ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mapping the Appointments and Tenures of Supreme Court Judges

The debate about the tenure of judges of the Supreme Court of India is fixated somewhat unnecessarily on the retirement age than the actual time spent in the Court. Examining the length of the tenure gives some hints as to the unwritten criteria of appointment and may potentially offer a deeper understanding of the systemic problems faced by the courts.

While there is much writing about the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court of India (Sengupta and Sharma 2018), rigorous data analyses of judges appointments and tenures are few and far between. Two stand-out exceptions to this are George H Gadboiss Judges of the Supreme Court of India: 19501989 (2011) and Abhinav Chandrachuds The Informal Constitution (2014). They offer many interesting insights and, in the course of this column, I hope to build on some of them to think about how the tenure of judges might be affecting the institution itself.

Between January 1950 and April 2020, a total of 247 judges were appointed to the Supreme Court. From being seven strong in 1950, the Supreme Court currently has 33 judges as against a sanctioned strength of 34. Its size was recently increased from 31 to 34 under the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2020. The retirement age of judges, fixed under the Constitution as 65, has never been changed.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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