Seniority for CJI’s Appointment?

Seniority for CJI’s Appointment?


TOI (Delhi Edition.DT.24 August 2014) carried a write up by Markandeya Katju J. Former Judge of Supreme Court of India and presently Chairman of Press Council of India wherein he says that for appointment to the office of Chief Justice of India, “Merit should be the criteria and not the seniority“. He quotes many examples of US Supreme Court and UK’s highest Court where people of exemplary merits were appointed as Chief Justice and they excelled in their pursuit. He quotes the name of Earl Warren who was not part of the Judiciary as he was Governed of California.Warren no doubt excelled as Chief Justice of US Supreme Court. The present Chief Justice John Roberts was not even a Judge of US Supreme Court when he was appointed Chief Justice of US Supreme Court.John Roberts is very efficiently leading the US Supreme Court.These examples are undoubtedly leading examples.

But Katju J contradicts himself in Indian context that when M.C.Chagla, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court was proposed to be appointed directly as Chief Justice of India,all the judges of the Supreme Court threatened to resign en bloc. He further forgets that when a person is appointed as a Judge of High which is feeder cadre for Supreme Court, is he appointed strictly on merits or there are various other considerations? Certainly there are many other considerations.Caste factor ,community factored,sex factor,regional factors are a few considerations which eclipse the appointment on merits.

He has also forgotten that a little slackness on the part of other judges lead Mrs.Indira Gandhi to effect first supersession in 1973 when A.N.Ray being number four in seniority was appointed Chief Justice of India resulting in the resignation of three senior most judges of the Supreme Court. There was huge uproar in the Bar and in the country which had shaken confidence in Indira Gandhi.Justice H.R.Khanna was supersede and not appointed Chief Justice and Justice M.H.Beg was appointed Chief Justice not because Khanna J was less meritorious than Beg J.Khanna J was punished for upholding the rights of life and liberty in Fundamental rights Case( ADM Jabalpur’s Case ).

I would like friends to recall that when John Major was PM of UK,his son was arrested for certain violation and was brought to the Police Station.The officer in Charge called the father of the erring boy who was Prime Minister to the Police Station was given a warning by the Officer.The Prime Minister accepted the warning and son was let off.Also recall when George Bush was President of US,his daughter was arrested for drunken driving and was brought to Police Station She had pay the penalty before she was let off.The President could not influence the course of dept.of justice.ARE SUCH THINGS POSSIBLE IN INDIA?


So long Seniority Rule is adhered to, we get good Chief Justice or bad chief justice but once the seniority rule is abandoned, there will be horse trading for the appointment and I shall not be surprised that one day the office will be mutely auctioned. I am making this statement in full sense and fullest responsibility as a member of the Bar having spent more than 41 the Bar. For the shake of dignity of office of Chief Justice and dignity of written words, I am refraining from making statements which may not behove me well.

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AK Srivastava

The author Sh. A.K. Srivastava (@aksrivastava232) is Senior Advocate in Supreme Court of India, New Delhi where he is practicing since last 40 yrs. He had been Advocate General of Govt. of Sikkim & was Hon.Secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association for two years( 1991-92,1992-93).
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  • मै V Ramchandran के मत से सहमत हू पर कुछ और बाते यहा जोडना चाहता हूँ … उनकी बात भारतीय परिपेक्ष्य में बिलकुल सही है पर,बाकी सब कि छोडो,न्यायपालिका अगर न्यायाधिशोंकी गोपनीय अहवालोंको भी सही लिखना या मानना नही जानती तो वह अपनी संप्रभुता तो खो ही चुकी है, अपना न्याय दान का नैतिक अधिकार भी खो चुकी है … वैसे ये लोग “न्याय” नही करते, ये जो सरकारों ने लिखा है उसपर अपने फैसले करते है.
    मेरे मत से seniority एक आरक्षण का ही प्रकार है, सभी वरिष्ठ हर बार उपयुक्त हो ऐसा होता नही है …
    न्यायपालिका को एक व्यवस्था बनानी होगी जो जिले स्तर से आगे आनेवाले न्यायाधिशों के हर दो साल का लेखाजोखा ,उनके सकारक्तमक नकारक्तमक गुणों को संज्ञान मे ले कर रखे,उनको और उनके सामाजिक संबंधों को समझ कर उनका मूल्यांकन करे और उनका “आगे बढने का ” रास्ता तय करे .. और यही से गुजर कर भारत का मुख्य न्यायाधीश बनें ..
    व्यवस्था नही है इसलिए seniority सही है यह हजम नही होता, न्यायपालिका मे तो बिलकुल नही ….
    और बहुत कुछ बाते है पर अभी कह नही सकता हूँ … माफ किजियेगा !

  • Senility after servility has become the characteristic of those whose good conscience gets rankled in sunset years of a life well lived, basking in all the inequities of an unjust, slave society. It augurs saner citizens to ignore the confessional ‘statements’ of grand standing speakers . Everything mouthed by such persons need not be countered.

    • Katju J has made so much cry while on the Bench and when he has retired,it is difficult to ignore.I appreciate your concern.

  • In the Indian context, maintaining and upholding Merit is not going to be easy. The whole country lacks basic honesty in some way or the other. We are ready always to violate the norms, let it be merely throwing litters on the road, observing timings, nepotism and what not. Personal honesty which was 4 decades back, were being practised by many, are not so now. We are a country who do not believe the confidential report of the higher officers. Then how anyone will decide on merit? That excercise also is going to be one of “farce”, without competent men deciding on these. The system has to be built up slowly and steadily to bring back the days of gupta’s golden age. It will take a longer time and we will have problems in all selections whether it be UPSC, judges of supreme court or any which require a group of men.
    We should aim for the best way according to times and move on, until personal honesty regains glory and atleast to some extent.
    V Ramachandran Bangalore 25 08 2014

  • Sir, you have poured your heart here. Actually no system can be perfect. Every system needs correction with time. So this system also needs correction.

    • Thank you.Seniority criteria is at least saving the appointment from further disgrace.Katju J went berserk in condning the senniority criteria.