After months of standoff, the Centre has finally notified the appointment of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph as a Supreme Court judge, along with Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Orissa High Court Chief Justice Vineet Saran.
The Apex Court had made the three recommendations on July 16, re-recommending Justice Joseph whose candidature was rejected by the Centre in April this year, noting that it would “not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving Chief Justices and senior Puisne Judges of various High Courts.”
Justice Joseph’s appointment had been in the pipeline for quite some time now. As the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, he had pronounced a judgment quashing the President’s rule imposed in the State of Uttarakhand. The Collegium had then, in May, 2016, recommended his transfer from Uttarakhand High Court to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana. However, there was no action on this recommendation.
Thereafter, last year in February, Justice Chelameswar had questioned Justice Joseph’s exclusion from the recommendations for elevation to the Apex Court. It was in January, 2018 that the collegium finally recommended him to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
The resolution signed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph had then stated that they found Justice K.M. Joseph to be “more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior Puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India.”
The resolution had, in fact, specifically mentioned that the decision was being taken after considering the combined seniority of Chief Justices and senior Puisne Judges of High Courts, apart from their merit and integrity.
Despite this, the Centre had rejected the recommendation. In its letter to the collegium, the Centre had pointed out that Justice Joseph is placed at serial number 42 in the All India High Court Judges’ Seniority List, with eleven Chief Justices of various High Courts currently senior to him. Besides, it had also sought to assert that the Apex Court has not had any representation from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for a while now.
Several jurists, former Judges and Advocates had then stepped forth, calling out the Centre for the move, and demanding reiteration of the recommendation by the Collegium. The Collegium had, however, deferred the decision to re-recommend him thrice since then, while agreeing in principle to reiterate his candidature.
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