Commencing the process of appointing the next Chief Justice of India, the Ministry of Justice has sought the advice of incumbent CJI NV Ramana, the Indian Express has learned. Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju wrote to CJI Ramana on July 25, asking him to recommend his successor. Sources said the CJI, which is due to retire on August 26, has yet to respond.
According to the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the document that governs the process of appointing judges, the Minister of Justice asks the outgoing CJI to recommend his successor. The MoP says the CJI should be “the most senior Supreme Court justice found fit to hold the office”.
Although the MoP indicates that the opinion of the outgoing CJI should be sought “when appropriate”, but does not specify a timetable for the process, this usually takes place a month before the retirement of the incumbent CJI. The Minister of Justice then submits the views of the CJI to the Prime Minister, who advises the President on the appointment.
“Whenever there is any doubt about the suitability of the most senior judge to serve as Chief Justice of India, consultation with other judges… would be made for the appointment of the next Chief Justice of India,” the document reads.
As the longest-serving Supreme Court Justice after the retirement of the current CJI, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit is the next to be appointed to the top job. If appointed, he will serve a three-month term, as he is due to retire on November 8 this year. The second oldest judge after Judge Lalit is Judge DY Chandrachud.
If approved, Judge Lalit will be only the second CJI, after former CJI SM Sikri, to be appointed directly from the Bar. Judge Sikri was CJI from January 1971 to April 1973.
Born in 1957, Justice Lalit registered as a barrister in the Bombay High Court in 1983. Prior to his appointment as SC judge in 2014, he appeared as a special prosecutor for the Central Bureau of Investigation in the 2G trial.
After CJI Ramana’s retirement, the Supreme Court will have 30 justices, up from a sanctioned complement of 34 justices.