SC collegium names Justice KM Joseph to top court, govt disagrees: A recap
The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, will meet on Wednesday to discuss the way forward after the government asked it to reconsider the name of KM Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, for elevation to the apex court.
It is the latest potential flashpoint between the executive and the apex court. Here is what you should know about the controversy:
• Judges to the Supreme Court are appointed by a panel of the court’s top five judges who make up the collegium. On January 10, the collegium recommended two judges for elevation to Supreme Court.
•On April 25, the government cleared senior advocate Indu Malhotra’s appointment as a Supreme Court judge , but held back a decision on Justice Joseph. In 2016, Justice Joseph had ruled against President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, which paved the way for the Congress to come back to power in the state.
•On April 26, the central government returned the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a detailed note to Chief Justice Misra, said the proposal to reconsider Justice Joseph’s name was approved by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
•The centre’s argument is that there was adequate representation of Kerala, Joseph’s home state, in the higher judiciary while other states did not have a representative. The government also said that the principle of seniority was not observed by the Supreme Court Collegium as Justice Joseph is placed at 42 on the list of seniority.
•The Congress called the government’s action an “assault on the judiciary”. “As the law stands now, the recommendation of the SC collegium is final and binding in the appointment of judges... What is holding up Justice K M Joseph’s appointment? His state, or his religion or his judgement in the Uttarakhand case?” said senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.
• Law Minister Prasad rejected the allegation. “The Congress party has no moral authority or stand to ask questions about dignity of the judiciary from us. The whole record of Congress party is littered with repeated instances as to how the judiciary of India was supposed to be compromised,” he said.
•Senior lawyer Indira Jaising filed a petition urging the top court to put on hold Malhotra’s appointment and direct the government to clear Joseph’s name — a request that was rejected by a bench led by Chief Justice Misra. The government is within its right to send back a name for reconsideration, the bench said. “Supposing the government is sending it for reconsideration, it will be seen. You are saying ‘stay the warrant’ (of Malhotra’s appointment). It is unthinkable, unconscionable, unimaginable, and if I may add ‘never heard before’,” said Misra.
• Earlier this year, four senior judges publicly criticised Chief Justice Misra for his style of administration and over the allocation of cases. Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Bhimrao Lokur and Kurian Joseph said they were forced to speak in public, breaking the settled principle of judicial restraint, because Chief Justice Misra did not take steps to redress their grievances.