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If collegium has its way, India could soon get its second Dalit CJI

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India’s first Dalit CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan, retired on 11 May 2010. There’s been no Dalit judge in the Supreme Court since then.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium is soon expected to nominate Bombay High Court judge Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai for appointment to the top court, setting the stage for his elevation as the second Dalit Chief Justice of India (CJI).

India’s first Dalit CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan, retired on 11 May 2010. If Justice Gavai’s appointment is cleared, he will be sworn in as CJI on 13 May 2025. He will also be the first Dalit judge in India’s top court since Balakrishnan’s retirement.

Justice Gavai currently stands at number 10 in the all-India seniority list of high court judges.

His expected elevation follows the Narendra Modi government’s requests to the CJI to bring in more Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe judges to the higher judiciary, a cause also taken up by previous governments.

Sources in the Supreme Court told ThePrint that the elevation of Justice Gavai as well as Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Surya Kant was discussed at a recent meeting of the collegium, and a final decision will be conveyed to the government soon.

If appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Surya Kant will be in line to become CJI after Justice Gavai.

Justice Surya Kant’s elevation will also give due representation to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, his parent high court, which accounts for just one Supreme Court judge as of now.

There are currently 28 judges in the Supreme Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 31. One of the 28, Justice A.K. Sikri, is scheduled to retire on 6 March.

Also read: Row over collegium picks for Supreme Court escalates but govt appoints them

The two judges

Justice Gavai courted headlines in 2017 when he went on the record to contradict the allegations of foul play made by the family of CBI judge B.H. Loya, who reportedly died of a heart attack while attending a wedding in Nagpur in 2014. At the time, judge Loya was hearing the CBI’s case against BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter.

Shah has since been discharged in the case.

When judge Loya’s family, in an interview to Caravan magazine, raised questions about the circumstances of his death, Justice Gavai, who was at the wedding as well, dismissed the allegations.

For one, the family had said that judge Loya was taken to hospital in an autorickshaw and had blood on his clothes — both claims denied by Justice Gavai.

As for Justice Surya Kant, the government had taken a lot of time to clear the collegium’s recommendation to elevate him as Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice in October last year.

According to sources, among other things, the government wanted to look into the contents of a note and accompanying complaint sent by one of the consultee judges, the current National Green Tribunal chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel.

“A detailed inquiry was held since the government didn’t want to take any chances, but more importantly since Justice Goel had himself asked for an independent inquiry,” a government source told ThePrint.

“There were details of some property deals involving the judge and his family members about whom Justice Goel had forwarded a complaint,” the source added.

“The claims made in the complaint were found baseless and it was only then that his appointment as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh was cleared,” the source said.

Also read: Also read: Ranjan Gogoi led the revolution in judiciary last year, as CJI he is now killing it

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  1. In my opinion Balakrishnan was highly corrupt. I heard crores of money was used to get a favorable NEET during his tenure.

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