In a significant development, the Supreme Court of India has regained its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges with the swearing-in of Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and K.V. Viswanathan. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud administered the oath of office to the newly appointed justices, restoring the court to its complete judicial capacity.
Justices Mishra and Viswanathan have been appointed to fill the vacancies left by the retirements of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and M.R. Shah earlier this month. The government swiftly cleared their appointments, demonstrating a welcome departure from the past when collegium recommendations faced delays of several months. The process was expedited, with the government publishing the notifications on May 18, coinciding with the first day in office of the newly appointed Law Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal.
The expeditious handling of the appointments within a 48-hour timeframe signifies a positive change in the government’s approach to judicial appointments. Previously, delays in approving collegium recommendations had been a subject of concern, with the Supreme Court remarking that such delays amounted to direct interference in the administration of justice. The remarks were made in response to acrimonious comments by former Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who criticized the Collegium system.
Justice Viswanathan, one of the newly appointed judges, is poised to become the 58th Chief Justice of India in August 2030, succeeding Justice J.B. Pardiwala. He will be only the ninth lawyer to be elevated directly to the Supreme Court Bench. If he assumes the position of Chief Justice of India, Justice Viswanathan would be the fourth direct appointee from the Bar to hold this prestigious role.
Justice Mishra, formerly the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, brings representation to the State of Chhattisgarh on the Supreme Court Bench.
The Supreme Court is also preparing for further retirements in 2023. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat is set to retire in October, followed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the second-ranking judge in the Supreme Court, in December.
The swearing-in ceremony of Justices Mishra and Viswanathan took place in the presence of the full court, with an auditorium filled with members of the Bar. The event marked the final working day for Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, and V. Ramasubramanian, who will retire in June during the summer vacation. As per convention, all three retiring judges will share Ceremonial Benches with the Chief Justice of India in the First Court.
The Supreme Court will now enter a recess period and will reopen on July 2, resuming its crucial role as the highest judicial authority in the country.