The Desk

9 Next Chief Justices of India

During their tenure, the Chief Justice of India plays a key role in deciding the fate of the SC as an institution.

The Chief Justice of India plays a key role in the functioning of the Supreme Court. They supervise the Court’s administration, allocate cases to judges, and head the Collegium—the body that appoints Judges across India. Arguably, a Chief Justice decides the fate of the Supreme Court as an institution during their tenure. 

The incumbent Chief Justice of India N.V Ramana is set to retire on August 26th, 2022, after which he will be succeeded by Justice U.U. Lalit. SCO introduces the nine next Supreme Court Judges to take oath as the Chief Justice of India—if the seniority rule is to be followed.

Justice UU Lalit

U.U. Lalit, Supreme Court

Lalit J will be the 49th Chief Justice of India. His is the second-shortest tenure among the next nine CJIs, lasting for just  2.5 months—a significantly shorter time than the average tenure of a CJI (1.5 years). Justice Lalit is the second CJI to be directly elevated from the Supreme Court Bar, after Justice S.M. Sikri in 1971. 

So far, Lalit J has written 288 judgments across his tenure of seven years and eight months. This accounts for 31.3% of the 920 Benches he has been a part of. Due to his longstanding career as a lawyer, he has had to recuse himself from noteworthy cases such as the review of Yakub Memon’s capital punishment, the 2008 Malegaon blasts, and the Ayodhya Title Dispute. He had appeared as a counsel for some of the parties in these or similar cases. 

Some of the noteworthy cases Lalit J has heard include Triple Talaq, the Electoral Appeals Case, and the ‘Misuse’ of the SC/ST Act.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud

D. Y. Chandrachud, Supreme Court

On 9th November, 2022, after completing 7.5 years as an SC judge, Chandrachud J will become the 50th Chief Justice of India. He is likely to serve a tenure of two years—the second-longest tenure of the nine next CJIs, after Justice Pardiwala. With this elevation, Chandrachud J follows in the footsteps of his father Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, who was the 16th and the longest-serving Chief Justice of India. 

Chandrachud J has been part of 986 Benches. He has written 465 Judgments, accounting for 47% of the cases he has participated in. He leads the Supreme Court’s e-committee—which focuses on digitising the Indian Judiciary. Chandrachud J is most well known for his Judgments decriminalising Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for allowing women’s entry into the Sabarimala Temple. He was the sole dissenter in the challenge to the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, where he held that the Aadhaar policy suffered from ‘constitutional infirmities and violations of fundamental rights’. Chandrachud J was part of the Ayodhya Title Dispute Bench, which awarded the land on which the Babri Masjid stands to Hindu devotees.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna

Sanjiv Khanna, Supreme Court Judge

From 2024, Khanna J will serve a six-month tenure as CJI—a third of the average tenure of CJIs. He was elevated to the SC in 2019, after serving 14 years as a Judge in the Delhi High Court. 

While at the SC, Khanna J has written 65 Judgments, which accounts for 26.6% of the 275 Benches that he has been a part of. One of his important Judgments is in the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails case, where the SC ordered the Election Commission to increase the number of election booths that undergo VVPAT slip matching. He is on the Bench for key cases pending before the SC, including reservations in promotions, tribunals’ reforms, and the revision of fee scales for arbitrators

Justice B.R. Gavai

B.R. Gavai, Supreme Court

In 2025, Gavai J will serve as the CJI for a little over six months. He was elevated to the SC in 2019. Gavai J is the first Scheduled Caste Judge to serve at the Supreme Court in 9 years, after Justice K.G. Balakrishnan who retired in 2010. The Supreme Court Collegium resolution recommending Gavai J specifically emphasised a desire to give ‘due representation’ to persons belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. 

Gavai J has written 68 Judgments during his SC tenure so far, accounting for 24.5% of the 277 cases he has been on the Bench for. Most recently, he was on the Bench in the Vanniyar Reservation case, whose Judgment declared that reservation for Vanniyars within the Most Backward Classes category was unconstitutional. He is on the Bench for key cases pending before the SC, including gig workers’ access to social security and reservation in promotions. He is also on the Constitutional Benches deciding the constitutionality of religious practices that allegedly violate women’s rights. 

Justice Surya Kant

Surya Kant, Supreme Court

Kant J will be the Chief Justice of India for 1.2 years between 2025 and 2027. He was elevated to the SC in 2019, along with Gavai J. When he retires in 2027, Kant J will have served at the SC for 7.7 years.

Although Kant J was the 11th in the all-India seniority list across High Courts at the time of his  SC appointment, the Collegium gave importance to ensuring representation from all High Courts. Kant J was from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is the third-largest High Court in India, as the common High Court for two large States. 

Kant J has written 39 Judgments during his SC tenure, which accounts for 16.2% of the 240 cases where he has been on the Bench. He is on the Bench for important pending cases such as the challenges to the dilution of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Pegasus Spyware Probe.

Justice Vikram Nath

Vikram Nath, Supreme Court

Nath J was among CJI Ramana’s nine appointments in August 2021. He will assume the office of the CJI for seven months in 2027. During his tenure as Chief Justice between 2019 and 2021, the Gujarat High Court became the first in the country to live-stream its proceedings in 2021. 

Nath J has written 12 Judgments in his tenure so far, accounting for 19% of the 63 cases he has been on the Bench for. Most recently, he was part of a 3-Judge Bench that upheld the Union Government’s One Rank One Pension policy. Nath J is on the Bench in the challenge to EWS Reservation in Postgraduate Medical Admissions, which is still pending before the SC. 

Justice B.V. Nagarathna

B.V. Nagarathna, Supreme Court

Nagarathna J will be the first woman Chief Justice of India. Notably, her tenure will be for 36 days—the third-shortest tenure of a CJI. Nagarathna J is the daughter of Justice E.S. Venkataramiah, who was the 19th Chief Justice of India. 

Nagarathna J has written 26 Judgments so far, accounting for 13.6% of the 190 cases where she has been on the Bench. She was on the Bench that declared that reservation for Vanniyars within the Most Backward Classes category was unconstitutional. 

Justice P. Narasimha

P. Narasimha, Supreme Court

In August 2021, Narasimha J was elevated from the Bar to the SC. He will serve a tenure of 19 months as CJI. 

Narasimha J was the Additional Solicitor General of India from 2014 to 2018. He is most known for representing the Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman in the Ayodhya Title Dispute. He argued that Hindus had always believed that Ayodhya was Lord Ram’s birthplace even before the construction of the Babri Masjid. Interestingly, Narasimha J joins Chandrachud J on a two-Judge Bench deciding the fate of the Gyanvapi Mosque, which is claimed to stand on the remains of a razed Hindu structure. 

He has written six judgments so far in his tenure, which accounts for 12% of the 49 cases where he has been on the Bench. He is on the Bench in a challenge to the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner. Several delays have been recorded in the case. Mr. Asthana has already completed a majority of his extended tenure, which may soon make the case redundant. 

Justice J.B. Pardiwala

J.B. Pardiwala, Supreme Court

Pardiwala J will become the CJI for a two-year term in 2028. He is the fourth Parsi Judge at the SC. This makes him the first minority High Court Judge to be appointed in five years after Justice Abdul Nazeer. Pardiwala J was elevated from the Gujarat High Court.

In 2015, 58 members of the Rajya Sabha filed an impeachment motion before the Chairman against Pardiwala J. They condemned his ‘unconstitutional’ comments on reservations—which Pardiwala J described as having a detrimental effect on India’s growth. A few days later, Pardiwala J expunged these remarks from his Judgment and no further action in the motion was taken. 

Data on Judgments and Benches are sourced from Manupatra’s Judge Analytics, accessed on 17th May 2022.