In A First, 9 Supreme Court Judges Take Oath In One Go (31-08-2021)

New Delhi: Nine new Supreme Court judges, including three women, were administered their oaths of office by Chief Justice NV Ramana on Tuesday morning.

This is the first time in the history of India's highest court that nine judges have been sworn in at one time. The ceremony was held in the court complex's auditorium building to ensure social distancing and adherence to Covid protocols; traditionally it is administered in the chief justice's court room.

The new judges include Justice Abhay Oka (former Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court), Justice Vikram Nath (former Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court), Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari (former Chief Justice of Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh High Courts) and Justice Hima Kohli (former Chief Justice of Telangana High Court).

Justice BV Nagarathna (former Karnataka High Court judge) was also sworn in.

The daughter of former Chief Justice ES Venkataramiah, Justice Nagarathna will become India's first woman chief justice in 2027. However, she is likely to have a tenure of only one month.

The other new judges are Justice CT Ravikumar (former Kerala High Court judge), Justice MM Sundresh (former Madras High Court judge), Justice Bela M Trivedi (former Gujarat High Court judge) and Justice PS Narasimha (senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General).

Two weeks ago Justice Vikram Nath, in his capacity as then Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court, delivered an interim order that said six sections of a state law to stop “love jihad”, including one that places burden of proof on the accused, could not be allowed to stand. “If the state takes any action for inter-religion marriage, you come to us, we will protect you,” he had said.

In 2014 Justice Oka, when he was a Bombay High Court judge, ruled “freedom of religion includes right of an individual to claim he is an atheist”. This was in response to a plea to restrain the government from forcing citizens to declare their religious affiliations.

Justice Maheshwari, when she was with the Andhra Pradesh High Court, said “freedom of speech includes right to opt for medium of instruction in (the) mother tongue”. That was while quashing a state order seeking to implement English as the medium of instruction for primary schools.

Justice Ravikumar, whose father was a bench clerk in a magistrate's court in Kerala's Changanassery, is famous for having observed that “the law is long, but life is short”. The statement was delivered in 2013, and in the context of a person's right to a speedy trial.

Justice Narasimha, in his capacity as ASG, represented the government in the Italian marines case. He also appeared for Hindu parties in the Ayodhya land title suit.

Aside from Justice Nagarathna, two others are also in line to become Chief Justice, per seniority levels. They are Justice Vikram Nath, who will hold the post between February and September 2027, and Justice PS Narasimha, who will be chief justice from October 2027 to May 2028.

The appointment of Justice Nagarathna, Justice Kohli and Justice Trivedi will, it is hoped, reverse a worrying trend in the country's top court - very few women have been sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court since its inception.

Over the last seven decades only eight have been named, starting with M Fathima Beevi in 1989.

At present, Justice Indira Banerjee is the lone woman judge; she was elevated August 7, 2018, from the Madras High Court where she was serving as the Chief Justice.

With the addition of these nine judges the strength of the Supreme Court stands at 33, including the Chief Justice, out of a sanctioned strength of 34.


31 Aug 2021