Collegium Recommends 2 New Judges to the SC

SC Collegium recommends Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, Chief Justice, Andhra Pradesh HC and Senior Advocate Mr. K.V. Viswanathan to the SC.

Today, the SC Collegium recommended Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, Chief Justice, Andhra Pradesh High Court and Senior Advocate Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Collegium currently consists of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices S.K. Kaul, K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi and Sanjiv Khanna

With the retirements of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and M.R. Shah, the number of SC Judges had fallen to 32 from the sanctioned strength of 34. The recommendation considered that the SC expects more vacancies with the impending retirements of Justices K.M Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, V. Ramasubramaiam, and Krishna Murari after July. 

Considerations for Appointment

The SC stated that 3 distinct factors were considered while making the recommendations. First, the SC factored in the seniority of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges in various High Courts. However, this is not the sole reason considered. The SC explained that it is aware that Justice Pritinker Diwaker, who also originates from the Chhattisgarh HC and is the Chief Justice of the Allahabad HC, was more senior to Justice P.K. Mishra. However, it stated that ‘having considered all relevant factors’, Justice P.K. Mishra is ‘worthy’ of the recommendation. 

Second, the SC considered merit, performance and integrity of the judges. While the actual parameters to assess these factors is unclear, the SC has relied on them widely in previous recommendations. 

Third, the SC focused on diversity and inclusion. By this it sought to represent all High Courts at the SC. It also sought to appoint persons from marginalised and backward groups of society, and bring in gender diversity. Presently, there are three women Judges at the SC.

Specific Reasons for Appointments

The SC stated that Justice P.K. Mishra’s parent High Court of Chhattisgarh is not currently represented at the SC. Justice P.K. Mishra was a Judge at the Chhattisgarh High Court for 12 years before being elevated to the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on October 13th 2021. In addition to representation the SC notes that Justice Mishra has knowledge of ‘wide ranging issues pertaining to law and justice’, and that his appointment is a ‘value addition’ to the top Court. 

On Sr. Adv. K.V. Viswanathan, the Collegium noted that currently there is only one member from the Bar directly appointed to the SC—Justice P.S. Narasimha. It wrote that Mr. Viswanathan’s appointment will ‘enhance the representation to the Bar’. The SC also recognised his contribution to the Court as amicus curiae in various cases. Most recently, he appeared as amicus in the case concerning the validity of tenure extension for CBI and ED directors. He is also the amicus in the ongoing case concerning judicial appointments in lower Courts. 

Sr. Adv. Viswanathan in the Mix for the Second Time

Interestingly, the Former CJI U.U. Lalit had intended to recommend Mr. Viswanathan. However, CJI Chandrachud had raised concerns over CJI Lalit’s unorthodox method of recommending judges, and had blocked the recommendation within the Collegium. 

CJI Lalit’s recommendations included Justices Ravi Shankar Jha (Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana HC), Sanjay Karol (Former Chief Justice of the Patna HC) and P.V. Sanjay Kumar (Former Chief Justice Manipur High Court) and Sr. Adv. K.V. Viswanathan. Justices Sanjay Karol and P.V. Sanjay Kumar were appointed to the SC on February 6th, 2023. With Mr. Viswanathan’s recommendation today, three out of four of CJI Lalit’s recommendations have come up again since his retirement. Justice Ravi Shankar’s recommendation appears to be missing, with no reasons provided so far.