Which High Courts Do SC Judges Come From?

The Supreme Court comprises judges from High Courts across the country, but how balanced is this representation?

Justice K.M. Joseph was elevated to the Supreme Court of India in August 2018. The Law Minister at the time, Ravi Shankar Prasad, had rejected the recommendation of the collegium to appoint him. Alongside seniority concerns, he justified his decision by saying that the Kerala High Court already had adequate representation in the Supreme Court (SC). However, the collegium stood its ground and reiterated its recommendation.

To some, this back and forth served as a reminder of the challenge to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, otherwise known as the NJAC case. In this case, it was the SC through Justice Khehar making the argument for regional representation, which the NJAC had ignored. In the judgment Khehar authored, he placed the Supreme Court’s convention of ensuring representation from as many High Courts (HCs) as possible on a higher pedestal than prioritising seniority of judges.

High Court representation at the Supreme Court has been documented by George H. Gadbois and Abhinav Chandrachud for the periods 1950-1989 and 1985-2010 respectively.

We have looked at available data for 2010-2021 to understand which High Courts the SC judges came from during this period. We found that the Central Government’s rejection of Justice K.M. Joseph’s elevation came at a time when the representation of the Kerala HC at the SC was at its lowest since 1985-1999. The Kerala HC since 2010 has been the High Court of origin for 3.7% of SC judges. This is a decrease from 6.56% between 2000-May 2010 and 7.02% between 1985-1999.

Our detailed analysis is here.