2023 Summer Session Review: Institutional Developments
SCO recaps the institutional developments from March to May 2023.
The Supreme Court saw rapid collegium activity during the summer session, with two retirements and two swift appointments. The Supreme Court experimented with Artificial Intelligence, albeit with questionable results. In a new episode in the Union-Court tussle, the Union suddenly replaced the law minister, who was known to be vocally against the SC’s Collegium system.
Justice M.R. Shah Retired
On May 15th, 2023 Justice M.R. Shah retired after serving a tenure of 4.5 years in the Supreme Court. As one of the most prolific authors of the SC, Justice Shah has authored 712 judgements. Interestingly, he holds the record for the highest number of written judgements among his peers. SCO reviewed his judgements and tenure.
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari Retired
On May 14th, 2023 Justice Dinesh Maheshwari retired after a 4-year tenure in the Supreme Court. During his tenure, Justice Maheshwari authored 110 judgements and was a part of 441 Benches. He was part of several notable judgements such as the EWS Reservation where he wrote a separate majority opinion, validity of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, and the Zakia Jafri case which upheld the clean chit given to the accused in the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Sr. Adv. K.V. Viswanathan Elevated
Two new judges, Justices K.V. Viswanathan and P.K. Mishra, were elevated to the SC in May to fill the vacancies left behind by Justices M.R. Shah and Dinesh Maheshwari. The recommendations, made by the SC Collegium on May 16th, were approved just two days later by the Union. By the third day (May 19th), the two judges were sworn in. Previously, the Union notoriously ‘sat on’ recommendations for months, leaving vacancies across Courts.
Notably, Justice K.V. Viswanathan is the 10th SC judge to be directly elevated from the Bar. If the seniority convention is followed, he will be the 4th direct Bar appointee to become the Chief Justice of India.
Arjun Ram Meghwal Appointed as Union Law Minister
The Union Cabinet saw a major change in its composition. Mr. Kiren Rijiju, who served as the Union Law Minister for nearly 2 years, was replaced by Mr. Arjun Ram Meghwal. Mr. Rijiju was known for his bold and vocal criticism of the Collegium system and strongly advocated for Union representation in the judge appointment process. It remains to be seen what changes Mr. A.R. Meghwal will bring to the arguably strained relationship between the SC and the Union executive.
The live transcription project, a major technological initiative undertaken by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud aims to record oral arguments during court proceedings with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The project was announced on February 21st, 2023, on an experimental basis. The SC announced that it would upload transcripts of courtroom exchanges, after being vetted by the advocates, on the Supreme Court website.
Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the success of the live transcription project will make the Supreme Court a ‘true Court of Record’. However, since the initiative was launched, 25 Constitution Bench hearings have been held, and only 9 transcripts have been published so far. SCO explores the success of the transcription project here. On May 23rd, 2023, the Supreme Court invited fresh bids for the use of AI tools to transcribe oral arguments.
*The SC does not officially follow a session calendar. Nevertheless, for the sake of analysing performance, SCO has divided the annual calendar into 4 seasonal sessions. The Summer Session begins at the end of the SC’s Holi break and concludes at the onset of the summer break.