Qualifications and Appointment of Supreme Court Judges in India

Qualifications and Appointment of Supreme Court Judges in India

The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial court and the final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of judicial review. India is a federal State and has a single and unified judicial system with a three-tier structure, i.e. Supreme Court, High Courts, and Subordinate Courts.

Qualifications and Appointment of Supreme Court Judges in India. The Supreme court Judges in India are appointed by the President on the advice of his Council of Ministers and in consultation with such persons as he deems fit. In the appointment of the Chief Justice, the President consults such judges of the Supreme Court and High courts as he thinks necessary.

Qualification for appointment as a Supreme Court Judge
Article 124 (3) of the constitution prescribes that for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court a person must he

(a) a citizen of India,

(b) has been a judge of any High Court for at least 5 years, or

(c) has been an advocate in a High Court for 10 years or is in the opinion of the President a distinguished jurist.

There is no fixed tenure of service for a judge. He continues in service till the completion of his 65th year of age.

Vacancy of Post of Judge of Supreme Court in India

Article  124 (4) prescribes the methods of how the post of a judge may fall vacant. These are

(a) retirement on completion of 65th year of age,

(b) resignation and

(c) removal through impeachment.

Removal of  Supreme Court Judge  in India

The framers of the constitution took great pains to ensure the independence of the Supreme Court judges. There is the independence of the Judiciary in India. Thus a judge may be removed only through impeachment. This is the only way the removal a judge. A judge may be impeached only on grounds of proven misbehavior and incapacity.

The salaries and allowances of a judge cannot be varied to his disadvantage except during a financial emergency under Article 360. The administrative expenses of the Supreme Court are changed on the revenues of India. Finally, a judge may not engage in legal practice after retirement.

Brief History of the Supreme Court of India 

The promulgation of Regulating Act of 1773 established the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta as a Court of Record, with full power & authority. It was established to hear and determine all complaints for any crimes and also to entertain, hear and determine any suits or actions in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The Supreme Courts at Madras and Bombay were established by King George – III in 1800 and 1823 respectively. The India High Courts Act 1861 created High Courts for various provinces and abolished Supreme Courts at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay and also the Sadar Adalats in Presidency towns. These High Courts had the distinction of being the highest Courts for all cases till the creation of the Federal Court of India under the Government of India Act 1935. 

The Federal Court had jurisdiction to solve disputes between provinces and federal states and hear appeals against Judgements from High Courts. After India attained independence in 1947, the Constitution of India came into being on 26 January 1950. The Supreme Court of India also came into existence and its first sitting was held on 28 January 1950. The law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all Courts within the territory of India. It has the power of judicial review – to strike down the legislative and executive action contrary to the provisions and the scheme of the constitution, the distribution of power between Union and States, or inimical to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. 

Constitutional Provisions 

The Indian constitution provides for a provision of the Supreme Court under Part V (The Union) and Chapter 6 (The Union Judiciary). Articles 124 to 147 in Part V of the Constitution deal with the organization, independence, jurisdiction, powers, and procedures of the Supreme Court. The Indian constitution under Article 124(1) states that there shall be a Supreme Court of India constituting of a Chief Justice of India (CJI) and, until Parliament by law prescribes a larger number, of not more than seven other Judges. The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India can broadly be categorized into original jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, and advisory jurisdiction. However, there are other multiple powers of the Supreme Court.

Appointment of Judges

The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President. The CJI is appointed by the President after consultation with such judges of the Supreme Court and high courts as he deems necessary. The other judges are appointed by the President after consultation with the CJI and such other judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts as he deems necessary. The consultation with the chief justice is obligatory in the case of the appointment of a judge other than the Chief justice.

Appointment of Chief Justice From 1950 to 1973:The practice has been to appoint the senior most judge of the Supreme Court as the chief justice of India. This established convention was violated in 1973 when A N Ray was appointed as the Chief Justice of India by superseding three senior judges. Again in 1977, M U Beg was appointed as the chief justice of India by superseding the then senior-most judge. This discretion of the government was curtailed by the Supreme Court in the Second Judges Case (1993), in which the Supreme Court ruled that the senior judge of the Supreme Court should alone be appointed to the office of the Chief Justice of India. 

Recent issues in Supreme Court
Master of Roster: It refers to the privilege of the Chief Justice to constitute Benches to hear cases. The controversy has emerged in the Supreme Court over the absolute power of the Chief Justice on the judicial administration. The SC has upheld a number of times that “the Chief Justice is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.” Be it the Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justice of any high court it is he or she who heads the administrative side. This includes the allocation of matters before a judge as well. So, no Judge can take up the matter on his own, unless allocated by the Chief Justice of India. 

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