Justice M.R. Shah’s Tenure in Numbers
SCO looks into the statistics behind Justice M.R. Shah—one of the most prolific authors at the SC.
Justice M.R. Shah retired today. The 4th seniormost Judge at the SC at the time of his retirement, Justice Shah is well known for his quick wit and strict adherence to time. Despite his relatively short tenure of 4.5 years, Justice Shah stands apart for another reason—his remarkably high judgement authorship.
The most striking feature of Justice Shah’s SC tenure is his astounding judgement authorship. With 712 Judgements to his name, at a rate of 158.22 judgements per year, Justice Shah has authored the highest number of judgements among his peers. CJI D.Y. Chandrachud stands second with 552 judgements authored (at a rate of 78.86 per year). Between the two of them, CJI Chandrachud and Justice Shah account for 51.3% of the judgement output among the 14 Judges observed in Figure 1. Interestingly, Justice Shah has not authored a judgement in any of the 8 Constitution Benches he was part of.
As depicted in Figure 2 above, a large chunk (106 Judgements) of Justice Shah’s decisions are on criminal law matters. Service matters (60) stand second, closely followed by land acquisition matters (44). The large number of judgements authored by Justice Shah highlights another noteworthy aspect of his SC career—his judgements range across 35 different subject categories. Read more about his notable judgements here.
Since his elevation to the SC on November 2nd, 2018, Justice Shah’s judgement authorship rate has displayed a gradual rise over the years (with the exception of 2020—the first wave of COVID-19). Justice Shah has been a part of 1,151 Benches and has authored 712 judgements in total. In his final few months at the SC in 2023, Justice Shah was part of 171 Benches and authored a judgement in all but 4 of them.
Justice Shah’s 4.5 year tenure falls short of the average sitting SC judge tenure of 5.12 years. The median tenure of the currently sitting SC judges is 5 years. Notably, despite Justice Shah’s short tenure at the SC, he has been part of 8 Constitution Bench cases including the Maharashtra Shiv Sena rift and the Delhi government’s plea to control administrative services in the NCT of Delhi. With Justice Shah's retirement, the SC will surely have its work cut out for it to make up for his absence.