SC collegium decides: Freeze on new postings until the next CJI takes over

The Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, met on Wednesday and decided not to make any recommendations for the appointment of judges to the next CJI, Justice U U Lalit, till the end of this month.

Hours after the meeting, the CJI’s secretariat said it had received a communication from the Union Law Minister on August 3 at 9.30 pm, requesting the CJI to “recommend the name of his successor”.

“I have written to the Chief Justice and hope for a response soon,” Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told The Indian Express Thursday.

In the collegium meeting, it is learned that some members expressed their opinion that it would be more prudent to wait till the next Chief Justice assumes office for the appointments to be recommended to the High Courts and the Supreme Court. CJI Ramana is due to retire on August 26.

According to the established convention, the collegium does not make any fresh recommendation for such appointments once the incumbent CJI recommends his successor and the most senior judge is named the CJI-designate.

As per the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), which is the document governing the process of appointment of judges and appointment of the next CJI, the Law Minister asks the outgoing Chief Justice of India to recommend the next CJI.

The MoP states that the Chief Justice of India should be “the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office”.

The MoP states that the CJI’s views must be sought “at the appropriate time” but does not specify a timeline for the process — conventionally, the process takes place a month before the retirement of the incumbent CJI.

When Justice Ramana took over as CJI on April 24, 2021, the Law Minister had written to the then CJI SA Bobde on March 20, 2021. Justice Bobde is believed to have written back on March 24, 2021, recommending Justice Ramana.

If appointed, Justice U U Lalit, who is the most senior judge of the Supreme Court, will have a tenure of three months before retiring on November 8, 2022.

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