We have mentioned at the beginning of this lesson that the Supreme Court represents the Union judiciary. But the structure and functioning of the judicial branch are different from those of the executive and the legislative branches.
Do you have some idea or experience of judicial actions? You may have heard at some point in time that a case that began in the lower court was considered by the courts at the district level, then by the High Court and ultimately by the Supreme Court.
This happens because India has a unified judiciary. It means that there is a hierarchy of Courts, at the highest level of which is the Supreme Court, then at the state level there are High Courts and at the district and still lower levels there are subordinate courts.
As provided in the Constitution, the Supreme Court of India consists of the Chief Justice and other Judges whose number is prescribed by the Parliament from time to time. In 1950 there was a Chief Justice and there were 7 Judges.
But the number of Judges continued increasing as per the need. The Supreme Court, at present, consists of the Chief Justice and 30 Judges. The Chief Justice and other Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of India.
For appointing the Chief Justice of India, the other Judges of the Supreme or High Courts may be consulted. Usually, the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court is appointed as the Chief Justice.
For the appointment of other Judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice has to be consulted. Usually, the Chief Justice himself consults a collegium of the four senior-most Judges, and all of them need to agree for any candidate to be recommended for the appointment of a judge.
A person can be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court only if he/she:
- is a citizen of India;
- must have been at least a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession for at least five years; or
- must have been an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession for at least ten years; or
- is, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist.
Judges of the Supreme Court hold office till they attain the age of 65 years. But they may be removed from office by an order of the President, passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a special majority on the grounds of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
This is known as the impeachment procedure. No Chief Justice or Judge of the Supreme Court has been impeached so far. A Judge who has served in the Supreme Court is barred from pleading in any court within the territory of India after retirement.
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