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The rumour mills are on overdrive regarding the elevation of new judges to the Supreme Court of India. And for good reason. The Supreme Court is currently functioning with 23 judges as against its sanctioned strength of 31. Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar had, however, said in open court on January 11 that the issue would be resolved out within a month.
This statement by the CJI has triggered the rumour mills on new elevations, and the Collegium is expected to meet soon to recommend names for elevation.
Among the names of Chief justices of various High Courts that are likely to be recommended are Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Madras High Court, Justice Navin Sinha of the Rajasthan High Court and Justice Manjula Chellur of the Bombay High Court.
According to The Hindu, both Kaul J. and Chellur J. were in the zone of consideration around July last year along with Justice KM Joseph.
The Indian Express had reported in November last year that Jammu & Kashmir High Court Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar, Gujarat High Court Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Navin Sinha, Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Ahmed Mir and Uttarakhand HC Chief Justice KM Joseph were in the reckoning for Supreme Court.
However, the tussle between the Collegium and Central government and the reluctance of Justice Jasti Chelameswar to attend Collegium meetings meant that no elevations took place to the Supreme Court after May 2016.
Here is a look at five judges who have been in the zone of consideration for Supreme Court judgeship in the recent past.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul is currently serving as Chief Justice of Madras High Court.
Justice Kaul graduated in Economics (Hons.) from St. Stephens College, Delhi University in 1979. He obtained LL.B. Degree from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University in 1982 and joined the Bar the same year. He practised in Delhi High Court and was designated Senior Advocate in 1999.
He became an additional judge of the Delhi High Court in 2001 and was made permanent judge in 2003. He became Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court in June, 2013 before being transferred to Madras High Court in July, 2014.
Things have not been easy for Justice Kaul in Madras High Court with lumpen elements at the Bar confronting the Chief Justice on more than one occasions.
Chaos had descended on the Madras High Court campus in 2015 as protesting advocates filled the court corridors with slogans and held sit-in protests to make Tamil the official language. The events had forced Justice Kaul to call for CISF protection for judges of the High Court.
Justice Kaul will retire from the High Court in 2020. If elevated to the Supreme Court, he will serve till December 2023.
Justice Navin Sinha
Justice Navin Sinha is currently the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court.
He enrolled at the Bar in 1979 and practised in Patna High Court for 23 years. He was elevated as judge of Patna High Court in 2004.
He was transferred to Chhattisgarh High Court as Chief Justice in 2014 and then to Rajasthan High Court in 2016.
He will retire from High Court in 2018 if not elevated to Supreme Court. He will have a tenure till August 2021, if he is made a Supreme Court judge.
Justice Manjula Chellur
Justice Manjula Chellur obtained an LL.B. degree from Renukacharya Law College in 1977. She started her practice in August 1978 in Bellary.
In April 1988, she joined the Karnataka Judicial Service as District Judge.
She was appointed Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court in February 2000 thus attaining the distinction of becoming the first woman judge of the Karnataka High Court.
Justice Chellur was appointed Acting Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court on November 9, 2011 and was made Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court on September 26, 2012.
She was then transferred to Calcutta High Court thus becoming the first woman Chief Justice of that court.
In August 2016, she was transferred to Bombay High Court.
Justice Chellur will retire in December this year if she is not elevated to Supreme Court before that. If elevated to Supreme Court, she will serve till December 2020.
Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar
He joined the Bar in 1980 and was appointed additional judge of Madras High Court in 2005. He became permanent judge in 2007.
He took oath as Chief Justice of High Court of Jammu and Kashmir in 2015 and is due to retire in March this year. If elevated to Supreme Court he will serve till March 2020.
Justice KM Joseph
He is currently the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court. He completed his law from Government Law College, Ernakulam and enroled as advocate in 1982. He was appointed as permanent judge of Kerala High Court in 2004. In 2014, he was appointed as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
Interestingly, though the Collegium recommended his transfer to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh & Telengana in May 2016, the same is yet to be cleared by the Centre. Hence, it remains to be seen if he would be in the reckoning for Supreme Court.
Justice Joseph has a tenure up to June 2020 as High Court judge and will serve till June 2023 if elevated to Supreme Court.
Chief Justice G Rohini is another judge who has been in the contention for Supreme Court judgeship. She is currently serving as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and is due to retire in April this year.
Interestingly, there is even a talk of a law officer being elevated to the Supreme Court. Further, there are also speculations of transfer of a judge from the Delhi High Court to the Madras High Court as Chief Justice.
The Collegium has not made any formal decision yet, and it remains to be seen who will make the cut.