Though Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, not present at the meeting, he conveyed his support for reiterating the name.
Despite objections from the Centre, the Supreme Court Collegium on Friday decided to assert its independence and stand by its recommendation to appoint Uttarakhand Chief Justice Justice K M Joseph as judge of the apex court. The move comes two weeks after the Union law ministry had asked the Collegium to reconsider its January 10 proposal to elevate him. The five-member Collegium comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, which met this afternoon, said they have, “on principle, unanimously agreed that the recommendation… should be reiterated”. The resolution adopted at the end of Friday’s meeting said that “…the said reiteration should also be accompanied by the recommendation of the names of Chief Justices of High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, for which detailed discussion is required”. In view of this, “the meeting,” it added, “stands deferred for being held at 4.45 pm on Wednesday, 16th May, 2018”.
According to current norms, the Centre, on receiving a reiteration from the Collegium, would have no choice but to issue a Presidential warrant and swear him in as a judge of the Supreme Court. The Collegium had last met on May 2 to reconsider the case of Justice K M Joseph in view of the letter from the government. Also on the agenda then was considering names of Judges from High Courts of Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana & Andhra Pradesh for elevation to the apex court “in view of the concept of fair representation”. Later on May 9, three members of the Collegium — Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph — had an informal meet with the CJI where they discussed the Justice K M Joseph issue. Though Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, not present at the meeting, he conveyed his support for reiterating the name.
Though the names of Justice K M Joseph and senior advocate Indu Malhotra were recommended together, the government only approved Malhotra’s name — that too more than three months after the Collegium had approved them — and returned Justice K M Joseph’s name on April 26 for reconsideration. Malhotra has since been sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court. The delay in finalisation of the January 10 recommendations had led to protests from some of the Collegium members. In a strongly worded letter to CJI Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph said the “very life and existence” of the Supreme Court was under threat and “history will not pardon us,” if the court doesn’t respond to the government sitting on the recommendation. He said “this is the first time in the history of this court where nothing is known as to what has happened to a recommendation after three months.”
Returning Justice K M Joseph’s name for reconsideration, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a letter to the CJI underlined that “this proposal for reconsideration of the case of Shri Justice K M Joseph has the approval of the Hon’ble President and the Hon’ble Prime Minister” and listed reasons why his appointment “at this stage does not appear to be appropriate.” These include: Justice Joseph is at serial number 42 in the All India High Court Judges’ Seniority List; his parent High Court of Kerala has “adequate representation in the Supreme Court”; several High Courts are “not represented in the Supreme Court at present”; and, “there is no representation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in the Supreme Court since long”. Critics, however, have sought to link the government’s decision not to return Justice K M Joseph’s name to his 2016 decision to overturn President’s rule imposed by the NDA government in Uttarakhand.
By: Ananthakrishnan G