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Appointment of Chief Justice of India

  • Published
    30th Aug, 2022
Context

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit has been appointed as the 49th Chief Justice of India, the highest-ranking officer of the Indian federal Judiciary.

About

About new Chief Justice of India, Justice UU Lalit:

  • Justice Lalit will have a relatively short tenure of over three months with his retirement scheduled for November 8.
  • He will also only be the second CJI to have been appointed directly from the Bar, without serving as a judge of a high court.

Qualification for Chief Justice of India:

Apart from being an Indian citizen, the person must

  1. have been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession or
  2. have been for at least ten years an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession, or
  3. be, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist.

Who appoints the CJI?

  • The appointment of judges to the higher judiciary is done by the collegium system.
  • The Chief Justice of India and the other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President under clause (2) of Article 124 of the Indian Constitution.
  • It is mentioned in Article 124 that appointment by the President is to be done “after consultation” with judges of the Supreme Court, as the President may “deem necessary”.
  • Article 217, which deals with the appointment of High Court judges, says the President should consult the CJI, Governor, and Chief Justice of the High Court concerned.
  • Further, the tenure of a CJI is until they attain the age of 65 years, while High Court judges retire at 62 years.

Recommendation of the successor

  • As is the protocol, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is designated as the CJI.
  • As per practice, a formal recommendation of the CJI-designate is sought from the incumbent CJI, roughly about a month ahead of the latter’s date of retirement.
  • The seniority of judges is determined by the number of years they have served as a judge of the Supreme Court, and it is not determined by their age.
    • In case two judges were sworn in as Supreme Court judges on the same day, the judge to take oath first would assume seniority.
  • Seniority of judges becomes the basis for the formation of the collegium and the line of succession for the post of CJI.
  • The recommendation of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is officially communicated by the incumbent CJI to the Ministry of Law and Justice, which, then, relays the communication to the Prime Minister as per the existing Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
  • The Prime Minister advises the President on the recommendation and the executive head subsequently makes the appointment under the powers conferred on her under Article 124(2) to make appointments of judges to India’s top court.

Procedure for removal of CJI:

The constitution states:

  • A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except 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 and voting, with the address in the same session presented to the President for removal on one of the two grounds – proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
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