Four Supreme Court judges take oath of office taking total strength to 34

Four new Supreme Court judges took oath of office on Monday, taking the total strength of judges in the apex court to 34.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi administered the oath of office and secrecy to justices Krishna Murari, S Ravindra Bhat, V Ramasubramanian and Hrishikesh Roy in a simple function in courtroom 1.

The appointment takes the number of judges in the apex court to the total sanctioned strength of 34, including the CJI.

Justices Murari and Bhat headed the Punjab and Haryana and Rajasthan high courts respectively.

Justices Ramasubramanian and Roy headed the Himachal Pradesh and Kerala high courts respectively.

With a huge backlog of cases in the top court, the Centre had last Wednesday cleared the names of the four high court chief justices who were recommended by the apex court Collegium on August 30 for elevation.

The sanctioned strength of Supreme Court judges was increased days after the Chief Justice wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

According to a written reply by the Law Ministry to a Rajya Sabha question on July 11 this year, 59,331 cases are pending in the top court.

Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed, the CJI had said.

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of ten judges (excluding the CJI).

This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.

The working strength of the Supreme Court was, however, restricted to 15 judges by the Cabinet (excluding the CJI) till the end of 1979. But the restriction was withdrawn at the request of the chief justice of India.

In 1986, the strength of the top court was increased to 25, excluding the CJI. Subsequently, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further augmented the strength of the court from 25 to 30.

President’s nod to increase number of Supreme Court judges

President Ram Nath Kovind has signed into law a Bill which seeks to increase the sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court from 30 to 33 besides the Chief Justice of India.

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament earlier this week.

With no vacancy, the present strength of the apex court is 31, including the chief justice of India.

After the law comes into force, the sanctioned strength of SC will be 33, besides the CJI.

The move to increase the strength of judges by 3 or 10 per cent comes against the backdrop of rising cases in the top court which stand at nearly 60,000.

The decision also comes days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

According to a written reply by the Law Ministry to a Rajya Sabha question on July 11,59,331 cases are pending in the top court.

Due to paucity of judges, the required number of constitution benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed, the CJI said.

“You would recall that way back in 1988, about three decades ago, the judge strength of the SC was increased from 18 to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution,” he wrote.

Once the amended law comes into force, the Supreme Court collegium will recommend three names to the government for appointment as SC judges, a government functionary said.

Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Sanjiv Khanna sworn-in as SC judges

Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna were sworn-in as Supreme Court judges on Friday.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi administered the oath of office to justices Maheshwari and Khanna during the swearing-in ceremony held in court number 1 of the apex court.

The sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court is 31. With the swearing-in of justices Maheshwari and Khanna, the strength has now gone up to 28.

While Justice Maheshwari was the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Khanna was a judge in the Delhi High Court.

The government had on Wednesday notified the appointment of justices Maheshwari and Khanna as judges of the apex court.

The five-member Supreme Court Collegium, comprising CJI Gogoi and justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Arun Mishra, had on January 10 recommended the names of justices Maheshwari and Khanna for elevation as apex court judges.

The names of the chief justices of the Rajasthan and Delhi high courts, justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon respectively, were considered by the collegium on December 12, 2018 for elevation, but the deliberation remained inconclusive and one of the members of the collegium, Justice M B Lokur, retired on December 30, 2018.

His place in the collegium was taken by Justice Arun Mishra.

The new collegium had, on January 10, ignored the prospect of elevation of justices Nandrajog and Menon as apex court judges.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) had, on Wednesday, protested the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Khanna by superseding several other judges and termed the decision as “whimsical and arbitrary”.

Before the BCI made a statement protesting the collegium’s decision, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Supreme Court also wrote a note to the CJI and other members of the collegium for ignoring the seniority of justices Nandrajog and Menon.

Sources said Justice Kaul was of the view that a wrong signal would go out if the two chief justices, who were above Justice Khanna in the seniority list, were not elevated as apex court judges.

Anti-Sikh riot: Sajjan Kumar gets relief

The Supreme Court today stayed the trial court proceedings against senior Congress leader Mr Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case.

 A Bench of Mr Justice P Sathasivam and Mr Justice BS Chauhan directed the lower court not to proceed with the case till 27 July when Delhi High Court is likely to take up Mr Kumar’s plea for allowing him to cross-examine the witnesses whose statements before various commissions are being used by the CBI against him in anti-Sikh riot case.

 The SC passed the order on former MP Mr Kumar’s appeal challenging the High Court’s order which had refused to stay the trial against him in anti-Sikh riot case. The CBI vehemently opposed Mr Kumar’s appeal and alleged that it was a delaying tactics on his part.

 The Bench, however, was not satisfied with the agency’s plea and stayed the proceedings. The Bench also asked the HC to hear Mr Kumar’s petition expeditiously. The trial court was scheduled to commence hearing from tomorrow the final arguments on the part of accused, starting with Mr Kumar.

 Mr Kumar has appealed in the HC against the trial court order which had refused to allow him to use a riot victim’s statements to the various judicial commissions, including G T Nanavati and Ranganath Mishra Commissions, in the past to defend himself.

 He said as many of the witnesses have changed their testimonies made before the commissions, he be allowed to cross-examine them with regard to those statements. Mr Kumar’s plea was earlier dismissed by the trial court which had said the witness Ms Jagdish Kaur’s statements to the judicial commissions cannot be used for any purpose, including that for discrediting her testimony or to impeach her.