In a new book published by Oxford University
Press this month, entitled “The Informal Constitution: Unwritten Criteria in Selecting Judges for the Supreme Court of India”, I explore the prevalence of
three informal eligibility criteria for appointing judges to the Supreme Court
of India: age, seniority, and diversity. The book expands upon my previous
writings on judicial appointments in India (see, e.g., here, here and here).
Abstract: ‘Enacted for historical reasons on 26 January 1950, the
Constitution of India provided that the Supreme Court of India, situated in New
Delhi, was to have one Chief Justice of India, and not more than seven judges.
Today, the Court has 30 judges in addition to the Chief Justice of India. But
who are these judges, and where did they come from?’ Using a comparative
constitutional law lens, The Informal Constitution studies who the 189 judges
that served on the court from 1950 to 2009 were. Its central thesis is that
despite all established formal constitutional requirements, there are three
informal criteria which are used for appointing judges to the court: age,
seniority, and diversity. The author examines debates surrounding the Indian
judicial system since the institution of the federal court during the British
Raj. This leads up to a study of the political developments that resulted in
the present ‘collegium system’ of appointing judges to the Supreme Court of
India. Based on more than two dozen interviews
personally conducted by the author with former judges of the Supreme Court of
India, this book uniquely brings to the fore the unwritten criteria that have
determined the selection of judges to the highest court of law in this country
for over six decades.