Struggling to clear a backlog of 60,000 cases, the Supreme Court is likely to get four more judges, taking its current strength from 25 to 29 against a sanctioned strength of 31.
The top court’s collegium headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur is understood to have recommended the names of senior advocate L Nageswara Rao, Allahabad high court chief justice DY Chandrachud, Madhya Pradesh HC chief justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar, and Kerala HC chief justice Ashok Bhushan for elevation as SC judges.
Rao, who represented Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in a corruption case in the SC, has also served as an additional solicitor general for the UPA-II government and the present NDA government. If appointed, he would be the third senior advocate in recent years to be made an SC judge, after UU Lalit and R Nariman.
Sources said the law ministry was processing the files without waiting for the finalisation of the memorandum of procedure for appointment of judges. These would be the first appointments after a constitution bench of the SC in October 2015 revived the 22-year-old collegium system of judges appointing others by striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC) that gave the government some say in judicial appointments. The last appointment to SC happened in February 2015 when Justice Amitava Roy was elevated.
The appointments assume significance as five more vacancies are due to be filled later this year. The judges due to retire include Justice FMI Kalifulla (July), Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice C Nagappan (both in October), and Justice Anil R Dave and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh (both in November).
Bound for the apex court?
1. L Nageswara Rao
he 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 HC before moving to the SC in Delhi. The collegium had picked him in 2014 as well but he had then turned it down. At present, he is a senior advocate.
2. Ashok Bhushan
The 59-year-old was sworn in as the 31st Chief Justice of the Kerala HC in March 2015. Born in Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh) in 1956, he 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.
3. DY Chandradud
Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud was born in Nov 1959 to the 16th Chief Justice of India, YV Chandradud. He obtained an LLM degree and completed his doctorate of judicial sciences from Harvard University. He has had a successful career and was appointed judge of Bombay HC before being sworn in as chief justice of Allahabad HC in 2013.
4. AM Khanwilkar
Born in Pune, 58-year-old Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar is chief justice of MP HC. Before being appointed to this position on November 23, 2013, Khanwilkar was the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh HC. Prior to this, he was appointed as an additional judge of the Bombay HC in 2000 and confirmed as permanent judge in 2002.