Explained: How the Supreme Court judges are appointed

What is the news?

Recently, the appointment of 9 judges takes the Supreme Court (SC) strength to 33, of whom 4 are women.

What are the age criteria for Judges?

The age of retirement is 65 years for SC judges and 62 for HC judges, unlike in the United States, where Supreme Court judges serve for life.

How do the SC judges get appointed?

Articles 124(2) and 217 of the Constitution: It governs the appointment of judges to the SC and HC respectively. Under the provisions, the President has the power to make the appointments “after consultation with such of the Judges of the SC and of the HC in the States as the President may deem necessary”.

Must read: Evolution of Collegium System

What is the selection process for HC judges?

For HC appointments, the process is initiated by the HC collegium. The file then moves to the state government, the central government and then to the SC collegium after intelligence reports are gathered on the candidates recommended. This process often takes over a year.

Once the SC collegium clears the names, then the file will go to the government level for final approval and appointment. If the government wants the collegium to reconsider a recommendation, the file is sent back and the collegium can reiterate or withdraw its decision.

How many judges does the Supreme Court have? How is the number decided?

Currently, the Supreme Court has 34 judges, including the CJI. In 1950, when SC was established, it had 8 judges, including the CJI.

Parliament, which has the power to increase the number of judges, has gradually done so by amending the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act. The number of judges was increased from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986, 31 in 2009, and 34 in 2019.

Present Figure: The court continues to have one vacancy and eight more judges are due to retire next year.

What is the number of women judges?

SC has had only 11 women judges, including the three women appointed recently.

2018 study by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy noted that while the representation of women in the lower judiciary is higher at 27%, they hit a glass ceiling in higher appointments — as district judges and subsequently at the high court level.

Read more: Issue of Gender Gap in Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise 

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: How Supreme Court judges are appointed” published in the Indian Express on 4th September 2021.

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