The current Chief Justice of India, Justice S.A.Bobde’s retirement comes close on April 23rd 2021. He has recommended Justice Ramana, aged born in an agricultural family in Ponnavaram Village, in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district as his replacement.
There is an absence of a constitutional provision relating to the procedure and hence the appointment relies on custom and convention. Article 124(1) of the Indian Constitution says there “shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India”. The closest mention is in Article 126, which deals with the appointment of an acting CJI.
The post of the CJI is usually taken up by the senior most judge of the Supreme Court where the seniority is not defined by age but by the years of service as a judge.
The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) between the government and the judiciary defines the procedure for the appointment of the Chief justice. The procedure requires the sitting Chief Justice to send his recommendations to the Law Minister.
He can even call a consortium to seek clarity for his recommendation. The recommendation is passed on to the Prime Minister of India from where it gets forwarded to the President. The President gets the recommended Judge to administer the oath for the post of Chief Justice.
Except for the law minister seeking the recommendation from the incumbent CJI, and forwarding it to the Prime Minister, the government has no say in the appointment of the CJI.
Vis-à-vis the appointment of the CJI and the appointment of SC judges, the key difference is that in the former, the government cannot send the recommendation of the CJI (or the collegium) back to them for reconsideration; while in the latter, the government can do so. However, if the collegium reiterates those names, then the government cannot object any further.