The Chief Justice of India, UU Lalit, has been asked by the government to name his successor, sources say.
Once his successor is named, Chief Justice Lalit cannot call any meeting of the collegium - the top Supreme Court body for the appointment of judges. So the Justice Lalit-led collegium can no longer recommend anyone to fill four judges' vacancies in the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Lalit is to retire on November 8 and Justice DY Chandrachud is next in line.
The Union Law Ministry has written to the Chief Justice requesting him to name his successor and, in a rare move, has also tweeted on it.
As per the MoP on appointment of Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court Judges, today the Hon'ble Minister of Law and Justice sent a letter to the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India for sending his recommendations for appointment of his successor.— Ministry of Law and Justice (@MLJ_GoI) October 7, 2022
The timing of the government's request is significant. By convention, Chief Justice Lalit, who is one month from retirement, cannot clear any more appointments. Justice Lalit had cited the same rule to prevent his predecessor Chief Justice NV Ramana from presiding over two judges' appointments.
There is a rift within the panel of five senior most judges over Chief Justice Lalit's move to get four Supreme Court appointments cleared by circulating a written proposal. The proposal went to Justices Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, KM Josekh and Abdul Nazir.
Two members of the collegium have reportedly objected to the Chief Justice seeking their written views. They have reportedly said their views can't be put down in writing and there should be deliberations to form a consensus.
"Appointment to the highest constitutional office and as judges of the highest court should never be done through circulation," the judges reportedly wrote.
The collegium was to consider the four candidate - three High Court Chief Justices and a senior Supreme Court advocate - for elevation to the Supreme Court on September 30. However, the group couldn't meet as Justice Chandrachud was in court till late evening due to a heavy caseload.
The court went into recess for Dussehra holidays the next day, on October 1.
The Supreme Court reopens on October 10, and Chief Justice Lalit will be less than a month from retirement by then.
Justice Lalit's collegium has recommended only one judge's name to the government in its short 74-day tenure.