4 of the Next 7 CJIs Will Serve Shorter Than Average Tenures
We discuss the expected tenures of the next seven CJIs in this post.
2022 is poised to be a challenging year of the Supreme Court (SC). It faces a staggering pendency problem exacerbated by two COVID years. Several cases that raise important questions of constitutional interpretation remain pending. To add to these challenges, the Court is expected to see three different judges in the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 2022.
The CJI’s role is vital in tackling the institutional problems of the SC. They decide the allocation of cases to specific judges, head the Collegium that makes judicial appointments and transfers, and supervise the administration of the Court. In recent times, CJIs have attempted to improve the administration of the subordinate judiciary as well.
Frequent changes in the office of the CJI have been criticised. It is believed that shorter tenures do not allow CJIs to make a long–standing impact on judicial administration. The frequent changes also cause upheaval in the Court, affecting the work of the Collegium and the Benches.
The problem of frequent changes in the office will not end in 2022. In this post, we discuss the expected tenures of the next seven CJIs.
As we found in an earlier post, all 48 CJIs so far have served an average tenure of 18 months. Compared to Chief Justices’ tenures in other countries, this too is a short term. Figure 1 indicates that four of the next seven CJIs will serve shorter than average terms.
In August 2022, Justice U.U. Lalit will take over the office from the current CJI N.V. Ramana. Lalit J will serve a very short term of 2.5 months. He will be succeeded by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who will serve the longest tenure of the next seven CJIs—24.5 months.
After Chandrachud J’s retirement in November 2024, Justice Sanjiv Khanna will assume office for another short tenure of 6 months. He will be followed by Justice Surya Kant, who will serve a longer than average term of 21 months.
Kant J’s retirement in February 2027 will leave the CJI’s office in flux. The next two occupants of the office, Justices Vikram Nath and B.V. Nagarathna, will each serve short tenures of 8 months and just over a month respectively. Only two other CJIs have served shorter tenures than Nagarathna J in the history of the SC.
Justice P.V. Narasimha will be the fourth CJI to assume office in 2027 after Nagarathna J. His slightly longer than average tenure of 19 months may bring some stability to the Court.
We will continue to track the effect of the frequent changes of leadership on the SC’s pendency, rate of judgment writing and other factors in 2022.