Justice KM Joseph Should Be Elevated, Supreme Court Collegium Reiterates

NEW DELHI: Sticking to its stand on elevating Justice KM Joseph, the Supreme Court collegium today reiterated its recommendation to the centre of elevating the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice to the top court. The collegium said “nothing adverse” regarding “suitability” of Justice KM Joseph has been pointed out in two letters of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Justice KM Joseph’s recommendation was rejected by the government in April.
The collegium, a group of five most-senior judges, had agreed in principle to reiterate Justice K Jospeh’s name to the centre on May 11. However, the collegium in its next meeting on May 16 deferred the decision saying “…There should be further deliberation and broad-based consideration of the names of the chief justices as well as judges of the high courts which are at present not represented in the Supreme Court.”
The centre had returned Mr Joseph’s file back to the collegium for it to re-consider the recommendation on grounds including that the proposal was not in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was adequate representation of his native state Kerala in the top court.
The government had also questioned Justice Joseph’s seniority among high court judges while returning the file.
It is not unusual for the centre to return the collegium’s recommendation for appointment of high court judges. In 2016, the centre told parliament that it had asked the collegium to reconsider 43 names for the high court.
But it is rare for the government to return a recommendation for elevation to the Supreme Court. The only occasion when such a situation arose in recent years was when the NDA government blocked elevation of senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium in 2014.The then Chief Justice RM Lodha, however, could not pursue the case because Gopal Subramanium withdrew his consent to be a judge.
If the collegium sends back a name a second time, the centre has no choice but to accept it. Already the Supreme Court is down to 24 judges as against the strength of 31, sanctioned by Parliament. Four more judges are slated to retire this year.