Legal experts have expressed optimism that there is virtually no chance of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra not following established norms and recommending the name of the senior-most judge, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, as his successor.
The speculation as to who will be the next Chief Justice of India has arisen in the backdrop of Justice Gogoi’s participation in the unprecedented Jan. 12 press conference led by former judge Justice J Chelameswar.
A debate has begun in the legal fraternity after Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government has no role in the selection of Justice Misra's successor. CJI Misra demits office on October 2.
Constitutional law expert and Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan referred to the unblemished judicial records of Justice Gogoi and said if he is not recommended, then it would amount to supersession as had happened in the 1970s. Such an event would compromise the independence of judiciary which the CJI will never want, he said.
Senior Advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh said though the supersession of Justice Gogoi was not possible, but if that happened, then all the three senior judges (Justices Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph) will have to put in their papers. “This scenario (CJI not recommending Justice Gogoi's name as his successor) is not possible and it will not be done.”
If the CJI does not follow the established norm then “there will be a problem” and Justice AK Sikri, “who has good relations with the CJI, may be recommended”, Singh added.
The only thing CJI Misra may not like is that the (press) conference of the four judges on January 12. If that is so, then one judge has retired. Justices M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph were also part of the conference and unless there is a ruse to appoint Justice A K Sikri, who is close to the CJI, there is no reason for Justice Gogoi not to be appointed. Other than some conspiracy, I hope that is not so and will not happenVikas Singh, President, SCBA
Any move to deny the CJI’s post to Justice Gogoi will have “bizarre” consequences, added Rajeev Dhavan. “It will lead to supersession of the kind in 1970s. Such supersession will affect the independence of judiciary. The CJI will not become the tool for such supersession, I hope so."
In 1973, the central government had superseded the senior most judges and appointed Justice AN Ray as the CJI, leading to resignations by Justices JM Shelat, KS Hegde and AN Grover.
Dhavan said there was nothing in the judicial records against Justice Gogoi which should prevent the CJI from not recommending his name for the post of the CJI. “His record has been brilliant and above suspicion in every respect.”
After the introduction of the Collegium system of judges appointing judges following 9-judge bench verdicts of 1993 and 1998, it has been the tradition in the apex court that the CJI recommends the senior most judge as his successor to the government. The incumbent CJI usually sends the recommendation a month before his retirement.