The Supreme Court could soon have a judge belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the first one from the category after a gap of about a decade since the retirement of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, if the Centre clears the collegium's recommendation for the elevation of Bombay High Court judge Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai.
The collegium cleared the name of Justice Gavai at its meeting on May 8 and has forwarded the same to the government. In addition to Gavai's name, Justice Surya Kant's name was also approved and recommended by the collegium. Justice Kant is currently the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
Gavai currently stands at number eight in the combined seniority of the high court judges on an all-India basis. He is at serial number four in the seniority of judges hailing from the Bombay High Court. The collegium, pre-empting questions on the recommendation of Gavai on grounds of seniority, said it had duly considered Gavai's seniority. It said his recommendation, in no way, is to be misconstrued to mean that three senior-most judges from the Bombay High Court, two of whom are serving as chief justices of high courts, are less suitable than Gavai.
The collegium, in its resolution, noted that on Gavai's appointment, the Supreme Court will have a judge belonging to SC category after about a decade. Justice Balakrishnan, the country's first CJI from the SC category, was in office from January, 2007 to May, 2010.
The judges' panel said while recommending the names of Justices Gavai and Kant, it has taken into consideration the desirability of giving due representation on the bench of the apex court, and as far as possible, to all the high courts as well as to all sections of the society, including those belonging to SC/ST/OBC categories, women and minorities.
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If Gavai's nomination as a judge of the top court is approved by the government, he would be in line to become CJI on May 13, 2025, and he would occupy the post for a period of six months. Kant would be slated to succeed him.
Gavai had joined the Bar in 1985 and worked with former advocate general and judge of high court Raja S. Bhonsale till 1987. He practised independently at the Bombay High Court from 1987 to 1990, and specialised in Constitutional Law and Administrative Law.
He was appointed as assistant government pleader and additional public prosecutor in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur bench, from August 1992 to July 1993, and served as government pleader and public prosecutor for the Nagpur bench in January, 2000. He got elevated as additional judge of the high court on November 14, 2003.