Justice KM Joseph, 2 others take oath as new Supreme Court judges
Justice KM Joseph on Tuesday took the oath as the judge of the Supreme Court after justice Indira Banerjee and justice Vineet Saran amid a controversy over his elevation and altered seniority by the government.
Justice Banerjee, Saran and Joseph were administered the oath of the office by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the Supreme Court in a sequence.
The government had last week cleared the names of justice Banerjee, justice Saran and justice Joseph to be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court.
But the move triggered another controversy as some senior judges of the Supreme Court felt that justice Joseph should be considered senior to the other two judges as his name was cleared by the collegium in January this year. The judges even raised the matter with the Chief Justice of India on Monday morning.
Justice Joseph’s elevation to the top court has put an end to the protracted stand-off between the government and the judiciary.
His appointment was first cleared by the Supreme Court collegium this January. The government sent back the file for reconsideration in April on the ground that justice Joseph was not senior enough and that having two judges from the Kerala high court would be against the principles of regional representation.
In July, justice Joseph’s name was reiterated by the collegium, eventually leading to the government clearing his appointment. The seniority issue is particularly important if a judge is line to become the future Chief Justice of India, but that scenario does not apply in justice Joseph’s case.
The strength of judges in the top court has gone to 25 against the sanctioned strength of 31 judges with the three new judges taking the oath of office.
With justice Banerjee, the number of sitting women judges in the top court has risen to an all-time high of three. The top court has never had three women judges simultaneously since its inception in 1950.
Justice Banerjee, 60, is the eighth woman judge to be elevated to the top court after Fathima Beevi, Sujata V Manohar, Ruma Pal, Gyan Sudha Misra, Ranjana Prakash Desai, R Banumathi and Indu Malhotra.
Justice Malhotra recently became the first woman judge to be directly appointed to the top court from the bar and justice Bhanumati is the other current top court judge.