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SC vs Centre: Justice Joseph row explained

14 May, 2018, 00:12 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Collegium likely to repeat recommendation for Justice KM Joseph to SC along with other names

According to an apex court official, Justice Chelameswar, in his letter sent to the CJI, had conveyed that he was reiterating his decision favaouring elevation of Justice Joseph as the judge of the top court as there was no change in the circumstances that had led the Collegium to recommend his name to the government on January 10.

"The Chief Justice and other members of the collegium have, in principle, unanimously agreed that the recommendation for appointment of Justice KM Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand HC as a judge of the SC should be reiterated".

In view of this, "the meeting", it said, "stands deferred for being held at 4.45 pm on Wednesday, 16th May, 2018".

Two weeks after the Modi government, sitting on the recommendation for almost four months, sought reconsideration of Joseph's name saying it was in "violation of SC's parameters on seniority and merit", the collegium "in principle" unanimously agreed to reiterate his name for elevation. It also questioned his seniority for elevation as a judge of the apex court.

This resolution of the issue would in effect affect Justice Joseph's seniority, likely precluding his chances to be a part of the Collegium in the future or becoming Chief Justice.

The three prevailed over Justices Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph and asserted that the serious issue of nonrepresentation of several HCs in the SC should be considered as it was incongruous with the two Constitution bench judgments in 1993 and 1998 which created the collegium system. It also added that there was an adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails. Taking a cue from the May 2 agenda, sources had speculated that the collegium might consider Madras high court CJ Indira Banerjee (parent HC Calcutta), Karnataka high court CJ Dinesh Maheswari (parent HC Rajasthan) and Gujarat high court CJ R Subhash Reddy (parent HC Telangana and AP).

Justice Joseph's elevation to the top court was, however, rejected by the government in April. It is believed that just sending Justice K M Joseph's name back would have suggested that the apex court was directly challenging the Centre and so, a middle-of-the-road course was adopted.

However, Justice Gogoi, who will succeed CJI Misra on October 3, and Justice Lokur agreed with the CJI that when there were seven vacancies in the Supreme Court, it would be improper for the collegium to send only one name to the government.

Returning Justice K M Joseph's name, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a letter to the CJI, underlined that "this proposal for reconsideration...has the approval of the Hon'ble President and the Hon'ble Prime Minister" and had listed reasons why his appointment "at this stage does not appear to be appropriate".


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