“Butterflies in the stomach”, said a nervous Justice PV Sanjay Kumar seconds after he reached the pinnacle of his judicial career in taking oath on Monday as a Supreme Court judge, an occasion that appeared to physically overwhelm him, causing mild trembling of his hand.
As he sat down after affirmation of oath to sign the official papers, the dais microphone picked him telling CJI DY Chandrachud, who administered the oath, that he was having “butterflies in stomach”. The CJI understood the nervousness of Justice Kumar, who was appointed judge of Telangana high court in 2008 and as CJ of Manipur high court in February 2021. Justice Chandrachud’s remarks, also picked up by dais microphone, was assuring: “This is a very very important and solemn occasion. I get them (butterflies) while administering oaths. It is a moment in history, you know!”
Justice Kumar was third among the five to take oath. The other four who were administered oath as SC judges were Justices Pankaj Mithal, Sanjay Karol, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Manoj Misra. With this, the working strength of SC went up to 32 judges as against the sanctioned strength of 34 judges.
Justice Mithal is the senior most among the five who took oath on Monday. He was appointed a judge of Allahabad HC in July 2006. He was appointed as CJ of J&K and Ladakh in January 2021 and was transferred to Rajasthan HC as CJ in October 2022.
With Justice Karol taking oath as a SC judge, Himachal Pradesh got representation in the SC after a gap of over two and half years. But there are several HCs which have no representation in the SC. Justice Karol was appointed a HC judge in March 2007 and CJ of Tripura HC in November 2018. He was transferred to Patna HC as CJ in November 2019 and worked there till his elevation to the SC.
Justice Amanullah, who was appointed as judge of Patna HC in June 2011, was chosen to become a SC judge from the Muslim community after the retirement of Justice S Abdul Nazeer last month. He was transferred for eight months to Andhra Pradesh HC in 2020-21 before being transferred back to his parent HC.
Justice Misra was appointed judge of Allahabad HC in November 2011 and has a long tenure of more than seven years as an SC judge. However, he would retire as the most senior judge, remaining no. 2 for more than two years when Justice Pardiwala becomes CJI in 2028.
With these appointments, both Allahabad HC and Delhi HC have the highest representation in the SC with four judges each. Bombay and Gujarat HCs have three Judges each in SC.
13 new HC judges appointed
The law ministry also notified the appointment of 13 judges for the high courts of Allahabad, Karnataka and Madras. The notification says 11 advocates and two judicial officers have been elevated as additional judges of the three high courts.
Six advocates have been elevated as judges in Allahabad HC, three in Madras HC, and two in Karnataka HC. Two judicial officers have also been elevated as judges in Madras HC, taking the total new appointments in the court to five.
However, the elevation of advocate LC Victoria Gowri in Madras HC has created a controversy. A PIL has been filed by advocates challenging her appointment on the ground that the erstwhile BJP member had expressed strong views in 2018 against Muslim and Christian communities by accusing them of indulging in forced conversion, which disqualifies her from becoming a HC judge. The SC has admitted the petition
In the 25 high courts, against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, 775 judges are working and 333 posts are vacant, as on January 30.