An Era of Firsts

The website of the Supreme Court of India indicates that
Justice Ranjan Gogoi was appointed to the Supreme Court on Monday, April 23,
2012. In my count, he is precisely the 200th judge to be appointed
to the Supreme Court of India – and in 2018, if everything else stays the same,
and if the seniority norm remains sacrosanct, he will become the first judge
from the Gauhati High Court, representing the North-Eastern states, to become
Chief Justice of India [his profile has not been uploaded to the court’s website yet, but
media reports (see here, here, here, and here), and his profile on the website of the government of Assam, suggest that he was born in 1954, and was
first appointed to the Gauhati High Court].
For the court, this seems to be an era of firsts, especially in terms of its inclusiveness – a high priority item for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court. It’s
the first time two women (G.S. Misra, R.P. Desai) are serving on the court
simultaneously. In 2009, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan became the first “backward” caste CJI, also the first CJI from the state of Kerala. It can be conjectured – although there are no publicly available data that support this claim – that three Muslim judges are serving on the Supreme Court of India simultaneously at present, a rare occurrence – perhaps the first of its kind. Only three other states, whose High Court
judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court, have not yet had a Chief
Justice of India to their credit: Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal
Pradesh. However, other things remaining the same, in 2014 Justice R.M. Lodha will
become the first Chief Justice of India from the state of Rajasthan. So far, no
judge has been appointed to the Supreme Court of India from the states of
Sikkim, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, or Jharkhand, so naturally, none of these
states have had Chief Justices of India to their credit yet. The highest number
of Chief Justices of India (together, nearly half of all the CJIs so far) have
come from the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. The discerning reader will hopefully observe that I make no normative claims about the inclusiveness of the court, and leave that debate for another day. 

Incidentally, the Supreme Court’s present Chief
Justice, S.H. Kapadia, is the first CJI to have been born in
independent India, and his term perhaps signals the start of a new generation
of Chief Justices. 

Written by
Abhinav Chandrachud
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  • CJI K.Subba Rao was from the Andhra Pradesh High Court.Check the link below for his profile in the Andhra Pradesh High Court–

  • Thanks for raising this – I should have made my decision rule clear. Assume that Justice A is born in State 1, practices law and lives for most of her life in State 2, her mother tongue is the language spoken in State 3, she is first appointed a judge in the High Court of State 4, she is then transferred to the High Court of State 5 as a puisne judge, and finally, she is transferred to the High Court of State 6 as Chief Justice – which state will she be attributed to? The decision rule I have applied, which I believe closely approximates the official decision rule, is that a judge is attributed to the state to whose High Court she was first appointed. Thus, Justice R.M. Lodha was first appointed to the Rajasthan High Court in January 1994 [] but he spent a vast portion of his career as a judge in the Bombay High Court – he will still be considered a judge from the Rajasthan High Court. Similarly, Justice S.H. Kapadia was a judge in the Bombay High Court, and then Chief Justice of the Uttaranchal High Court – however, he will still be considered a judge from the High Court of Bombay. Justice K. Subba Rao was born in Andhra Pradesh [George H. Gadbois Jr., Judges of the Supreme Court of India: 1950-1989 (OUP 2011) 76], he was first appointed a judge of the Madras High Court, and then he became the first Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court when the court was established [id., 77. see also: For this reason, I have attributed him to the Madras High Court.

  • Justice Sema was from Sikkim. And appeared in Kesavananda Bharati on behalf of that State.

    Surely not; he is (he is still among us) from Nagaland as can be seen by looking at his profile here. And given that Sikkim joined the Union of India (was annexed by, if you will) in 1975 whereas the Kesavananda Bharati case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, Justice Sema could not have possibly appeared on behalf of Sikkim in Kesavananda Bharati even if he was from that state.