Outgoing CJI S A Bobde has called a meeting of the Supreme Court collegium on Thursday (April 8), though CJI-designate Justice Ramana has reportedly taken a day off, casting doubts over the meeting, media reports said.
Once the president appoints a CJI-designate, all files are routed through the next CJI and the incumbent avoids holding collegium meetings aimed at appointing judges to the SC and high courts or transfer of HC judges.
Reports said at least two judges have expressed their reservations over Bobde’s decision. The argument is that since the president has issued warrants of appointment for the next CJI, it would not be proper for the incumbent CJI to make any recommendation.
On April 6, President Ram Nath Kovind appointed the senior-most SC judge NV Ramana as the next CJI. He will take oath on April 24, a day after Bobde retires.
The Indian Express said CJI Bobde did not change his decision even after reservations were expressed and that the meeting was scheduled before the presidential notification was issued.
The collegium consists of five judges. Apart from CJI Bobde and Justice Ramana, it includes Justices Rohinton Nariman, UU Lalit and AM Khanwilkar.
The Express quoted former CJI RM Lodha as saying that there is no convention that the outgoing CJI cannot make recommendations towards the fag end of his tenure. “It all depends on how he takes his colleagues into confidence,” Lodha said.
Media reports said there is no guarantee that the Union government would go by Justice Bobde’s recommendation, if at all there is any, on appointment of SC judges. The collegium meeting call also comes in the backdrop of protracted impasse on recommending Justice Akil Kureshi, chief justice of Tripura High Court, to the apex court. Besides, the process of appointment of at least six SC judges is yet to begin.
In 2019, Justice Kureshi was appointed chief justice of Tripura after the government raised objections to the collegium’s initial recommendation to appoint him as CJ of Madhya Pradesh.
The SC is currently short of five judges. No recommendation was made to the government during Bobde’s 14-month tenure. Besides Bobde, Ashok Bhushan, Nariman and Navin Sinha will retire this year. The last appointment made to the SC was in September 2019.