SC vs Centre: Justice Joseph row explained

Larry Hoffman
May 14, 2018

The unanimous resolution passed by the Collegium on Friday said, "The Chief Justice and other members of the Collegium have, in principle, unanimously agreed that the recommendation for appointment of Justice Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court as a Judge of the SC should be reiterated".

Since the identification of names of chief justices of high courts will require fresh deliberations within the collegium, it was decided that the CJI and the next four senior judges would meet again on May 16 to finalise other candidates.

Justice Joseph's name was recommended by the collegium in January along with senior advocate of the top court and now top court judge Justice Indu Malhotra.

On April 26, the government returned for reconsideration the collegium's recommendation to elevate Justice K M Joseph but notified the appointment of Malhotra as a judge.

The Supreme Court Collegium on Friday made a decision to return the name of Justice KM Joseph to the Centre for appointment as judge of the apex court. Justice Joseph hails from Kochi in Kerala.

On 2 May, when the collegium met to discuss the matter, it had to defer its decision due to a "lack of unanimity".

Apart from Joseph, the other names that the collegium considered were Indira Banerjee, now chief justice of the Madras HC, who is originally from the Calcutta HC; Gujarat HC chief justice R. Subhash Reddy, who is originally from the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh HC; and Karnataka HC chief justice Dinesh Maheshwari, who is originally from the Rajasthan HC. A wide range of issues relating to appointment of judges from High Courts, which did not have representation, was discussed, which remained inconclusive.

The meeting of the Collegium was likely to be held on May 9, however, Justice Chelameswar was on leave.

Justice Joseph had headed the Bench that had quashed Modi government's decision to impose President's Rule in the hill state in 2016 when the Congress was in power. The collegium consisted of a group of five most-senior judges.

Legal experts, however, said there was no need for the collegium to defer sending Justice Joseph's file, for his situation was different from those of the high court judges being considered for first-time elevation to the top court.

It is also learnt that Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, has responded to all the points raised in the communication to the CJI by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressing reservations on the elevation of Justice Joseph.

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