NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented decision that would go against a long-standing convention, Chief Justice S A Bobde has scheduled Supreme Court collegium meetings on Thursday even after the President appointed Justice NV Ramana, the senior-most SC judge, as CJI designate.
CJI Bobde will retire on April 23. Justice Ramana was appointed on Tuesday as the next CJI and will take oath on April 24.
It is a convention that once the President appoints a CJI-designate, all files get routed through the next CJI and the incumbent refrains from holding collegium meetings to recommend appointment of judges to the SC or HCs, appointment of chief justices of HCs or transfers of HC judges.
Though CJI Bobde has convened collegium meetings, there is no guarantee that recommendations for appointment of people as SC judges, if at all made, would be honoured by the Union government.
Sources in the law ministry said the government may not accept the recommendations made by the collegium headed by CJI Bobde in breach of convention. Justice Bobde took oath as CJI on November 18, 2019, and will retire after a tenure of one year and five months.
Though many collegium meetings were held, differences of opinion among the CJI and member judges — Justices Ramana, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and AM Khanwilkar — prevented the CJI from recommending even a single name for appointment as SC judge.
As a result, the oldest vacancy in the SC, caused by Justice Ranjan Gogoi‘s retirement on November 17, 2019, has not yet been filled. Since then, four more judges — Justices Deepak Gupta, R Banu mathi, Arun Mishra and Indu Malhotra — have retired, taking the total vacancies in the SC to five.
Though the convention is against an incumbent CJI presiding over collegium meetings after the President has named his successor, CJI Bobde has decided to ignore it. If the government does not accept the recommendations, if any, made by the collegium on Thursday, then too CJI Bobde would become the only CJI to retire without appointing a single judge to the SC.