New Delhi: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is learnt to have asked Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to recommend the name of his successor, setting in motion the process of change of guard in the apex court.
Justice Misra retires on October 2. Sources in the Law Ministry said the letter was delivered to the CJI recently.
As per the Memorandum of Procedure which governs the appointment of members of the higher judiciary, "appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office".
It stipulates that the Law Minister would, at an appropriate time, seek the recommendation of the outgoing Chief Justice of India for the appointment of the next CJI.
Under this process, after receipt of the recommendation of the CJI, the Law Minister puts it before the Prime Minister who advises the President in the matter of appointment.
"Whenever there is any doubt about the fitness of the senior-most Judge to hold the office of the Chief Justice of India, consultation with other Judges...would be made for appointment of the next Chief Justice of India," the document states.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the senior-most judge of the top court after the CJI.
Speculations over Justice Gogoi's appointment as the next CJI emerged following an unprecedented press conference by four senior-most judges, including Justice Gogoi, in January this year when they had criticised Justice Misra over various issues, especially the manner of allocation of cases to certain benches.
Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph were among those who addressed the press conference, perhaps a first in the history of Indian judiciary.
Law Minister Prasad had recently said that the government's intention on the appointment of the next Chief Justice of India should not be questioned. He had also said that when the incumbent names the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as his successor as per convention, the executive will take a call.
He was responding to a question at the Law Ministry's annual press conference on whether the government will follow the laid-down conventions and procedures to appoint Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the next Chief Justice when incumbent Justice Misra demits office.
"The question is imaginary...as far as the appointment of the Chief Justice of India is concerned, the convention is clear...the sitting chief justice names the senior-most judge (of the top court) as his successor. When the name comes to us, we will discuss it," he had said.