The Nature of Judicial Power: Short Tenure of Supreme Court Judges

The importance of statistical data, in interpreting careers, is often highlighted. It hides as much as it reveals. It’s not without reason Wilfred Rhodes had a Test career which lasted more than 30 years! We aren’t discussing sports, though.

Hon’ble Justice P.N. Bhagwati still holds the record for the longest tenure [4905 days; DoA, 17.07.1973 – DoR, 20.12.1986][1]. If we set aside i) Death-in-Office [Hon’ble Judges H.J. Kania, Ghulam Hasan, P. Govinda Menon, P. Satyanarayana Raju, Subimal Chandra Roy, A.K. Mukherjea, S.N. Dwivedi, R.C. Patnaik][2] and ii) Resignation [Hon’ble Justice Baharul Islam][3], Hon’ble Justice K.N. Saikia holds the record for the shortest tenure [807 days; DoA, 14.12.1988 – DoR, 28.02.1991].

Post-Justice-Saikia, in between 1992 and 2020 [28 years], nobody has had a shorter tenure than Hon’ble Justice M. Fathima Beevi [937 days; DoA, 06.10.1989 – DoR, 29.04.1992]. In recent times, we have had Hon’ble Justice Swatanter Kumar [1098 days; DoA, 18.12.2009 – DoR, 19.12.2012][4]; Hon’ble Justice Vikramajit Sen [1102 days; DoA, 24.12.2012 – DoR, 30.12.2015] and Hon’ble Justice Amitava Roy [1099 days; DoA, 27.02.2015 – DoR, 01.03.2018]. It is illustrative. Interestingly, Justice Beevi shall meet her closest match in 224 days. Justice Indu Malhotra [DoA, 27.04.2018 – DoR, 13.03.2021] shall bid adieu with a tenure of 1052 days.

It appears questionable that, in 28 years we have had only 8 women Judges. It is shocking, in those years leading to 2021, the 2 SC Judges who shall hold the record for the shortest tenure are… 2 Judges

[1] Inclusive of DoR. Justice Bhagwati was appointed by Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Justice A.N. Ray.

[2] Not the only ones to have had died while still being a SC Judge.

[3] Not the only one to have resigned while still being a SC Judge.

[4] He resigned while still being a SC Judge.