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The Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court is the highest court of India. It is at the apex of the Indian judicial system. In the previous two lessons, you have learnt that the Union legislature, which is known as Parliament makes laws for the whole country in respect of the Union and the Concurrent Lists and the executive comprising the President, Council of Ministers and bureaucracy enforces them. Judiciary, the third organ of the government, has an equally important role to play. It settles the disputes, interprets laws, protects fundamental rights and acts as a guardian of the Constitution. In this lesson, you will learn that India has a single unified and integrated judicial system and that the Supreme Court is the highest court in India.

The Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority of India. It consists of the Chief Justice and 25 other judges. The Parliament may increase the number of judges if it deems necessary. To begin with, besides the Chief Justice, there were only 7 other judges. The Parliament has increased the number of judges from time to time. As in 2005, there are 25 judges besides the Chief Justice who is also called the Chief Justice of India.

The Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of India. While appointing the Chief Justice, the President is constitutionally required to consult such other judges of the Supreme Court as he deems proper, but outgoing Chief Justice is always consulted. Normally, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court is appointed as the Chief Justice of India, although there is no constitutional requirement to do so. While appointing other judges, the President is bound to consult the Chief Justice and other senior judges, if he deems proper.

Whenever there is a vacancy or a likely vacancy in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice and four other senior most judges consider various names and recommend the names of the persons to be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court. This system is based on a ruling of the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court (handed down in 1993 and reinforced in 1999).

Thus, while the Constitution still provides that the President is the appointing authority of the Supreme Court judges, the ruling of the Supreme Court, has since 1999, become virtually binding on the President. The power of selection of judges has passed on to a group of Supreme Court judges, called the Collegium of the Court. The President now performs the formality of appointing the nominee of the Supreme Court, after the Law Ministry formally recommends these names to him.

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