After much speculation on the issue, the about to retire Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi issued a letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recommending Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde as his successor. Justice Bobde will serve as the CJI for a tenure of one year and five months as CJI till April 23, 2021.
The process followed in the country for the appointment of the Chief Justice of India is that the outgoing CJI sends in a recommendation of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as a successor, a month before his scheduled retirement. Justice Gogoi will retire on November 17 this year after having served his term since October 2018. He was sworn in as the 46th Chief Justice of India and has had a rather eventful tenure holding the office.
Justice S.A. Bobde is the senior-most sitting judge in the Supreme Court and has also previously served as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court delivering several important decisions. He presently is the serving Chancellor of the newly formed Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai [MNLU] and Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur and set to retire in April 2021.
Justice Bobde was asked to decide on the ‘next steps’ in the sexual harassment case against CJI Ranjan Gogoi:
Once in the tenure of Gogoi, Bobde had come to the rescue of the court when Gogoi was being alleged of ‘procedural impropriety’. In the controversial tenure of Gogoi, he was once accused by a former woman staffer of the apex court for sexual harassment. In hearing the case, Gogoi himself was on the bench, which caused a hue and cry in the country. Two lawyers’ bodies of the Supreme Court cited “procedural impropriety” in the said sitting and requested “full court of the Supreme Court” should take all “necessary steps” to deal with the charges.
Back then there was condemnation even from the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) which also alleged “procedural impropriety” in convening the session and sought “immediate appointment of a committee headed by a full court of Supreme Court for impartial investigation and enquiry into the allegations.” It was then when Gogoi had asked his would-be-successor, the second most senior judge, to decide on the next steps in the matter.
S A Bobde, the second most senior judge, has served as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and has also been a part of several important benches. He is also currently the serving Chancellor of Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai and Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur and is set to retire in 2021.
Apart from the recommendation on his successor, Gogoi, in his letter has also moved a suggestion to raise the age of retirement of CJI from 62 to 65. He said, “The immediate result – there will be a freeze of retirement for three years. In these three years, we can try and fill up the 403 vacancies by good judges. This is my dream.”