India’s top court is set to begin its year in January with the swearing-in of new judges for the first time in almost three decades.
The bench of Justices Ranjit Rai and Justice R.K. Pillai has been split evenly between liberals and conservatives, and the judges will likely be handed the reins of power in February.
The new judges will be nominated by the prime minister, and they will be appointed by the court president, who has also been given the responsibility of selecting the top two contenders for the post.
The judges will face an uphill battle.
The liberal-led government, which has been in power for five consecutive terms, has had its majority cut in half since 2014.
The BJP has taken over the opposition-dominated Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which is in power in a coalition with the BJP, which now controls the upper house.
Justice Rai and Pillai were the first three judges to be named by the BJP-led UPA government, in April 2015.
The two then headed a court that overturned the constitutionality of a law that banned the sale of land by foreigners to farmers.
The court overturned the decision in the name of secularism and called the ruling unconstitutional.
A year later, the two returned to the bench after the Narendra Modi-led BJP won elections, and this time, the bench will have a smaller majority.
In a speech on Jan. 10, Modi said the country was going through a new wave of political correctness and the court will now be a part of this new wave.
The court’s constitution, he said, was a “pioneer” that was set up to prevent “the rise of intolerance.”
The BJP had also proposed that the judges be chosen by a public vote, and it has also asked the Supreme Court to appoint a new judge to take up the role of the outgoing bench.
The Supreme Court was founded in 1946, but the court has always been a powerful political tool, and has always maintained a neutral stance on controversial issues, such as gay rights.
It has also ruled in favor of India’s minority communities, including Dalits and other backward classes.