Name your successor, Justice Minister writes to CJI; closing the window of the Collegium he directs

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With a month to go until India’s Chief Justice UU Lalit retires on November 8, the government launched the process for nominating the next CJI on Friday, asking the incumbent to recommend his successor.

Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju has written to CJI Lalit asking for its opinion on the appointment of the next CJI.

“In line with the MoP on the appointment of the Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court Justices, the Honorable Minister of Law and Justice today sent a letter to the Honorable Chief Justice of the India to send him its recommendations for the appointment of his successor,” the Union Law and Justice Ministry said.

According to the memorandum of procedure governing the appointment of members of the senior judiciary, “appointment to the office of Chief Justice of India should be that of the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court found fit to hold that office.”

Justice DY Chandrachud is the second most senior justice of the Supreme Court. If appointed, he will serve a two-year term until November 10, 2024.

The MoP stipulates that the Minister of Justice would, at “the appropriate time”, seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI for the appointment of the next CJI. As part of this process, after receiving the CJI’s recommendation, the Minister of Justice submits it to the Prime Minister who advises the President on appointments.

This process is traditionally done one month before the retirement of the incumbent CJI.

After the recommendation process, once a new CJI is appointed, in accordance with the convention, the College led by the outgoing CJI also freezes.

The Supreme Court will meet again on October 10 after its recess in Dussehra – this is likely the last opportunity for the CJI Lalit-led College to make recommendations.

Currently, there is a division within the five-member Collegium over the CJI’s proposal to recommend four new justices to the Supreme Court by “circulation” or a written memo.

Besides the CJI, the four members of the Collegium are Judges Chandrachud, SK Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer and KM Joseph.

While one Collegium member agreed with the CJI’s proposal, two judges opposed the idea, saying the process of “holding a Collegium meeting by circulation” instead of face-to-face deliberations face is unheard of and they can’t be part of this.

The Indian Express learned that the fifth member has now written, supporting the CJI’s proposal to recommend the four new judges through a written note instead of a formal meeting.

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