Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India
Seal of the Supreme Court
Established 1 October 1937
(Federal Court of India)
28 January 1950
Country India
Location Bhagwan Das Road, New Delhi, India, 110001
Motto यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः॥ (Yato dharmas tato jayah) Whence law (dharma), thence victory.
Composition method Collegium System
Authorized by Constitution of India
Judge term length 65 years of age
Number of positions 31 (30+1)
Chief Justice of India
Currently T.S. Thakur


This article is part of a series on
Judiciary of India

The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review.

It comprises the Chief Justice of India and 30 other judges. It has original, appellate and advisory jurisdictions.

As the final court of appeal of the country, it takes up appeals primarily against verdicts of the High Courts of various States of the Union and other courts and tribunals.

The Supreme Court has extensive original jurisdiction for the protection of fundamental rights of citizens. It also acts as the court to settle disputes between various governments in the country. As an advisory court, it hears matters which may specifically be referred to it under the Constitution by the President of India. It also may take cognisance of matters on its own (or ‘suo moto’), without anyone drawing its attention. It was first set up in Calcutta for administration of justice.

The law declared by the Supreme Court becomes binding on all courts within India.


  • 1History
  • 2Court building and architecture
    • 1Mother and Child Sculpture
    • 2Seal
  • 3Constitution of the court
    • 1Registry
    • 2Supreme Court advocates
  • 4Composition
    • 1Size of the court
    • 2Eligibility
      • 2.1Court demographics
    • 5Judicial independence
      • 1Appointments and the Collegium
      • 2Tenure
      • 3Salary
      • 4Removal
      • 5Post-retirement
      • 6Power to review its own judgements
      • 7Powers to punish for contempt
    • 6Rules
    • 7Reporting and citation
    • 8Facilities on the campus
    • 9Landmark judgments
      • 1Land reform
      • 2Emergency (1975-1977)
      • 3Post-1980: an assertive court
      • 4Recent important cases
        • 4.12G spectrum scam
        • 4.2Black money
        • 4.3Minority reservations
        • 4.4Online/Postal Ballot For Indians Citizens Living Abroad (NRIs)
        • 4.5Recognition of transgender as ‘third gender’ in law
      • 5Relief to over 35,000 public servants
    • 10Criticism
      • 1Corruption and misconduct of judges
      • 2Pendency of cases


In 1861 the Indian High Courts Act 1861 was enacted to create High Courts for various provinces and abolished Supreme Courts at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and also the Sadar Adalats in Presidency towns which had acted as the highest court in their respective regions. These new High Courts had the distinction of being the highest Courts for all cases till the creation of Federal Court of India under the Government of India Act 1935. The Federal Court had jurisdiction to solve disputes between provinces and federal states and hear appeal against judgements of the High Courts.

The Supreme Court of India came into being on 28 January 1950. It replaced both the Federal Court of India and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which were then at the apex of the Indian court system.

Supreme Court initially had its seat at Chamber of Princes in the Parliament building where the previous Federal Court of India sat from 1937 to 1950. The first Chief Justice of India was Sir H J Kania. In 1958, the Supreme Court moved to its present premises. Originally, Constitution of India envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and seven Judges; leaving it to Parliament to increase this number. In formative years, the Supreme Court met from 10 to 12 in the morning and then 2 to 4 in the afternoon for 28 days in a year

Court building and architecture

Central Wing of the Court where the Chief Justice’s courtroom is located

The building is shaped to symbolise scales of justice with its centre-beam being the Central Wing of the building comprising the Chief Justice’s court, the largest of the courtrooms, with two court halls on either side. The Right Wing of the structure has the bar – room, the offices of the Attorney General of India and other law officers and the library of the court. The Left Wing has the offices of the court. In all there are 15 court rooms in the various wings of the building.

The foundation stone of the supreme court’s building was laid on 29 October 1954 by Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. The main block of the building has been built on a triangular plot of 17 acres and has been designed in an Indo-British style by the chief architect Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar, the first Indian to head the Central Public Works Department. The Court moved into the building in 1958. In 1979, two new wings – the East Wing and the West Wing – were added to the complex. 1994 saw the last extension.

Mother and Child Sculpture

Supreme Court building with the sculpture in the foreground

On 20 February 1980, a black bronze sculpture of 210 centimeter height was installed in lawn of the Supreme Court. It portrays Mother India in the form of the figure of a lady, sheltering the young Republic of India represented by the symbol of a child, who is upholding the laws of land symbolically shown in the form of an open book. On the book, a balance is shown, which represents dispensation of equal justice to all. The sculpture was made by the renowned artist Chintamoni Kar


The design of the Court’s seal is reproduced from the wheel that appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion capital of Asokawith 24 spokes. The inscription in Sanskrit “yatodharmastato jayah” means “whence law (dharma), thence victory”. It is also referred to – as the wheel of righteousness, encompassing truth, goodness and equity.

Constitution of the court


The registry of the Supreme Court is headed by the Secretary-General who is assisted by 8 registrars, several additional and deputy registrars, etc., with 1770 employees in all (221 gazetted officers, 805 non-gazetted and 744 Class IV employees) Article 146 of the Constitution deals with the appointments of officers and servants of the Supreme Court registry.

Supreme Court advocates

Main article: Advocates-on-Record

Supreme Court Rules, 2013 entitle only those advocates who are registered with the supreme court, called ‘Advocates-on-Record’ to appear, act and plead for a party in the court. Those advocates who are designated as ‘Senior Advocates’ by the Supreme Court or any of the High Courts can appear for clients along with an Advocate-on-Record. Any other advocate can appear for a party along with or under instructions from an Advocate-on-Record.


Size of the court

As originally enacted, the Constitution of India provided for a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 judges. The current Chief Justice of India is Justice TS Thakur. In the early years, a full bench of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the Court increased and cases began to accumulate, Parliament increased the number of judges from the original 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2008 (current strength). As the number of the judges has increased, they sit in smaller benches of two or three (referred to as a division bench[coming together in larger benches of five or more (referred to as a constitution bench) when required to settle fundamental questions of law. A bench may refer a case before it to a larger bench, should the need arise.


A citizen of India who has been

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years,or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years,or
  • a distinguishedjurist, in the opinion of the president,

is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the supreme court.

Court demographics

I am proud to be an Indian. India is the only country where a member of the minority Parsi community with a population of 1,67,000, like myself, can aspire to attain the post of the Chief Justice of India. These things do not happen in our neighbouring countries.

Former Chief Justice of IndiaS. H. Kapadia

In practice, judges of the supreme court have been selected so far, mostly from amongst judges of the high courts. Barely six – Justices S. M. Sikri, S. Chandra Roy, Kuldip Singh, Santosh Hegde, R. F. Nariman and U. U. Lalit have been appointed to the supreme court directly from the bar (i.e. who were practising advocates).

The supreme court saw its first woman judge when Justice M. Fathima Beevi was sworn into office in 1989. The sixth and the most recent woman judge in the court is Justice R. Banumathi. In 2000 Justice K. G. Balakrishnan became the first judge from the dalit community. In 2007 he also became the first dalit Chief Justice of India. In 2010, Justice S. H. Kapadia coming from a Parsi minority community became the Chief Justice of India.

Judicial independence

The Constitution seeks to ensure the independence of Supreme Court Judges in various ways.

Appointments and the Collegium

As per the Constitution, as held by the court in the Three Judges’ Cases – (1982, 1993, 1998), a judge is appointed to the Supreme Court by the President of India on the recommendation of the collegium  — a closed group of the Chief Justice of India, the four most senior judges of the court and the senior-most judge hailing from the high court of a prospective appointee.[ This has resulted in a Memorandum of Procedure being followed, for the appointments.

Judges used to be appointed by him on the advice of the Union Cabinet. After 1993 (the Second Judges’ Case), no minister, or even the executive collectively, can suggest any names to the President, who ultimately decides on appointing them from a list of names recommended only by the collegium of the judiciary. Simultaneously, as held in that judgment, the executive was given the power to reject a recommended name. However, according to some, the executive has not been diligent in using this power to reject the names of bad candidates recommended by the judiciary.

The collegium system has come under a fair amount of criticism.[  One recommendation by a collegium came to be challenged in court. The court held that who could become a judge was a matter of fact, and any person had a right to question it. But who should become a judge was a matter of opinion and could not be questioned. As long as an effective consultation took place within a collegium in arriving at that opinion, the,  the court has invited everyone including the public, to suggest by mid-November 2015,[how to improve it, broadly along the lines of – setting up an eligibility criteria for appointments, a permanent secretariat to help the collegium sift through material on potential candidates, infusing more transparency into the selection process, grievance redressal and any other suggestion not in these four categories, like transfer of judges.

The position of Chief Justice of India is attained on the basis of seniority amongst the judges serving on the court.


Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65 which is 3 years more than the retirement age of a judge of the High Court. Hence a judge at the Supreme Court who has been elevated from a High Court serves at the Supreme Court for at least more than 3 years. However, there have been suggestions, including from the judges of the Supreme Court of India, to provide for a fixed term for the judges there including the Chief Justice of India.


Article 125 of the Indian Constitution leaves it to the Indian Parliament to determine the salary, other allowances, leave of absence, pension, etc. of the Supreme Court judges. However, the Parliament cannot alter any of these privileges and rights to the judge’s disadvantage after his appointment.[34] A judge gets ₹90,000 per month, the Chief Justice earns an additional ₹10,000.


A judge of the Supreme Court can be removed under the Constitution only on grounds of proven misconduct or incapacity and by an order of the President of India, after a notice signed by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha (Council of the States) is passed by a two-third majority in each House of the Parliament.


A person who has retired as a Judge of the Supreme Court is debarred from practising in any court of law or before any other authority in India.

Power to review its own judgements

Further information: Review petition

Article 137 of the Constitution of India lays down provision for power of the Supreme Court to review its own judgments. As per this Article, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament or any rules made under Article 145, the Supreme Court shall have power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it.

Under Order XL of the Supreme Court Rules, that have been framed under its powers under Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may review its judgment or order but no application for review is to be entertained in a civil proceeding except on the grounds mentioned in Order XLVII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Powers to punish for contempt

Under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution the Supreme Court has been vested with power to punish anyone for contempt of any court in India including itself. The Supreme Court performed an unprecedented action when it directed a sitting Minister of the state of Maharashtra, Swaroop Singh Naik, to be jailed for 1-month on a charge of contempt of court on 12 May 2006. This was the first time that a serving Minister was ever jailed.


The Constitution of India under Article 145 empowers the Supreme Court to frame its own rules for regulating the practice and procedure of the Court as and when required (with the approval of the President of India). Accordingly, “Supreme Court Rules, 1950” were framed. The 1950 Rules were replaced by the Supreme Court Rules, 1966.

In 2014, Supreme Court notified the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 replacing the 1966 Rules effective from 19 August 2014.

Reporting and citation

Supreme Court Reports is the official journal of Reportable Supreme Court Decisions. It is published under the authority of the Supreme Court of India by the Controller of Publications, Government of India, Delhi. In addition, there are many other reputed private journals that report Supreme Court decisions. Some of these other important journals are: SCR (The Supreme Court Reports), SCC(Supreme Court Cases), AIR (All India Reporter), SCALE, etc.

Facilities on the campus

Legal-aid, court-fee vendors, first-aid post, dental clinic, physiotherapy unit and pathology lab; rail-reservation counter, canteen, post office and a branch and an ATM of UCO Bank, Supreme Court Museum can be availed by litigants and visitors.

Landmark judgments

Land reform

After some of the courts overturned state laws for redistributing land from zamindar (landlord) estates on the ground that the laws violated the zamindars’ fundamental rights, theParliament passed the 1st amendment to the Constitution in 1951, followed by the 4th amendment in 1955, to uphold its authority to redistribute land. The Supreme Court countered these amendments in 1967 when it ruled in Golaknath v. State of Punjab that the Parliament did not have the power to abrogate fundamental rights, including the provisions on private property. The 25th amendment to the Constitution in 1971 curtailed the right of a citizen to property as a fundamental right and gave authority to the government to infringe private property, which led to a furore amongst the zamindars.

Emergency (1975-1977)

The independence of judiciary was severely curtailed during the Indian Emergency (1975-1977) of Indira Gandhi. The constitutional rights of imprisoned persons were restricted under Preventive detention laws passed by the parliament. In the case of Shiva Kant Shukla Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla, popularly known as the Habeas Corpus case, a bench of five seniormost judges of Supreme court ruled in favour of state’s right for unrestricted powers of detention during emergency. Justices A.N. Ray, P. N. Bhagwati, Y. V. Chandrachud, and M.H. Beg, stated in the majority decision:

(under the declaration of emergency) no person has any locus to move any writ petition under Art. 226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention.

The only dissenting opinion was from Justice H. R. Khanna, who stated:

detention without trial is an anathema to all those who love personal liberty… A dissent is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting Judge believes the court to have been betrayed.

It is believed that before delivering his dissenting opinion, Justice Khanna had mentioned to his sister: “I have prepared my judgment, which is going to cost me the Chief Justice-ship of India.” In January 1977, Justice Khanna was superseded despite being the most senior judge at the time and thereby Government broke the convention of appointing only the senior most judge to the position of Chief Justice of India. Justice Khanna remains a legendary figure among the legal fraternity in India for this decision.

The New York Times, wrote of this opinion: “The submission of an independent judiciary to absolutist government is virtually the last step in the destruction of a democratic society; and the Indian Supreme Court’s decision appears close to utter surrender.”

During the emergency period, the government also passed the 39th amendment, which sought to limit judicial review for the election of the Prime Minister; only a body constituted by Parliament could review this election. Subsequently, the parliament, with most opposition members in jail during the emergency, passed the 42nd Amendment which prevented any court from reviewing any amendment to the constitution with the exception of procedural issues concerning ratification. A few years after the emergency, however, the Supreme court rejected the absoluteness of the 42nd amendment and reaffirmed its power of judicial review in the Minerva Mills case (1980).

Post-1980: an assertive court

See also: Judicial Activism In India

After Indira Gandhi lost elections in 1977, the new government of Morarji Desai, and especially law minister Shanti Bhushan (who had earlier argued for the detenues in theHabeas Corpus case), introduced a number of amendments making it more difficult to declare and sustain an emergency, and reinstated much of the power to the Supreme Court. It is said that the Basic Structure doctrine, created in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, was strengthened in Indira Gandhi’s case and set in stone in [Minerva Mills v. Union of India].

The Supreme Court’s creative and expansive interpretations of Article 21 (Life and Personal Liberty), primarily after the Emergency period, have given rise to a new jurisprudence of public interest litigation that has vigorously promoted many important economic and social rights (constitutionally protected but not enforceable) including, but not restricted to, the rights to free education, livelihood, a clean environment, food and many others. Civil and political rights (traditionally protected in the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Indian Constitution) have also been expanded and more fiercely protected. These new interpretations have opened the avenue for litigation on a number of important issues.

Recent important cases

Among the important pronouncements of the Supreme Court post 2000 is the Coelho case [I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (Judgment of 11 January 2007)]. A unanimous Bench of 9 judges reaffirmed the basic structure doctrine. It held that a constitutional amendment which entails violation of any fundamental rights which the Court regards as forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution, then the same can be struck down depending upon its impact and consequences. The judgment clearly imposes further limitations on the constituent power of Parliament with respect to the principles underlying certain fundamental rights. The judgment in Coelho has in effect restored the decision in Golak Nath regarding non-amendability of the Constitution on account of infraction of fundamental rights, contrary to the judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case.

Another important decision was of the five-judge Bench in Ashoka Kumara Thakur v. Union of India; where the constitutional validity of Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admissions) Act, 2006 was upheld, subject to the “creamy layer” criteria. Importantly, the Court refused to follow the ‘strict scrutiny’ standards of review followed by the United States Supreme Court. At the same time, the Court has applied the strict scrutiny standards in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India (2007)

2G spectrum scam

Further information: 2G spectrum scam

The Supreme Court declared allotment of spectrum as “unconstitutional and arbitrary” and quashed all the 122 licenses issued in 2008 during tenure of A. Raja (then minister for communications & IT), the main official accused in the 2G scam case.

Black money

Further information: Indian black money

The government refused to disclose details of about 18 Indians holding accounts in LGT Bank, Liechtenstein, evoking a sharp response from a Bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar. The court ordered Special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter. Lack of enthusiasm made the court create a special investigative team (SIT).

Minority reservations

The SC refused to stay the Andhra High Court judgement quashing 4.5% sub-quota for minorities under OBC reservation quota of 27%.

Online/Postal Ballot For Indians Citizens Living Abroad (NRIs)

Three judge bench presided by Honorable Chief Justice Altamas Kabir issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission of India (EC) on the PIL filed by a group of NRIs for online/postal ballot for the Indian citizens living in abroad.

Recognition of transgender as ‘third gender’ in law

Main article: National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India

In April 2014, Justice KS Radhakrishnan declared transgender to be the ‘third gender’ in Indian law, in a case brought by the National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) against Union of India and others. The ruling said:

Seldom, our society realises or cares to realise the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex. Our society often ridicules and abuses the Transgender community and in public places like railway stations, bus stands, schools, workplaces, malls, theatres, hospitals, they are sidelined and treated as untouchables, forgetting the fact that the moral failure lies in the society’s unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and expressions, a mindset which we have to change.

Justice Radhakrishnan said that transgender people should be treated consistently with other minorities under the law, enabling them to access jobs, healthcare and education. He framed the issue as one of human rights, saying that, “These TGs, even though insignificant in numbers, are still human beings and therefore they have every right to enjoy their human rights”, concluding by declaring that:

(1) Hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as “third gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature.

(2) Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender.

Relief to over 35,000 public servants

In B.Prabhakara Rao vs. State of A.P. involved sudden reduction in age of superannuation from 58 years to 55 years of over 35,000 public servants of State Government, public sector undertakings, statutory bodies, educational institutions and Tirupathi-Tirumalai Devasthanams (TTD). They lost first round of litigation in the Supreme Court. Realising the mistake, fresh legislation was brought restoring the original age of superannuation of 58 years but providing that the benefit of new legislation would not extend to those whose reduction of age of superannuation had been upheld. In challenge to this law, Subodh Markandeya argued that all that was required was to strike down naughty “not” – which found favour with the Supreme Court bringing relief to over 35,000 public servants.


Corruption and misconduct of judges

2008 saw the Supreme Court embroiled in several controversies, from serious allegations of corruption at the highest level of the judiciary, expensive private holidays at the tax payers expense, refusal to divulge details of judges’ assets to the public, secrecy in the appointments of judges’,[  to refusal to make information public under the Right to Information Act. The Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan invited a lot of criticism for his comments on his post not being that of a public servant, but that of a constitutional authority. He later went back on this stand.] The judiciary has come in for serious criticisms from former Presidents of India Pratibha Patil and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam for failure in handling its duties.] Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has stated that corruption is one of the major challenges facing the judiciary, and suggested that there is an urgent need to eradicate this menace. The Cabinet Secretary of the Indian government introduced the Judges Inquiry (Amendment) Bill 2008 in Parliament for setting up of a panel called the National Judicial Council, headed by the Chief Justice of India, that will probe into allegations of corruption and misconduct by High Court and Supreme Court judges.

Pendency of cases

According to Supreme Court newsletter, there are 58,519 cases pending in the Supreme Court, out of which 37,385 are pending for more than a year, at the end of 2011. Excluding connected cases, there are still 33,892 pending cases.[  As per the latest pendency data made available by the Supreme Court, the total number of pending cases in the Supreme Court as on 1 April 2014 is 64,330, which includes 34,144 Admission matters (miscellaneous) and 30,186 Regular Hearing matters Recently, in May, 2014, former Chief Justice of India, Justice R.M. Lodha, proposed to make Indian judiciary work throughout the year (instead of the present system of having long vacations, specially in the higher courts) in order to reduce pendency of cases in Indian courts; however, as per this proposal there is not going to be any increase in the number of working days or working hours of any of the judges and it only meant that different judges would be going on vacation during different periods of the year as per their choice; but, the Bar Council of India rejected this proposal mainly because it would have inconvenienced the advocates who would have to work throughout the year.

Chief Justice of India

Chief Justice of India
Emblem of the Supreme Court of India
 T. S. Thakur
(3 December 2015)
Judiciary of India
Abbreviation CJI
Seat New Delhi
Nominator Collegium of the Supreme Court
Appointer President of India
Term length age of 65 yrs
Constituting instrument Constitution of India (under Article 124)
Formation 1950
First holder Justice H. J. Kania(26/01/1950 – 06/11/1951)


The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the highest-ranking judge in the Supreme Court of India, and thus holds the highest judicial position in India. As well as presiding in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice also heads its administrative functions.

As the chief judge, the Chief Justice is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law. In accordance with Article 145 of the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure of 1966, the Chief Justice allocates all work to the other judges who are bound to refer the matter back to him or her (for re-allocation) in any case where they require it to be looked into by a larger bench of more judges.

The present Chief justice of India is T.S.Thakur. He has started acting from 3 December 2015. Before him H.L.Dattu was the Chief Justice of India. He was last acting on 2/12/2015.

  • Maintenance of the roster;
  • Appointment of court officials;
  • General and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court.

The present Chief Justice is the 42nd since January 1950, the year the Constitution came into effect and the Supreme Court came into being.


  • 1Appointment
  • 2Removal
  • 3Acting President
  • 4Remuneration


Article 124 of the Constitution of India provides for the manner of appointing judges to the Supreme Court. Though no specific provision exists in the Constitution for appointing the Chief Justice, who, as a result, is appointed like the other judges conventionally, the outgoing CJI recommends the name of the senior-most judge (i.e. by date of appointment to the Supreme Court) for appointment by the President, as his successor.

However, this convention has been breached on a number of occasions, most notably during the premiership of Indira Gandhi, who appointed A.N. Ray superseding three judges senior to him allegedly because he supported Gandhi’s government, during theEmergency, a time when her government was becoming increasingly mired in a political and constitutional crisis.


Article 124(4) of Constitution of India lays down the procedure for removal of a Judge of Supreme Court which is applicable to Chief Justice as well. Once appointed, the Chief Justice remains in office until the age of 65 years whichever is earlier. He can be removed only through a process of impeachment by Parliament as follows:

A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

— Article 124(4), Constitution of India, Source

Acting President

The President (Discharge of Functions) Act, 1969 of India provides that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) shall act as the President of India in the event of the offices of both the President and the Vice President being vacant. When President Zakir Hussain died in office, the Vice President V. V. Giri, acted as the President. Later, Mr. Giri resigned as the Vice President. The CJI, Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah then became the acting President of India. The senior-most judge of the Supreme Court became the acting CJI. When the newly elected President took office a month later, Justice Hidayatullah reverted as the Chief Justice of India,


The Constitution of India gives the power of deciding remuneration as well as other conditions of service of the Chief Justice to the Parliament of India. Accordingly, such provisions have been laid down in The Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958.

The sixth central pay commission recommended revision in the salaries and other allowances and pensionary benefits of the central government employees, including the high court and supreme court judges and all India services. The government has accepted the majority of recommendations of the commission and issued orders.

Salary of Chief Justice of India
Date Salary
1 January 1996 ₹33000 (US$490)
1 January 2006 ₹100000 (US$1,500)

List of Chief Justices of India


  • 1List of Chief Justices
    • 1Federal Court of India (1937-1950)
    • 2Supreme Court of India

List of Chief Justices

Federal Court of India (1937-1950)

The Federal Court came into being on 1 October 1937. The seat of the court was the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament building in Delhi. It began with a Chief Justice and two puisne judges. The first Chief Justice was Sir Maurice Gwyer and the other two judges were Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman and M. R. Jayakar. It functioned until the establishment of the Supreme Court of India on 28 January 1950.

Number Name Period of office Length of term (days) Bar Appointed by
1 Sir Maurice Gwyer 1 October 1937 25 April 1943 2,032 Inner Temple The Marquess of Linlithgow
Acting Sir Srinivas Vardachariar 25 April 1943 7 June 1943 43
2 Sir Patrick Spens 7 June 1943 14 August 1947 1,529 Inner Temple
3 Sir H. J. Kania 14 August 1947 26 January 1950 896 Bombay High Court The Viscount Mountbatten of Burma

Supreme Court of India

Since the birth of the Republic of India on 26 January 1950, 42 people have served as the Chief Justice of India (CJI)  While H. J. Kania is the inaugural CJI, the current incumbent is T. S. Thakur who was appointed as Chief Justice of India on 03.12.2015. Justice Y. V. Chandrachud is the longest serving Chief Justice (February 1978 -July 1985).

Number Name Period of office Length of term (days) Bar Appointed by
1 H. J. Kania 26 January 1950 6 November 1951‡‡ 649 Bombay High Court Rajendra Prasad
2 M. Patanjali Sastri 7 November 1951 3 January 1954 788 Madras High Court
3 Mehr Chand Mahajan 4 January 1954 22 December 1954 352 East Punjab High Court
4 Bijan Kumar Mukherjea 23 December 1954 31 January 1956 404 Calcutta High Court
5 Sudhi Ranjan Das 1 February 1956 30 September 1959 1337 Calcutta High Court
6 Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Singha 1 October 1959 31 January 1964 1583 Patna High Court
7 P. B. Gajendragadkar 1 February 1964 15 March 1966 773 Bombay High Court Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
8 Amal Kumar Sarkar 16 March 1966 29 June 1966 105 Calcutta High Court
9 Koka Subba Rao 30 June 1966 11 April 1967 285 Madras High Court
10 Kailas Nath Wanchoo 12 April 1967 24 February 1968 318 Allahabad High Court
11 Mohammad Hidayatullah[2] 25 February 1968 16 December 1970 1025 Bombay High Court Zakir Hussain
12 Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah 17 December 1970 21 January 1971 35 Bombay High Court Varahagiri Venkata Giri
13 Sarv Mittra Sikri 22 Jan 1971 25 April 1973 824 Lahore High Court
14 Ajit Nath Ray 26 April 1973 27 January 1977 1372 Calcutta High Court
15 Mirza Hameedullah Beg 28 January 1977 21 February 1978 389 Allahabad High Court Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
16 Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud 22 February 1978 11 July 1985 2696 Bombay High Court Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
17 Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati 12 July 1985 20 December 1986 526 Gujarat High Court Gyani Zail Singh
18 Raghunandan Swarup Pathak 21 December 1986 18 June 1989 940 Allahabad High Court
19 Engalaguppe Seetharamiah Venkataramiah 19 June 1989 17 December 1989 181 Karnataka High Court Ramaswamy Venkataraman
20 Sabyasachi Mukharji 18 December 1989 25 September 1990‡‡ 281 Calcutta High Court
21 Ranganath Misra 26 September 1990 24 November 1991 424 Orissa High Court
22 Kamal Narain Singh 25 November 1991 12 December 1991 17 Allahabad High Court
23 Madhukar Hiralal Kania 13 December 1991 17 November 1992 340 Bombay High Court
24 Lalit Mohan Sharma 18 November 1992 11 February 1993 85 Patna High Court Shankar Dayal Sharma
25 Manepalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah 12 February 1993 24 October 1994 619 Karnataka High Court
26 Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi 25 October 1994 24 March 1997 881 Gujarat High Court
27 Jagdish Sharan Verma 25 March 1997 17 January 1998 298 Madhya Pradesh High Court
28 Madan Mohan Punchhi 18 January 1998 9 October 1998 264 Punjab and Haryana High Court Kocheril Raman Narayanan
29 Adarsh Sein Anand 10 October 1998 11 January 2001 824 Jammu and Kashmir High Court
30 Sam Piroj Bharucha 11 January 2001 6 May 2002 480 Bombay High Court
31 Bhupinder Nath Kirpal 6 May 2002 8 November 2002 186 Delhi High Court
32 Gopal Ballav Pattanaik 8 November 2002 19 December 2002 41 Orissa High Court A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
33 V. N. Khare 19 Dec 2002 2 May 2004 500 Allahabad High Court
34 S. Rajendra Babu 2 May 2004 1 June 2004 30 Karnataka High Court
35 Ramesh Chandra Lahoti 1 June 2004 1 November 2005 518 Madhya Pradesh High Court
36 Yogesh Kumar Sabharwal 1 November 2005 13 January 2007 438 Delhi High Court
37 K. G. Balakrishnan 13 January 2007 11 May 2010 1214 Kerala High Court
38 S. H. Kapadia 12 May 2010 28 Sep 2012 870 Bombay High Court Pratibha Patil
39 Altamas Kabir 29 September 2012 18 July 2013 292 Calcutta High Court Pranab Mukherjee
40 P. Sathasivam 19 July 2013 26 April 2014 281 Madras High Court
41 Rajendra Mal Lodha 27 April 2014 27 September 2014 153 Rajasthan High Court
42 H. L. Dattu 28 September 2014 2 December 2015 584 Karnataka High Court
43 T. S. Thakur 3 December 2015 Incumbent 71 Jammu and Kashmir High Court

National Judicial Appointments Commission


National Judicial Appointments Commission, 2014
Parliament of India
An Act further to amend the Constitution of India.
Citation 99th Constitutional Amendment Act
Territorial extent India
Date assented to 15 August 2014
Date commenced 31 December 2014
Date repealed 16 October 2015
Status: Repealed

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was a proposed body which would have been responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. The Commission was established by amending the Constitution of India through the ninety-ninth constitution amendment vide the Constitution (Ninety-Ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 passed by the Lok Sabha on 13 August 2014 and by the Rajya Sabha on 14 August 2014. The NJAC would have replaced the collegium system for the appointment of judges as invoked by the Supreme court via judicial fiat by a new system. Along with the Constitution Amendment Act, the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, was also passed by the Parliament of India to regulate the functions of the National Judicial Appointments Commission. The NJAC Bill and the Constitutional Amendment Bill, was ratified by 16 of the state legislatures in India, and subsequently assented by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee on 31 December 2014.[  The NJAC Act and the Constitutional Amendment Act came into force from 13 April 2015.

On 16 October 2015 the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court by 4;1 Majority upheld the collegium system and struck down the NJAC as unconstitutional after hearing the petitions filed by several persons and bodies with Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAoRA) being the first and lead petitioner. Justices J S Khehar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel had declared the 99th Amendment and NJAC Act unconstitutional while Justice Chelameswar upheld it


  • 1Constitution of the National Judicial Appointments Commission
    • 1Composition
  • 2Functions of the Commission
  • 3Procedures to be followed by the Commission
    • 1Procedure for Selection of Supreme Court judges
      • 1.1Chief Justice of India
      • 1.2Supreme Court Judges
    • 2Procedure for Selection of High Courts judges
      • 2.1Chief Justices of High Courts
      • 2.2Appointment of other High Court Judges
    • 4Challenge to the constitutionality
    • 5SC declares NJAC unconstitutional
      • 1Later Developments

Constitution of the National Judicial Appointments Commission

A new article, Article 124A, (which provides for the composition of the NJAC) has been inserted into the Constitution.


As per the amended provisions of the constitution, the Commission would have consisted of the following six persons:

  • Chief Justice of India(Chairperson, ex officio)
  • Two other senior judges of the Supreme Court next to the Chief Justice of India –ex officio
  • TheUnion Minister of Law and Justice, ex-officio
  • Two eminent persons

These (two) eminent persons would have been nominated by a committee consisting of the

  • Chief Justice of India,
  • Prime Minister of India, and
  • Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then, the Leader of single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha), provided that of the two eminent persons, one person would be from theScheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or OBC or minority communities or a woman. The eminent persons shall be nominated for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for re-nomination.

Functions of the Commission

As per the amended constitution, the functions of the Commission would have included the following:

  • Recommendingpersons for appointment as Chief Justice of India, Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of High Courts and other Judges of High Courts.
  • Recommending transfer of Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts from one High Court to any other High Court.
  • Ensuring that the persons recommended are of ability, merit and other criteria mentioned in the regulations related to the act.

Procedures to be followed by the Commission

The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, had laid down the following procedures for the selection of the Judges of the higher judiciary.

Procedure for Selection of Supreme Court judges

Chief Justice of India

The Commission shall recommend the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court for appointment as Chief Justice of India. This is provided he/she is considered fit to hold the office.However, this must be according to the knowledge one possess rather than the age.

Supreme Court Judges

The Commission shall recommend names of persons on the basis of their ability, merit and other criteria specified in the regulations.

The Commission shall not recommend a person for appointment if any two of its members do not agree to such recommendation.

Procedure for Selection of High Courts judges

Chief Justices of High Courts

The Commission shall recommend a Judge of a High Court to be the Chief Justice of a High Court on the basis of seniority across High Court judges. The ability, merit and other criteria of suitability as specified in the regulations would also be considered.

Appointment of other High Court Judges

The Commission shall seek nominations from Chief Justice of the concerned High Court for appointments of High Court Judges and then forward such names to the Chief Justice of the concerned High Courts for his/her views. In both cases, the Chief Justice of the High Court shall consult two senior most judges of that High Court and any other judges and advocates as specified in the regulations. The Commission shall elicit the views of the Governor and Chief Minister of the state before making recommendations. The Commission shall not recommend a person for appointment if any two members of the Commission do not agree to such recommendation.

Challenge to the constitutionality

The validity of the constitutional amendment act and the NJAC Act were challenged by certain lawyers, lawyer associations and groups before the Supreme Court of India through Writ Petitions. Earlier in August 2014, Supreme Court had dismissed few Writ Petitions challenging the validity of NJAC on the ground that the challenge was premature as the constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act had not been notified then. After the fresh challenge in 2015 after the acts were notified, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

SC declares NJAC unconstitutional

In a collective order, on 16 October 2015 the Supreme Court by a majority of 4:1 had struck down the NJAC Act, 2014 meant to replace the two-decade old collegium system of judges appointing judges in the higher judiciary. The judgement was hailed by lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani, who had appeared for the petitioners challenging NJAC, while other jurists, lawyers and activists such as KK Venugopal, KTS Tulsi and Jaya Prakash Narayana opposed it.

Later Developments

On 3 November 2015 the Supreme Court upheld that it is open to bringing greater transparency in the collegium system within the following existing four parameters, with opinions from both the parties(petitioners who challenged the NJAC and the government).

  • How the collegium can be made transparent
  • The fixing of the eligibility criteria for a person to be considered suitable for appointment as a judge
  • A process to receive and deal with complaints against judges without compromising on judicial independence
  • Debate on whether a separate secretariat is required, and if so, its functioning, composition and powers

On 19 November 2015 the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed the Supreme Court that the central government will not prepare a draft memorandum for judicial appointments contrary to committed earlier and suggested the same to be done through a judgement.