Justice KM Joseph matter: Top government official ‘surprised’ over Justice Kurien Joseph’s statement

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New Delhi | Published: May 1, 2018 4:29:42 PM

A top government official has expressed "surprise" that a "possible decision" to re-elevate Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court had been taken even before the scheduled meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium on Wednesday.

Justice KM Joseph matter: Top government official ‘surprised’ over Justice Kurien Joseph’s statement. (Image: PTI)

A top government official has expressed “surprise” that a “possible decision” to re-elevate Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court had been taken even before the scheduled meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium on Wednesday. The development comes after senior Judge of the top court, Justice Kurian Joseph, who is also part of the collegium, had said that it will be reiterating its recommendation to the government.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice Joseph had said: “The collegium might have to reiterate its recommendation furnishing facts and figures and citing precedent which has not been put in perspective by the government when it returned his name.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, the government official said, “There is a well-established tradition that honourable judges don’t speak their mind on sensitive issues like judicial appointments. What’s further surprising is that if the possible decision has already been taken even before the meeting, then what is left to be considered? It is surprising that a senior judge and member of collegium is indicating that the collegium might have to reiterate its recommendations to elevate justice K M Joseph.”

The official also expressed dissatisfaction over the collegium. “This has never happened. A member of the collegium discussing whom to appoint and not to appoint…it is distressing.”

According to the official, the government is waiting on the conclusion of the collegium meeting. If the collegium resends the proposal of Justice Joseph for the elevation to the top court, then the government will treat the proposal as a fresh suggestion. “If the collegium sends Justice Joseph’s file back, we could treat it as a fresh recommendation,” the official told IE.

Slamming the government, Justice Kurian Joseph had said that Centre is not behaving with the Justice KM Joseph for the first time. According to him, Centre has behaved with him earlier also when he sought a transfer on health ground. “This is not the first time this Government has sat over his file. Justice Joseph had, two years ago, asked for a transfer to the plains on health grounds. He had health issues and had asked for a transfer to save himself from the biting cold in the hills and the Supreme Court had sent the file transferring him to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. But the Government has kept silent on it till date,” Justice Kurien Joseph told IE.

The tussle

The Collegium of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four other judges had recommended to Centre on the names of noted lawyer Indu Malhotra and Uttarakahand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph for the elevation to the top court on January 10, 2018. After a gap of more than three months, the Centre on April 26 had cleared the name of senior advocate Indu Malhotra for the judge of top court but returned the file of Justice Joseph for reconsideration. The controversial move sparked a verbal war between the ruling and the opposition parties.

In its letter to the CJI, the Centre cited four reasons behind its decision to ask the top court to reconsider its decision. These are- Joseph is at serial number 42 in the All India High Court Judges’ Seniority List, Several High Courts are “not represented in the Supreme Court at present, Joseph’s parent High Court of Kerala has adequate representation in the Supreme Court and there is no representation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in the Supreme Court since long.

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