Collegium System for Appointments/Elevation of Judges/Lawyers

Supreme Court Collegium, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A. K. Sikri, S. A. Bobde, N. V. Ramana and Arun Mishra, as per its resolution – having taken into consideration combined seniority on all India basis of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, eligible for elevation to the Supreme Court, apart from their merit and integrity, keeping in mind the desirability of giving due representation on the Bench of the Supreme Court, as far as possible, to all the High Courts; resolved on 10 January 2019 to recommend that Mr Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna be appointed as Judges in the Supreme Court of India. The Collegium was of the considered view that these persons are more deserving and suitable in all respects than others.

Supreme Court was functioning with 26 Judges against the sanctioned strength of 31 Judges. The Collegium unanimously resolved to fill up two of the five existing vacancies of Judges in the Supreme Court. Mr Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna were sworn-in on Friday 18 January 2019, taking the number of sitting judges of the Supreme Court to 28, still leaving 03 clear vacancies.

The collegium’s recommendation for their elevation created controversy as Mr. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari stands at Sl. No. 21 and Mr. Justice Sanjiv Khanna at Sl. No. 33 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis.

The collegium’s controversial decision to elevate Justice Sanjiv Khanna from the Delhi high court to the Supreme Court may have reportedly been driven by a desire to ensure continuity in the top court’s leadership, as going by seniority Justice Khanna, aged 58, is in line to become chief justice of India (CJI) in November 2024 for a term of seven months.

Supreme Court of India was inaugurated on January 28, 1950. It succeeded the Federal Court of India which was established under the Government of India Act, 1935.

Article 124 to 147 in Part V of the Indian Constitution envisages the powers, independence and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

  • Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
  • Collegium System does not find mention either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • Collegiums System of appointment of judges was born through “three judges case “which interpreted constitutional articles on 28 October 1998.
  • Collegium sends the recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government.
  • Central Government also similarly sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium.
  • Central Government does the fact checking and investigate the names and resends the file to the Collegium.
  • Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval.
  • If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.

Government in the year 2014 had tried to bring a new system known as National Judicial Appointments Commission but was declared as unconstitutional by the SC as it was against the power of separation which is a basic structure of the constitution.

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