanent Judge on August 29, 2007.

 Justice Kohli functioned as the chairperson of a high-powered committee constituted by the Delhi government since March last in relation to an order passed by the SC for decongestion of jails in all states/UTs in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

5. Justice BV Nagarathna

Born on October 30, 1962.

Enrolled as an Advocate on October 28, 1987 at Bangalore.

She was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court on February 18, 2008 and was made a permanent judge on February 17, 2010.

She is the daughter of former Chief of India Justice ES Venkataramiah.

If appointed as a Supreme Court judge, she will have a term till October 29, 2027, which would include a tenure of one month and six days as the first Woman chief justice of India (CJI). She may succeed Justice Vikram Nath, who would retire as CJI on September 23, 2027.

6. Justice CT Ravikumar

Born on January 6, 1960.

He is the second most senior judge of the Kerala High Court.

Justice CT Ravikumar is also the Executive Chairman, Kerala State Legal Services Authority, which provides free legal aid services to the weaker sections of the society and also organises Lok Adalats for the amicable settlement of disputes.

7. Justice MM Sundresh

Born on July 21, 1962 at Erode.

Completed school and pre-university education at Erode.

Completed BA at Loyola College, Chennai and Bachelor of Law at Madras Law College.

Was enrolled as an Advocate in 1985.

Was elevated to the Madras High Court from the Bar, on March 31, 2009.

His appointment was made permanent on March 29, 2011.

It was Justice Sundresh who delivered the judgment that effectively banned the erection of advertisements, banners and hoardings near traffic signals. He was also the counsel for the TN Small Scale Industries Development Corporation. He was also a member of the monitoring committee overseeing the establishment of the Reverse Osmosis System to Dyeing Units of Tiruppur, Karur and Erode.

8. Justice Bela M Trivedi

Born on June 10, 1960.

Currently, she is a judge of the Gujarat High Court from February 9 2016.

She formerly served as the Additional Judge of the Gujarat High Court from February 17, 2011 to June 27, 2011 and later served as the Additional Judge of the Rajasthan High Court.

At Gujarat High Court, Justice Trivedi had to deal with a mixed bag of cases. In 2018, she strongly rebuked student unions for protests at Gujarat University. Her observation that students should focus on studies and could build their careers in politics later was met with mixed reactions.

Last year, an inquiry was ordered after Justice Trivedi received a phone call asking her, on behalf of a Congress MLA, to not grant bail in a case. However, it was later revealed that the petitioner in the case had coerced someone to pretend to be the MLA to move the decision in their favour.

9. PS Narasimha, Senior Advocate

Born in May 1963

PS Narasimha is the son of illustrious Justice P Kodandaramayya who played a very important role in the publication of major Sanskrit texts with commentaries in the Telugu language through Arsha Vignana Trust and is himself an author on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

If recommended for the SC judge, Narasimha would become the sixth lawyer to be elevated to the Bench directly from the Bar after the Collegium system for appointment of judges came into existence in 1993.

After 1993, five lawyers—N Santosh Hegde, RF Nariman, UU Lalit, LN Rao and Indu Malhotra— became apex court judges after being directly elevated from the Bar to the top court bench.

Narasimha is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court and a former Additional Solicitor General of India.

In the Ayodhya case, he represented Ram Lalla Virajman and appeared for Mahant Ramachandradas. He was one of the advocates who was felicitated by the VHP and the RSS at Ayodhya after the verdict.

He was recently in the news for his involvement in bringing about major changes in the functioning of the BCCI, as the Amicus Curiae appointed by the Supreme Court of India.

—By Abhinav Verma and India Legal News Service

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