Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to Supreme Court in limbo as top court goes on holiday
The high-powered panel of first five judges, which approves candidates for judgeship to the top court, last met on May 16, two days before the court was to shut down for the 43 day-long summer recessUpdated: Jun 03, 2018 20:39 IST
Uncertainty over the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court continues with the collegium headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra failing to meet to discuss the issue despite a resolution on May 16 to convene a meeting “at the earliest.”
The high-powered panel of first five judges, which approves candidates for judgeship to the top court, last met on May 16, two days before the court was to shut down for the 43 day-long summer recess. The resolution uploaded on the top court website stated the “meeting stands deferred to be held at the earliest.”
More than a fortnight later, the CJI has not convened any meeting. Officials familiar with the process also said that there is no likelihood of a meeting in the coming week either because at least three of the five judges will be out of the capital during that period. The judges are expected to be in Delhi in the second week of June.
And if the collegium fails to meet before Jun 22, when Justice J Chelameswar demits office, then the recommendation for Justice Joseph could be further delayed because the panel will have to be reconstituted. Justice AK Sikri, now the sixth senior-most judge, will replace Justice Chelameswar in the new panel. Though Justice Sikri’s induction into the collegium would be automatic, people familiar with the developments said the process of sending the names would have to commence afresh.
At the last collegium meet, a decision was taken to reiterate Justice Joseph’s name, but a view was also taken to send his file along with the names of judges of those High Courts that have not representation in the SC. The collegium had recommended Justice Joseph’s elevation on January 10 this year along with Justice Indu Malhotra (then a senior advocate).
On April 26, the Centre had cleared Justice Malhotra’s appointment and returned Justice Joseph’s file, asking the collegium to consider adequate representation for, SC, STs, minorities regional representation in the top court. As per the procedure the government is bound to accept the collegium’s proposal if it is reiterated. However, there is no time limit prescribed for it to formalize an appointment. Justice Joseph had in 2016 quashed the Centre rule in Uttarakhand. An earlier recommendation of the top court collegiums to appoint him as the chief justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court continues to be pending with the government.
The Supreme Court collegium had for the first time met on May 11 to deliberate on Justice Joseph’s appointment after the government asked it to reconsider its proposal. The members had then unanimously reiterated his elevation. Justice Joseph’s file was returned by the government, which argued that 41 other high court judges, including 11 chief justices, who were senior to him had been overlooked. Also, Justice Joseph’s parent HC, Kerala High Court, was over-represented in the top court compared with other HCs.