New Delhi: Four new judges are set to be appointed to the Supreme Court, paving the way for the country to get its second Dalit chief justice after over a decade.
On Wednesday, the Modi government cleared the recommendations made by the Supreme Court collegium and appointed Justices B.R. Gavai, Surya Kant, Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna to the top court, said sources in the law ministry.
The formal order for their appointment will come later in the day, added the sources.
The Supreme Court will now work at full strength with a sanctioned capacity of 31 judges.
With his elevation, Gavai will be the first Dalit judge in India’s top court since Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s retirement on 11 May 2010. He will be in line to take oath as CJI on 13 May 2025, almost 15 years after Balakrishnan demitted office as India’s first Dalit CJI.
Kant will succeed Gavai six months later in November 2025.
ThePrint first reported about the possibility of the duo’s nomination on 22 January.
Representation of marginalised
Earlier this month, the top court collegium — comprising the five senior-most members of the Supreme Court — recommended Gavai and Kant for elevation to the top court. The collegium also reiterated the recommendation to elevate Bose and Bopanna.
The recommendations followed requests made by the Modi government to CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who heads the collegium, to bring more members of society’s marginalised sections to the higher judiciary, a cause also taken up by previous governments.
While recommending Gavai, the collegium acknowledged that his seniority stands at serial number 8 among India’s high court judges, but pointed out that India’s top court has not had a Dalit judge in a decade.
“On his appointment, the Supreme Court Bench will have a judge belonging to Scheduled Caste category after about a decade,” the collegium’s resolution said.
Gavai made headlines two years ago as a witness to the controversial death of CBI judge B.H. Loya, who died allegedly of a heart attack while attending a wedding in Nagpur in 2014. At the time of his death, Loya was hearing the CBI’s case against BJP president Amit Shah in connection with the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.
Shah has since been discharged in the case.
Kant’s elevation as Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice faced resistance from the Modi government in October last year over contents of a note and accompanying complaint sent by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel. His appointment was later cleared by the Centre.
Justice Bose, who was the most-senior puisne judge at the Calcutta High Court was initially recommended to take over as the top judge of the Delhi High Court. However, the Modi government rejected the collegium’s proposal on the grounds that Bose did not have enough experience to handle a prominent court like Delhi. Buckling under pressure, the collegium withdrew its recommendation and instead appointed Bose as chief justice of Jharkhand High Court in August 2018.
Bopanna is currently serving as the chief justice of the Gauhati High Court.