Supreme Court of India

On January 28, 1950, India’s Supreme Court succeeded the Federal Court of India which was established by Government of India Act 1935 and the Privy Council, which was highest judicial body in the country during British Era. The organisation, independence, jurisdiction, powers and functions of the Supreme Court are provided in articles 124 to 147 in Part V of the Constitution of India.

Number of Judges

Since February 2009, Supreme Court of India has total sanctioned strength 31 judges including the Chief Justice. The original constitution had fixed sanctioned strength of the court at 8 and left the matter to parliament to increase the number of judges as needed by making a law. The number was increased to 11 in 1960, 14 in 1968, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009.

Appointment of the Judges

Every Judge of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President after consultation with the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts in states, the president may deem necessary for the purpose. President if thinks necessary,  can consult the Judges of the High Courts of States to appoint a supreme court Judge, as per article 124(2). However, in appointment of the other judges, president shall always seek consultation from the Chief Justice of India. Till 1993, the Judges of the Supreme Court were appointed by the President on recommendation of the CJI, but now a committee of 5 senior most judges recommends the names to the law ministry which after scrutinizing send the paper to the president. The president either approves the names or returns the names for reconsideration of the Supreme Court. If still the Supreme Court sends the same names president appoints the persons recommended.

Qualifications of the Judges of the Supreme Court

To be appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be a citizen of India and must have been the judge of a high court for a period of 5 years or an advocate of the High Court for at least 10 years or in view of the President a distinct Jurist of the country.  Thus, there is nothing which can prevent the direct appointment of the Judges of Supreme Court from the Bar, yet, so far the appointments have been made from the Judges of High Courts only.

Tenure of the Judges

The CJI and other Judges of the Supreme Court of India hold the office until they attain the age of 65 years { Presently, Supreme Court judges retire at 65 and High Court judges at 62}. A Judge can relinquish the office by addressing the resignation to President of India. A retired Judge of the Supreme Court is prohibited from practicing law before any court or authority within the territory of India; however, there is NO constitutional prohibition that a retired judge gets appointed for some specialized work of the Government.

Removal of Supreme Court Judges

A Judge of the Supreme Court (and also High Court) can be removed from his position by President only on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. The power for investigation and proof of such misbehaviour or incapacity is vested in the parliament. Each house, in order to remove the judge, will have to pass a resolution which is supported by 2/3rd of members present and voting and majority of the total membership of the house {absolute + special majority}

Salary of the Supreme Court Judges

The Salaries and Allowances of the Judges of the Supreme Court as follows:

  • Chief Justice : Rs. 1 Lakh
  • Other Judges: Rs. 90,000

In case of High Courts this is as follows:

  • Chief Justice : Rs. 90,000
  • Other Judges : Rs. 80,000

The salary and pension of Supreme Court Judges is a Non-votable expenditure charged from the Consolidated Fund of India.  The Salary of the High Court Judges is charged from the Consolidated Fund of States while the pension of the High Court Judges is charged from the consolidated fund India.

When CJI is absent

Any other Judge of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President as Acting Chief justice as per provisions of Article 126.

Post Retirement Jobs

Retired judges of Supreme Court are barred from pleading or acting in any court within the territory of India. However, government generally uses the retired higher judiciary judges as heads of various commissions. There has been a demand from certain sections of the society that there should be a “cool off” period of two years for the retired judges before they are installed in other offices.

Ad Hoc Judges

Ad hoc judges can be appointed in the Supreme Court by “Chief Justice of India” with the prior consent of the President, if there is no quorum of judges available to hold and continue the session of the court. Only the persons who are qualified as to be appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court can be appointed as ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court. (Article 127).

Further, as per provisions of the Article 128, Chief Justice of India, with the previous consent of the President, request a retired Judge of the Supreme Court High Court, who is duly qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court, to sit and act as a Judge of the Supreme Court. The salary & allowance of such judge are decided by the president.

The retired Judge who sits in such a session of the Supreme Court has all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of the Judges BUT are NOT deemed to be a Judge.

Supreme Court and High Courts as Court of Record

Both the Supreme Court and High Courts regarded as courts of record.  Supreme Court is a court of record as per provisions of Article 129 and has the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Seat of Supreme Court

As per article 130, Seat of the Supreme Court is Delhi, but it can hold its meeting anywhere in India. The decision to hold a meeting anywhere in India is taken by the Chief Justice of India in consultation with President. There are no regional benches though the demand was made in past. The demand was turned down by the Supreme Court.

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