Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Era of Firsts

The website of the Supreme Court of India indicates that Justice Ranjan Gogoi was appointed to the Supreme Court on Monday, April 23, 2012. In my count, he is precisely the 200th judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court of India – and in 2018, if everything else stays the same, and if the seniority norm remains sacrosanct, he will become the first judge from the Gauhati High Court, representing the North-Eastern states, to become Chief Justice of India [his profile has not been uploaded to the court's website yet, but media reports (see here, here, here, and here), and his profile on the website of the government of Assam, suggest that he was born in 1954, and was first appointed to the Gauhati High Court].

For the court, this seems to be an era of firsts, especially in terms of its inclusiveness – a high priority item for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court. It’s the first time two women (G.S. Misra, R.P. Desai) are serving on the court simultaneously. In 2009, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan became the first "backward" caste CJI, also the first CJI from the state of Kerala. It can be conjectured - although there are no publicly available data that support this claim - that three Muslim judges are serving on the Supreme Court of India simultaneously at present, a rare occurrence - perhaps the first of its kind. Only three other states, whose High Court judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court, have not yet had a Chief Justice of India to their credit: Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh. However, other things remaining the same, in 2014 Justice R.M. Lodha will become the first Chief Justice of India from the state of Rajasthan. So far, no judge has been appointed to the Supreme Court of India from the states of Sikkim, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, or Jharkhand, so naturally, none of these states have had Chief Justices of India to their credit yet. The highest number of Chief Justices of India (together, nearly half of all the CJIs so far) have come from the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. The discerning reader will hopefully observe that I make no normative claims about the inclusiveness of the court, and leave that debate for another day. 

Incidentally, the Supreme Court’s present Chief Justice, S.H. Kapadia, is the first CJI to have been born in independent India, and his term perhaps signals the start of a new generation of Chief Justices. 
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