Seniority today isn't merely a benign convention; it is often a strategic tool wielded by the judicial collegium to reward or punish
It is widely accepted by both judiciary and government that judicial reforms are the need of the hour. Our courts are slow, poorly staffed, ill-equipped in terms of infrastructure and unable to provide speedy and effective justice to citizens. Despite this, a critical reform that is taboo for discussion is how the Chief Justice of India, the head of the institution, ought to be appointed. Any suggestion that departs from the existing convention of seniority—appointing the seniormost serving judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice—attracts the fatal charge of ‘supersession’. Supersession, in turn, brings back painful memories of Indira Gandhi’s assault on the judiciary immediately prior to and during the Emergency, rewarding judges who were sympathetic to government and punishing those who were not. Any attempt to appoint anyone apart from the seniormost judge as Chief Justice is thus inevitably conflated with a sinister design of creating a judiciary ‘made to measure’.