KM Joseph elevation row: Ex-CJI RM Lodha says current phase ‘disastrous’, Supreme Court collegium to meet today. Top developments

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New Delhi | Published: May 2, 2018 10:02:11 AM

The meeting of Collegium is expected to take place at 4:15 pm to discuss the government's last week controversial order to return the file of Justice KM Joseph's elevation. According to notice by the CJI issued on late Tuesday evening, there is no other item on the agenda for today's meet.

SC Collegium, Collegium, judge of Supreme Court, Supreme Court judge, KM Joseph, Uttarakhand Chief Justice, Collegium meeting, Collegium meeting today, Supreme Court Crisis, Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, Indu Malhotra, Colleium appointment, Supreme Court judge appointmentUttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph. (Photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

The all-powerful Supreme Court collegium will meet today amid an ongoing row over the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice Justice KM Joseph as a judge of the apex court. The meeting, likely to be held at around 4.30 PM today, comes after the government stalled the colleigum’s recommendation last week. The government had last week returned the file of Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to a post of judge in the Supreme Court to the collegium, asking it reconsider. The collegium had on January 10 recommended to the government to elevate him. Besides Justice KM Joseph, the collegium had sent the name of senior lawyer Indu Malhotra whose file was cleared by the government.

The decision of the government has irked many in the legal fraternity with some top judges — both retired and serving — voicing their apprehensions over the move that they saw as a possible interference of the executive in matters of the judiciary. Judges, including some former CJIs saw this as a bid to undermine the judiciary. According to a report in The Indian Express, the collegium is likely to reiterate its recommendation for the elevation of Justice Joseph to the top court.

Here are the top developments in the row over Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to Supreme Court ahead of the crucial meeting of the collegium:

1. The Indian Express reported that the meeting is expected to take place at 4:15 pm to discuss the government’s controversial order. According to notice by the CJI issued on late Tuesday evening, there is no other item on the agenda for today’s meet. Besides the CJI, the collegium comprises four seniormost judges of the apex court. They include Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

2. The daily said that the collegium is likely to reiterate Justice KM Joseph’s name to the government for elevation. And if this happens, the government will be bound to issue a warrant to appoint him as a judge in the Supreme Court.

3. Expressing anguish over the development within the top court, former CJI Justice RM Lodha termed the current phase as ‘disastrous’. He said that judges with different views must find a common ground to maintain the independence of the judiciary. He noted that it is for the CJI to show statesmanship and take ‘all brothers and sisters together’. “I find that the independence of judiciary is non-negotiable and it is for the CJI, who is the leader of the court, to show statesmanship,” the former CJI said. He said that for a democracy to thrive, independence of judiciary is a must. He noted that when judges don’t ensure independence of judiciary, “it is very bad for a democracy”.

4. In its letter to the CJI last week, the government had said that the decision to elevate Justice KM Joseph be reconsidered. The government had cited various reasons why the elevation of Justice Joseph is not in agreement with the collegium. The decision triggered a massive debate with many jurists, former CJIs and legal experts alleging that the collegium is the final body to take a call on appointing and transferring judges in the higher judiciary.

5. The opposition parties too said that the collegium has the sole power to appoint and transfer judges and accused the government of interfering in the freedom of the judiciary. Congress’ Kapil Sibal said that the government was not keen on appointing a person who is adverse to its views in certain cases and dared it to say ‘it will not appoint him’. The ruling BJP has however denied making any interference in the functioning of the judiciary and slammed the Congress citing past instances of dishonouring the land’s highest judiciary.

6. After the letter was sent to the CJI, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court to pass an interim order to hold the swearing-in of Indu Malhotra. The CJI, however, rejected the petition filed by over 100 lawyers and observed that ‘if the government has segregated the recommendation and sent one of the names for reconsideration then they are within their rights’.

7. This is not the first time when the government has stalled the Supreme Court’s recommendation on Justice KM Joseph. Earlier, the government had delayed the SC’s recommendation to transfer Justice KM Joseph to Andhra Pradesh. There have been allegations that the government has been doing this deliberately because of Justice KM Joseph’s 2016 decision to reinstate the then Congress government and repeal the Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule in the hill state.

8. The judiciary and government are at the loggerheads ever since the Supreme Court struck down its decision to replace the collegium with the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in 2015. According to renowned jurist Fali Nariman, the current standoff may be linked to the NJAC verdict. He said that government was ‘still smarting’ under the top court’s 2015 decision.

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