The NDA government on Wednesday cleared four names for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court. President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the appointment of Madhya Pradesh high court chief justice AM Khanwilkar, Allahabad high court chief justice DY Chandrachud, Kerala high court chief justice Ashok Bhushan and senior advocate and former additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao as Supreme Court judges.
“4 Supreme Court Judges appointed today. Recommendations from SC collegium received on 3.5.2016 and appointed on 11.5.16. Govt. took 6 working days in processing and appointing (sic.),” law minister DV Sadananda Gowda announced on twitter.
They are likely to take oath at the earliest after issuance of a formal notification by the Law Ministry, government sources said.
With these four appointments, the Supreme Court’s current strength would go up from 25 judges to 29 judges against a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, helping it in its struggle against a backlog of 60,000 cases.
The top court’s collegium headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had last week recommended these four names for elevation as SC judges.
Rao, who represented Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa in a corruption case in the Supreme Court, has also served as an ASG for the UPA-II government and the present NDA government. If appointed, Rao would be the third senior advocate in recent years after UU Lalit and R Nariman to be made an SC judge.
These appointments to the top court assume significance as five more vacancies are due to occur in the SC later this year. The judges due to retire include - justice FMI Kalifulla (July), justice V Gopala Gowda and justice C Nagappan (October), justice Anil R Dave and justice Shiva Kirti Singh (November). Delay in appointment of judges to the SC can reduce the SC’s strength to 20 at the end of this year.
Last month, CJI Thakur had almost broken down while talking about judicial vacancies and the problem of backlog and blasted the government for not implementing the Law Commission’s 1987 recommendations that required the judges’ strength to be increased to 40,000. Currently, there are only 21,000 sanctioned posts of judges and 4,000 of these posts are vacant.
1. AM Khanwilkar
Born in Pune, 58-year-old Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar is the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Before being appointed to this position on 23 November 2013, Khanwilkar was the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. Prior to this, he was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Bombay HC in 2000 and confirmed as permanent Judge in 2002.
2. DY Chandradud
Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud was born in November 1959 to the 16th Chief Justice of India, Yeshawant Vishnu Chandradud. He obtained an LL.M. degree and completed his Doctorate of Judicial Sciences at Harvard University. He has had a successful career as a lawyer and was appointed Judge of Bombay HC before being sworn in as Chief Justice of Allahabad HC in 2013.
59-year-old Ashok Bhushan was sworn in as the 31st Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court in March 2015. Born in Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh) in 1956, Ashok Bhushan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in arts before obtaining a law degree in 1979. He worked as an advocate in the Allahabad HC before being elevated as a permanent Judge of the same HC in 2001.
4.L Nageswara Rao
The only lawyer of the four recommendations, Lavu Nageswara Rao is a former Additional Solicitor General. He studied law in his hometown Guntur and practised as an advocate in the Andhra Pradesh High Court before moving to Delhi to practise at the Supreme Court. At present, he is a senior advocate.