The Supreme Court Collegium today deferred a decision on the issue of reconsidering its recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph as the judge of the apex court, after it was sent back by the government last week. The five member Collegium comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph met after the top court’s working hours, but no decision was taken.
Besides Justice Jospeph, the agenda of the Collegium was to deliberate on the names of some judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana & Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as apex court judges. The resolution of the meeting uploaded on the apex court website said the Collegium had met “to consider the following agenda:’To reconsider the case of Mr Justice K.M. Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court [Parent High Court:Kerala], pursuant to letters dated April 26 and 30, 2018 received from Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India and also to consider the names of Judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan, and Telangana & Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, in view of the concept of fair representation. Deferred,” the resolution said.
Justice Chelameswar, who had not attended the court today, came for the collegium meeting. There was no official word on when the Collegium would meet next. Justice Joseph’s name was recommended along with then senior advocate Indu Malhotra on January 10 for their elevation as apex court judges. The government had on April 26 declined to accept the recommendation of the Collegium and asked it to reconsider Justice Joseph’s name. Malhotra was sworn in as the judge of the apex court on April 27.
Justice K M Joseph, who had headed the bench that had quashed the Narendra Modi government’s decision to impose President’s rule in the Congress-ruled hill state in 2016, was not considered to be elevated as a Supreme Court judge by the Center. The government had said that the proposal for his name 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.
His seniority was also questioned by the Center which had said “he stands at Sl. No.45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis.” Justice Joseph, who turns 60 this June, has been the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court since July 2014. He was appointed a permanent judge of the Kerala High Court on October 14, 2004 and assumed charge of the Uttarakhand High Court on July 31, 2014. The members of the collegium including Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph had expressed concern over the delay of the government in clearing the name of the Uttarakhand Chief Justice as the apex court judge.
Notwithstanding the letters written by the collegium members to the CJI which had come into the public domain, the Centre disregarded the recommendation about Justice Joseph.