For the first time in the history of India, Chief justice NV Ramana administered the oaths of office to nine new Supreme Court judges including three women. This is the first time in India’s history that the Chief Justice has sworn in nine judges at India’s highest court at one time itself. Traditionally, this ceremony is held in the chief justice’s courtroom. However, this time, the eventful ceremony was held in the court complex’s auditorium building so that social distancing is, maintained and Covid protocols are followed.
The new judges whom the Chief Justice swore in include Justice Vikram Nath (former Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court, Justice Hima Kohli (former Chief Justice of Telangana High Court), Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari (former Chief Justice of Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh High Courts), and Justice Abhay Oka (former Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court). Along with them, Justice BV Nagarathna (former Karnataka High Court judge) was also sworn in.
Justice Nagarathna is the daughter of former Chief Justice ES Venkataramiah. She will be India’s first woman chief justice in 2027. However, she will have a tenure of just one month. The other new sworn-in judges include Justice CT Ravikumar (former Kerala High Court judge), Justice MM Sundresh (former Madras High Court judge). The other sworn-in judges were Justice PS Narashima (senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General), and Justice Bela M Trivedi (former Gujarat High Court Judge.
These various judges delivered various interim orders. Just two weeks ago, Justice Vikram Nath, was Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court. He issued an order saying that six sections of state law to stop “love jihad”. This includes. the one which places the burden of the proof on the accused. He said that the government won’t stand it. He declared, “If the state takes any action for inter-religion marriage, you come to us, we will protect you.”
Similarly in 2014, Justice Oka said, “freedom of religion includes right of an individual to claim that he is an atheist.” He responded like this to a plea to stop the government that forced citizens to declare their religious affiliations. When she was with the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Justice Maheshwari ruled, “freedom of speech includes the right to opt for the medium of instructions in (the) mother tongue. She said this to stop a state order from seeking to implement English in primary schools as a medium of instruction.
In his capacity as ASG, Justice Narashima represented the government in the Italian marine case. He was also there for the Hindu parties in the Ayodhya land title dispute. Very few women have been sworn in as a judge since the inception of the Supreme Court. Therefore, there was a need to reverse a worrying trend in the country’s top court. So the three judges namely Justice Nagarathna, Justice Kohli, and Justice Trivedi are being sworn in.
In this present moment, the only woman judge is Justice Indira Banerjee. The Supreme Court elevated her from the Madras High Court where she was serving as the Chief justice. This happened on 7th August 2018. The addition of these nine judges will increase the strength of the Supreme Court to 33. It includes the Chief Justice out of a sanctioned strength of 34.