SC collegium meets today, likely to recommend Justice KM Joseph’s name for elevation again
The appointment panel of top Supreme Court judges will meet on Wednesday evening to decide on the appointment of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph as a judge to the top court.
The collegium – a body of the five top judges headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) – is expected to meet after 4 pm, once courts rise upon completing the day’s work. Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurien Joseph are the collegium members.
Last Wednesday, the government cleared the appointment of senior advocate Indu Malhotra as an SC judge but put on hold the collegium’s recommendation on elevating Joseph. In 2016, a bench headed by Justice Joseph had quashed presidential rule imposed in Uttarakhand. Congress government returned to power in the state after the judgment.
After putting on hold Justice Joseph’s elevation, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to say, “The proposed appointment of justice KM Joseph at this stage does not appear to be appropriate. It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable, and deserving chief justices and senior judges of various high courts.”
The collegium will consider the law minister’s letter in their meeting today. The recommendation is likely to be reiterated. As per an SC ruling, the government has to notify Justice Joseph’s appointment if the collegium sends the file back reinforcing its proposal.
Justice Joseph’s file was returned by the government three months after the collegium had sent it on January 10. The collegium had proposed Justice Joseph’s name, saying he is deserving and suitable in all respects than other chief justice and senior puisne judges of other HCs.
Government had said the proposal was not in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails.
The government is preparing for the eventuality of the collegium recommending justice KM Joseph’s name once again for elevation to the top court. “Historically, the collegium has usually sent the same recommendation back even after the government suggested that it be reconsidered,” said a government official who asked not to be named. “The issue here is whether seniority and regional representation should be allowed to take a back seat or not,” this person added.
Legal experts say the government may not have the scope of seeking yet another reconsideration if the collegium suggests justice Jopesh’s name again, but that it could adopt another strategy. “The collegium is well within its rights to send the same recommendation once more. But the government can sit over the proposal as no deadline has been fixed for it to approve the decision,” former law secretary TK Vishwanathan said.