Reports stated that on April 12 last, the Collegium comprising Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and RF Nariman, had cleared the names of Justices Bose and Bopanna for the apex court.
The file was, however, returned to Assam-born Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi by the Centre for “reconsideration”.
The five-member Collegium headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi has decided that Justices Bhushan R Gavai and Surya Kant’s names will also be recommended for elevation as Supreme Court judges.
If all the four judges get elevated, the total sanctioned strength of judges in the top court will go up to 31. Presently, it is functioning with 27 judges.
Recommending Justice Gavai’s elevation, the Collegium resolution dated May 8 said, “the Supreme Court bench will have a judge belonging to Scheduled Caste category after about a decade”. “His recommendation”, it said, “in no way, is to be misconstrued to mean that three seniormost judges from Bombay High Court (two of whom are serving as Chief Justices) are less suitable than Justice Gavai.”
The Centre, however, did not agree with the Collegium and returned the file to CJI.
The Collegium, after it “carefully considered the observations made by the Department of Justice”, said it was of the opinion that “as laid down by the Supreme Court in its Opinion in Re: Special Reference No 1 of 1998 reported in (1998) 7 SCC 739, though inter-se seniority amongst judges in their high courts and their combined seniority on all-India basis should be given due weightage, merit should be the predominant consideration. The Collegium accordingly kept in mind these parameters while recommending the above two names.”
The official resolution said that “on due consideration of all the aspects mentioned in the file, the Collegium resolves to reiterate” the April 12 recommendations “especially since nothing adverse regarding competence, conduct or integrity of Justices (1) Aniruddha Bose, and (2) AS Bopanna, has been pointed out.”
While recommending Justices Gavai and Surya Kant’s names, the resolution said, “the Collegium has taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of chief justices and senior puisne judges of high courts, apart from their competence, conduct and integrity.”
The Collegium, it said, “has also kept in mind the desirability of giving due representation on the bench of the Supreme Court, as far as possible, to all the high courts as well as to all sections of the society including those belonging to SC/ST/OBC categories, women and minorities. We are also conscious of the fact that some high courts have remained unrepresented in the Supreme Court.”
Justice Aniruddha Bose is chief justice of Jharkhand high court and Justice AS Bopanna the chief justice of Gauhati high court.
Justice Surya Kant is the chief justice of Himachal Pradesh high court while Justice Gavai is presently a judge of Bombay high court.