Supreme Court Judges are planning to meet the Chief Justice of India against altering the seniority of Justice KM Joseph in the appointment notification, which placed him after Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Vineet Saran.
One of the senior judges of the Supreme Court and a member of the Collegium told LiveLaw that the Judges will meet Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra and complain against what they said was a clear “interference” in judicial appointments by the Centre.
The judges essentially assert that since Justice Joseph was the first to be recommended by the Supreme Court collegium, his name should have been first in the appointment notification. However, the notification names him third, making him junior to the other two judges.
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 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.”
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.
His name was finally reiterated on July 16, along with Justice Banerjee and Justice Saran. However, despite this, he has now been placed after them in seniority.