In a remarkable precedent in the history of the Indian judiciary, India will see a woman getting appointed to the top post of the country's judiciary in six years from now as Justice BV Nagarathna is in line to become the first woman Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 2027. Justice Nagarathna is presently a judge with the Karnataka High Court and on Tuesday, the Supreme Court Collegium, led by incumbent Chief Justice NV Ramana, has recommended the names of nine judges for the elevation to the apex court.
These recommendations will go to the President of India and will finally be approved for the appointment. Once these seats are filled, the apex court will have 33 judges. The number of judges stood at 26 against the sanctioned strength of 34, including the Chief Justice of India. The number has come down to 25 when Justice RF Nariman had retired on August 12 and with the retirement of Justice Navin Sinha on Wednesday, the number has come down to 24. Amid a pile of cases, the apex court had a dearth of judges as no appointment was made after the superannuation of the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi on March 19, 2019.
According to reports, the five-member collegium, led by CJI NV Ramana and consists of Justices UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and L Nageswara Rao has sent three names of woman judges in the list of nine judges including Justice BV Nagarathna from the Karnataka High Court, who could become the first woman Chief Justice of India. The two other women judges are Justice Hima Kohli, the Chief Justice of Telangana High Court, and Justice Bela Trivedi, a judge in Gujarat High Court.
Other names recommended by the collegium are Justices Abhay Shreeniwas Oka (Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court), Vikram Nath (Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court), Jitendra Kumar Maheswari (Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court), CT Ravikumar, and MM Sundersh (both of them are the judges in Kerala High Court). The reports say that the collegium has also picked senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha for direct appointment to the apex court.
Justice BV Nagarathna was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2008 and as a permanent judge two years later. 58-year-old Nagarathna will be close to retirement when she becomes the first woman Chief Justice of India and she would be serving the post for a month and she will be following in the footsteps of her father ES Venkataramaiah, who was the 19th Chief Justice of India between June 1989 and December 1989.
Nagarathna started her career as a lawyer in Bangalore. She has enrolled with the Bar Council of Karnataka in 1987 and practised constitutional and commercial law in Bangalore before being appointed as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2008 and she was then appointed as a permanent judge on 17th February 2010. Justice Nagarathna has delivered a number of significant judgments relating to commercial and constitutional law in Karnataka. In 2009, she and another judge Venkate Gopala Gowda were detained unlawfully along with the then-Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court PD Dinakaran.
They were detained by a group of protesting lawyers in the high court and they had protested following the allegations of corruption against PD Dinakaran. The judges were later released by the lawyers and following the incident, Justice Nagarathna has said, "We can't be cowed down like this and we have taken the oath of Constitution." She added, "We are not angry, but we are sad that the Bar has done this to us. We have to hang our head in shame." While hearing a case on mid-day meals earlier this year, Justice Nagarathna has said, "Nobody can study on a hungry stomach." In the recent court hearing, she noted, "India's patriarchal society doesn't know how to treat empowered women."