Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Sep 18, 2013, 03.57 AM IST
NEW DELHI: In the next 12 months, theSupreme Court is set to experience a drastic change in composition as 11 of the 15 senior-most judges, including Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam and his successor R M Lodha, will retire.
The chain of retirements will be set in motion by Justice G S Singhvi, who will say goodbye to the highest court on December 11, a date which ironically reads 11-12-13. Many corporate houses would be eagerly waiting for the day as scrupulous monitoring of the CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam by a bench headed by Justice Singhvi has resulted in many big players facing the rigour of prosecution.
CJI Sathasivam will retire on April 26 next year and his successor Justice Lodha will superannuate five months later. Justice Lodha will be succeeded by Justice H L Dattu, and the country will see three chief justices in 2014.
The court will also see its two women judges – Justices Gyan Sudha Misra and Ranjana P Desai – retire next year. Justice Misra will superannuate on April 27 while Justice Desai will retire on October 29.
Unless the collegium headed by the CJI recommends appointment of awoman judge prior to their retirement, the court will have no female representation, an situation which it is used to in its over 60-years existence.
The retirements of judges after Justice Singhvi will be in this order – Justice H L Gokhale (March 9), Justice Sathasivam (April 26), Justice Misra (April 27), Justice K S Radhakrishnan (May 14), Justice A K Patnaik (June 2), Justice S S Nijjar (June 6), Justice B S Chauhan (July 1), Justice C K Prasad (July 14), Justice Lodha (September 27) and Justice Desai (October 29).
Such a large number of retirements has put a huge responsibility on the collegium headed by CJI Sathasivam which comprises Justices Singhvi, Lodha, Dattu and Chauhan for speedy filling of the vacancies by recommending names much before the posts fall vacant.
The Supreme Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 31 judges including the CJI, is functioning with 28 judges. With the retirement of 11 judges in a year, nearly half the judges by next year would have less than one year experience in the highest court.
With pendency in the apex court steadily rising and threatening to touch 70,000, the CJI in consultation with his colleagues needs to devise an urgent mechanism for speedy disposal of cases, which would need speedy filling of vacancies too.