As Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana retired on August 26, the legal community was united in its praise for the manner in which the Supreme Court Collegium under him seemed to have found renewed vigour and managed to substantially fill up vacancies at High Courts and the Supreme Court.
At one point during his tenure, the top court was working at its full strength of 34 judges.
Over the next five years, the Collegium, which is the body primarily responsible for appointments to the higher judiciary in India, will be headed by six different CJIs, beginning with CJI UU Lalit.
Tenure as CJI: August 27, 2022 - November 8, 2022
CJI UU Lalit is one of only a handful of judges of the Supreme Court who were elevated directly from the Bar, and the second CJI to be directly elevated from the Supreme Court Bar, after Justice SM Sikri in 1971. He also has one of the shortest tenures as CJI, with only 74 days in office.
The Collegium during CJI Lalit's tenure will have a woman member, for only the third time in the Supreme Court's history.
Justice Indira Banerjee is the eighth woman judge of the Supreme Court out of a total of eleven, and the third woman Collegium member, preceded only by Justices Ruma Pal and R Banumathi. After her retirement on September 23 this year, it will be three more years until the Collegium has another female member.
Once she retires, the Collegium will comprise Justices DY Chandrachud, SK Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer and KM Joseph.
Tenure as CJI : November 9, 2022 - November 10, 2024
Justice Chandrachud will create history when he assumes office as the 50th Chief Justice of India on November 9, 2022, as he and his father, Justice YV Chandrachud, will become the only father-son CJI duo in history.
In stark contrast to the tenure of CJI Lalit, Justice Chandrachud will have one of the longest tenures as CJI in the last ten years.
Before his elevation to the Supreme Court in May 2016, he was Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and a judge of the Bombay High Court.
The Collegium, during the two-year tenure of Justice Chandrachud as CJI, will undergo a sea change in members, with as many as eleven judges being part of the body at various points.
Justice Chandrachud's tenure will begin with a Collegium comprising Justices SK Kaul, Abdul Nazeer, KM Joseph and MR Shah. All four judges are due to retire in 2023.
Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, Surya Kant, Hrishikesh Roy, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose and AS Bopanna will all be members of the Collegium during this period, with the last three exiting the body during the tenure of CJI Chandrachud.
By November 2024, the Collegium will comprise Justices Khanna, Kant, Gavai and Roy, the first three of whom will be elevated as CJI in the coming years. Justice Abhay S Oka will take his seat on the Collegium after Justice Chandrachud retires.
Tenure as CJI: November 11, 2024 - May 13, 2025
Justice Khanna was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India on January 18, 2019, after serving as a judge of the Delhi High Court for fourteen years.
Justice Khanna's half a year as CJI will only see a single change in the Collegium, with future CJI Vikram Nath replacing Justice Roy. By May 2025, the Collegium headed by CJI Khanna will comprise Justices Gavai, Kant, Oka and Nath. Justice JK Maheshwari will be inducted into the Collegium upon CJI Khanna's retirement on May 13, 2025.
Tenure as CJI : May 14, 2025 - November 23, 2025
Justice Gavai joined the Bar in March 1985 and practiced independently at the Bombay High Court until his elevation as a judge of the High Court in 2003.He was elevated to the Supreme Court of India on May 24, 2019.
He was the first Dalit judge in nearly a decade to appointed to the top court, a fact which was clearly mentioned in the Collegium resolution recommending his elevation.
He will also be the second ever Dalit Chief Justice of India after Justice KG Balakrishnan, who retired in 2010.
Justices BR Gavai's tenure as CJI is for little over 6 months, but during this time, Justice BV Nagarathna, who will be the first woman CJI, will become part of the Collegium.
After the retirement of Justice Abhay S Oka in May 2025, the Collegium will comprise Justices Kant, Nath, Makeshwari and Nagarathna. Justice MM Sundresh will enter the Collegium after CJI Gavai's retirement on November 23, 2025.
Tenure as CJI : November 24, 2025 - February 9, 2027
While recommending his name for elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court, the Collegium stated that even though Justice Kant was 11th on the seniority list, it was choosing him to prioritise representation from all High Courts.
Justice Kant had served as a judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court and Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
Even though Justice Kant has a substantially long tenure as CJI, the Collegium will undergo only one change.
Justice JK Maheshwari will be replaced by Justice PS Narasimha at the end of June 2026. Justices Nath, Nagarathna and Sundresh will be the other members. After CJI Kant retires, Justice JB Pardiwala will enter the Collegium.
Tenure as CJI: February 10, 2027 - September 23, 2027
Justice Nath was elevated from the Bar as a judge of the Allahabad High Court in 2004. He was later elevated as the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in September 2019. He was the first Chief Justice of a High Court in the country to live stream court proceedings on YouTube.
He was elevated to the Supreme Court on August 31, 2021.
The Collegium under Justice Nath will comprise Justices Nagarathna, Sundresh, Narasimha and Pardiwala until the retirement of Justice Sundresh on July 20, 2027.
Tenure as CJI : September 24, 2027 - October 29, 2027
The 55th Chief Justice of India, Justice BV Nagarathna, will be the first ever woman Chief Justice of India.
However, her tenure will be for 36 days - the third shortest tenure of a CJI.
Justice Nagarathna is the daughter of Justice ES Venkataramiah, the 19th Chief Justice of India. Before her elevation to the Supreme Court on August 31, 2021, she was a judge of the Karnataka High Court.
As of now, the only members of the Collegium during Justice Nagarathna's tenure are Justices Narasimha and Pardiwala. The other two spots will be occupied by judges who are yet to be appointed to the top court.
Both Justices Narasimha and Pardiwala will become CJI during their careers.
Like CJI Lalit, Justice Narasimha was elevated directly from the Bar and will serve as CJI from October 30, 2027 to May 2, 2028.
Justice Pardiwala will be CJI for just over two years from May 3, 2028 to August 11, 2030.