Five new judges appointed to the Supreme Court took their oath of office on Friday, bringing the total strength of the apex court to 28, but still three short of its sanctioned strength of 31. The new judges – Justice Deepak Gupta, Justice SA Nazeer, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar, Justice SK Kaul and Justice Navin Sinha – were previously the chief justices of the Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madras and Rajasthan High Courts, The Indian Express reported.

Their appointments were approved by President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday. Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant are slated to retire from the Supreme Court this year. Seven other judges will retire in 2018.

The Supreme Court on Monday had said it would finalise a new method for appointing judges by the end of February. A bench of the court led by Justice JS Khehar said the Memorandum of Procedure for appointments was a “work in progress”. In November last year, then Chief Justice TS Thakur had criticised the government for delaying judicial appointments. He had said that there were 500 judges’ posts lying vacant in high courts, adding that the courtrooms were being shut because there were no judges.

The Supreme Court had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission in October 2015, which the Centre had devised to replace the collegium system and give the executive a role in appointing to the Supreme Court and high courts of India.