With the swearing-in of Justice B.V. Nagarathna, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice Bela M Trivedi among the nine newly elevated judges, the Apex court now has the highest number of sitting women judges at four, including Justice Indira Banerjee appointed back in 2018.
Nine new judges were administered the oath of office of the Supreme Court, on the 31st of August, 2021. To ensure Covid19 related protocols, Supreme Court’s auditorium was used for the swearing-in ceremony and not the CJI’s courtroom where it is traditionally held. With these appointments, the strength of the Supreme Court judges, out of the sanctioned strength of 34, has now risen to 33 including the CJI.
The nine new judges who were administered the oath of office, four were the sitting chief justices of high courts – Justices Abhay Shreeniwas Oka (Karnataka), Vikram Nath (Gujarat), J.K Maheshwari (Sikkim), and Hima Kohli (Telangana), whereas, four were the judges of HC previously, Justices B V Nagarathna (Karnataka HC), C T Ravikumar (Kerala HC), Justice M M Sundaresh (Tamil Nadu HC), Justice Bela M Trivedi (Gujarat HC). Alongside, one former Additional Solicitor General and a senior advocate, Justice P S Narasimha have also been appointed.
Among the many firsts, this was the first time when nine judges took the oath of office at one go. This also is the first time that the elevation of names by the collegium was endorsed unanimously. A fair representation was given to the Scheduled Caste and the OBC, as the collegium proposed the names of Justice C.T. Sivakumar and Justice M.M. Sundaresh.
And, for the first time in history, Justice Nagarathana is all set to become the first women CJI of India based on seniority, from 23 September to 29 October in 2027, for just 36 days before her retirement.
Getting back to the history of appointment to the apex court, it was only in the late 80’s that a woman was elevated to the position of judge, starting with Justice M Fathima Beevi in 1989, only seven other female judges have so far been appointed to the Supreme Court, Justices Sujata V Manohar (1994), Ruma Pal (2000), Gyan Sudha Misra (2010), Ranjana Prakash Desai (2011), R Bhanumathi (2014), Indu Malhotra (2018), and Indira Banerjee (2018) [*in that order].
And, the previous high number of woman judges was from August 2018 to May 2020, when Justices R Banumathi, Indira Banerjee, and Indu Malhotra were sitting.