SC Collegium defers decision on KM Joseph elevation

SC Collegium defers decision on KM Joseph elevation

Warding off growing pressure for immediate reiteration of Uttarakhand chief justice K M Joseph's name for appointment as an SC judge, the Supreme Court's five-member collegium, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, on Wednesday "unanimously" deferred restating its choice that was sent back by the Centre for reconsideration.

In addition to Justice Joseph's name, the Collegium also considered names of Judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan, and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, in keeping with the Centre's assertion to have fair representation of all regions in the top court. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with almost three-fourth majority has been elected in Uttarakhand.

The present government had, at that time, hived-off Senior Counsel Gopal Subramanium's name, though his name had been recommended by the collegium as well.

In a brief statement issued on Wednesday, the collegium, while recording that besides reconsidering the recommendation of Justice Joseph, it also met to also consider names of judges from other high courts for elevation to the Supreme Court.

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In April, the Centre split a January recommendation of the collegium and appointed Justice Indu Malhotra alone as a judge. The government had on April 26 declined to accept the recommendation of the Collegium and asked it to reconsider Justice Josephs name.

Taking the example of Justice Khehar, who had set aside the National Judicial Commission initiative, Prasad said that he too became Chief Justice of India during BJP-led NDA government.

A second person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Hindustan Times that so far the collegium had not decided whether to return the name of justice Joseph to the government for elevation.

Malhotra was sworn in as the judge of the apex court on 27 April.

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The run-up to the meeting of the collegium saw a group of senior advocates, activist lawyers, and retired judges, including a former CJI, building up pressure for immediate reiteration of the recommendation for Justice K M Joseph.

Justice Joseph will turn 60 this June and has another two more years as Chief Justice of High Court.

Jaising told the court that the government was stalling justice Joseph's elevation because as chief justice of the Uttarakhand high court, he had quashed the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, leading to the reinstatement of the Congress party government led by Harish Rawat.

It had also raised the principle of proportionality contending that Kerala High Court was a "comparatively small High Court" with a sanctioned strength of 42 judges and was a parent High Court for the top court judge Justice Kurian Joseph, the Chief Justices of three High Courts - Justice K.M. Joseph himself (Uttarakhand), Justice T.B. Radhakrishnan (Chhattisgarh) and Justice Antony Dominic (Kerala). In fact, a senior advocate had even filed a petition seeking stay on the oath of Justice Malhotra till Justice Joseph's name was reiterated.

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