Collegium likely to push KM Joseph’s name as Supreme Court judge again

The move comes almost three months after the government sent back KM Joseph’s name to the five-member collegium, which recommends names for appointment to the top court, for reconsideration.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2018 07:44 IST
Ashok Bagriya
Ashok Bagriya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Collegium,KM Joseph
The government returned the recommendation of KM Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court on the grounds that it would increase the number of judges from the Kerala high court to two while many other high courts do not have any representation in the top court.(HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court (SC) collegium has “reiterated” Uttrakhand high court chief justice KM Joseph’s name for elevation as an apex court judge, according to two people aware of the development, and is in the process of sending its recommendation to the government

This comes almost three months after the government sent back Joseph’s name to the five-member collegium, which recommends names for appointment to the top court, for reconsideration, citing issues related to seniority and regional representation.

The two people, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said the names of Madras high court chief justice Indira Banerjee and her Orissa counterpart, Vineet Sharan, are also likely to be cleared for elevation to the SC.

The number of women SC judges would rise to an all-time high of three if Banerjee is appointed. The top court has never had three women judges since its inception in 1950.

Justice Indu Malhotra recently became the first woman judge to be directly appointed to the top court from the Bar. R Bhanumati is the other current SC judge.

The SC has a sanctioned capacity of 31 judges. The number has been reduced to 22 with retirements of justices Amitav Roy, RK Agarwal, J Chelameswar and Justice AK Goel since March this year. Malhotra is the only judge to have been appointed to the SC since March.

The two people said the collegium held a few rounds of meetings before finalizing the names after the court reopened on July 2 after summer vacations.

The collegium’s composition has changed after justice Chelameswar’s retirement. Justice AK Sikri has become a part of the collegium.

Appointments of judges to the top court have been stuck over the contentious elevation of Joseph. The collegium first cleared Joseph’s name for elevation in January 2018. The government sat over the recommendation for over four months and returned his file on April 26.

The government argued Joseph’s elevation would increase the number of judges from the Kerala high court to two. It said there were many high courts that do not have any representation in the SC.

The apex court and the government have been sparring over the selection of judges to the higher judiciary. The NDA government tried to set up a commission, NJAC, to do this, but the Supreme Court scrapped this law. The court and the government agreed to come up with a Memorandum of Procedure on appointments to the higher judiciary but there has been no progress on that.

Senior SC advocate Sanjay Hegde lauded the collegium for withstanding the government pressure over Joseph. “One expected nothing less from the senior most judges of India. The proposed addition of justice Indira Banerjee is greatly welcome as she has proved to be a very fine judge in the high court,’’ he said. “It is refreshing that an increased number of women judges are being proposed to be appointed in the higher echelons of judiciary...”

First Published: Jul 19, 2018 07:30 IST