Deviating sharply from accepted practice, the government has turned down a recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium — the panel of its five senior most judges that decides judicial promotions and transfers.
It wants the transfer of Himachal Pradesh High Court chief justice Kurian Joseph to Jharkhand, within three months of his appointment at Shimla, recommended by the collegium, cancelled.
Perturbed by a slew of transfers of high court judges suggested by the collegium, days before the Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan retires on May 12, the law ministry has sent back Justice Joseph’s file, Hindustan Times has learnt.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, in a two-page letter to the CJI has pointed out it would not be correct to transfer Justice Joseph so soon. Joseph was sworn in as the chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court on February 8.
“The process of improvement initiated by Justice Kurian Joesph in Himachal is being widely appreciated. In case he is transferred now the process will suffer,” Moily wrote to the CJI Balakrishnan.
Moily’s letter suggests Justice Meenakumari, acting chief justice at the Andhra HC, whom the collegium wanted in place of Justice Joseph in Himachal, be sent to Jharkhand instead.
How the collegium will react is anybody’s guess. The rules say the government can return the collegium’s recommendation once, but if the collegium reiterates it, the government must fall in line.