The Supreme Court Collegium today unanimously agreed, on principle, that the recommendation for appointment of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, Justice KM Joseph, as a Judge of the Supreme Court should be reiterated.
A crucial meeting of the collegium on Friday sent out strong signals that the controversy is not going to die down soon with the top body unanimously agreeing in principle to reiterate the recommendation for the elevation of justice Joseph.
The face-off had begun when the collegium on January 10, 2018 while recommending Joseph's name stated that they found Justice KM 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 collegium in its resolution uploaded on its website said they had "considered Joseph's merit and integrity".
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Justice Jasti Chelameswar had written a letter to the CJI to convene a meeting of the collegium, which comprises the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and decides on appointments to the higher judiciary. The Centre had returned Justice Joseph's name for reconsideration last month even as it accepted the other pick, Indu Malhotra, a segregation which was seen as having been influenced by the high court chief justice's 2017 verdict striking down imposition of President's rule in the state. If the Collegium sends it back a second time, as in the present case, the Centre is bound to accept the recommendation.
The Centre, while returning the file of Justice Joseph to the collegium, had also mentioned that judges from various high courts have not found place in the apex court.
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According to current norms, a unanimous reiteration must be agreed to by the Centre and the Judge must be sworn in.
While asking for reconsideration, the Centre argued that Justice Joseph was way too junior in the all-India seniority list of judges and that his parent HC, Kerala, was adequately represented through Justice Kurian Joseph. "It would also not be fair to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices and senior judges of various HCs".
"Had it been the case, why would had we approved Justice JS Khehar's name for elevation as CJI a year ago", he said, recalling that Justice Khehar was part of the bench which rejected the government's controversial National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill.
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