On the 28th of January, 1950, two days after India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic, the Supreme Court came into being.
The original Constitution of 1950 envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 puisne Judges – leaving it to Parliament to increase this number. In the early years, all the Judges of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them.
As the work of the Court increased and arrears of cases began to cumulate, Parliament increased the number of Judges from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978 and 26 in 1986.
As the number of the Judges has increased, they sit in smaller Benches of two and three – coming together in larger Benches of 5 and more only when required to do so or to settle a difference of opinion or controversy.
The Supreme Court of India comprises the Chief Justice and 30 other Judges appointed by the President of India. Provisions exist for the appointment of a Judge of a High Court as an Ad-hoc Judge of the Supreme Court and for retired Judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts to sit and act as Judges of that Court.
The proceedings of the Supreme Court are conducted in English only. Supreme Court Rules, 1966 are framed under Article 145 of the Constitution to regulate the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court.
Organisation of the Supreme Court
At the time of the inauguration of the Constitution, the Supreme Court consisted of one Chief Justice and seven other Judges. Presently, the Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and thirty other Judges.
Provisions for the Appointment of Ad hoc (Temporary) Judges
The Constitution provides for the appointment of ad hoc judges if at any time the number of judges available is not sufficient for the quorum to hold or continue any session of the Court, the Chief Justice of India, with the prior consent of the President, can request in writing the attendance of a High Court judge as an ad hoc judge in a session of the Supreme Court for a definite period.
The Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President after consultation with some sitting Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts in the states.
In the appointment of other judges, the President consults the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and while appointing the Chief Justice, he consults other judges or some of them.
Appointment of the Chief Justice
Regarding the method of appointment of the Chief Justice of India, the seniority principle is respected and followed.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of Chief Justice of India, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is elevated to this office.
Appointment of an Acting Chief Justice
In case the office of the Chief Justice suddenly falls vacant or when the Chief Justice may be unable to perform his duties due to absence or otherwise, the President can appoint an Acting Chief Justice.
The President appoints the next senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as the acting-Chief Justice. He continues to perform his duties till the appointment of a new Chief Justice or till the resumption of office by the regular Chief Justice.