How Diverse is the Supreme Court in terms of Religion?
Besides these informal conventions, religious diversity has not been a major criteria for appointments to the Supreme Court.
In 1950s, there was traditionally at least one Muslim judge on the Supreme Court. This was a particularly important convention then, since Partition had created an atmosphere of communal distrust. Since then, while the Court’s size has gradually expanded, the number of Muslims at the Court has not increased. The Court’s present strength is 33 judges, out of which there is one Muslim: Justice Abdul Nazeer.
A similar convention developed over time for representing Christians. This was anecdotally recorded by judges who remarked that Justice K.K. Mathew was replaced with Justice Chinnappa Reddy (whose father was Christian) who was then in turn replaced by Justice T.K. Thommen. Even today, one of the sitting judges is a Christian: Justice K.M. Joseph.
So, of the 33 current judges, 31 are Hindu. Nariman J, who retired on August 12th, was a Zoroastrian. He was the first and only judge from this faith.
Besides these informal conventions, religious diversity has not been a major criteria for appointments to the Supreme Court. In one collegium resolution the Court took note of giving ‘due representation’ to those from ‘minorities’. While it is not clear whether this refers to religious minorities, it is likely to be the case since caste and women were listed separately in the same resolution.
In this series of posts, we have also looked at other kinds of diversity after the recent appointments, namely, based on gender, region and caste. For a brief overview, see our desk post.