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Report No. 80

Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

(29) Having regard to the importance of the role assigned to the Supreme Court under the Constitution and the nature and amplitude of its jurisdiction, it is necessary that persons of the highest calibre should be appointed judges of that court and no other consideration except that of merit should weigh in this regard. The fact that the Supreme Court sits as a court of appeal against the judgments of the High Court makes it imperative that its judges should be persons of such high stature and command such great esteem that even when it reverses a judgment of the High Court, the judges of the High Court should feel that the reversal has been done by a court which, because of the acumen of its judges, is superior to the High Court.1

1. Paras. 7.1 and 7.2.

(30) Only persons who enjoy the highest reputation for independence, dispassionate approach and detachment should be elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court and any revelation of a tendency to hobnob with Ministers should be a disqualification.1

1. Para. 7.3.

(31) While affiliation in the remote past with a political party should not constitute a bar in itself, no one should be appointed to the Supreme Court, unless, for a period of not less than seven years, he has snapped all affiliations with political parties and unless, during that period, he has distinguished himself for independence and freedom from political bias or leanings.1

Taking into account Indian conditions and the importance which we attach to independence and dispassionate approach and the role of the Supreme Court, this safeguard is necessary.2

1. Para. 7.4.

2. Para. 7.5.

(32) The Chief Justice of India, while recommending the name of a person for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, should consult his three seniormost colleagues and should, in the communication incorporating his recommendation, specify the result of such consultation and reproduce the views of each of his colleagues so consulted regarding his recommendation. The role of these colleagues would be confined to commenting on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. Such consultation would minimise possible arbitrariness or favouritism.1

1. Para. 7.6.

(33) Persons appointed as judges of the Supreme Court should not only have legal acumen and sound knowledge of law, but also have within them that great quality which eludes description but which comes with the passage of years and after long contemplation and reflection-the quality imparting maturity. Therefore, the proper age for appointment as judge of the Supreme Court should be between the age of 54 and 60 years. Though, in the past, there have been judges who were appointed at an age less than 54 years and who have distinguished themselves, yet looking to the facts, no appointment should be made to the bench of the Supreme Court at an age less than 54 years.1

1. Para. 7.7 and 7.8.

(34) The principle of seniority should be observed in the appointment to the office of the Chief Justice. Departure from this principle in the past has aroused controversy and has affected the image of the office of the Chief Justice. The vesting of unbridled power in the executive to depart from this principle may be abused, and may also make inroads into judicial independence and affect the approach of the judges. Where, in an individual case, the Government proposes to depart from this principle, the matter should be referred to a panel consisting of all the sitting Supreme Court judges, and the departure should be made only after this panel finds sufficient cause for such a course. In case of difference of opinion, the decision of the majority would be the decision of the panel.1

1. Para. 7.10.

(35) Even where, in the matter of appointment to the Supreme Court, regard is had for representation of different regions, the best person from the region should be appointed to the Court.1

1. Para. 7.10.

S.N. Shankar,

T.S. Krishnamoorthy Iyer,

P.M. Bakshi,

New Delhi,

Dated: 10th August, 1979.

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