SC collegium defers decision on Justice Joseph

KM Joseph

SC sources said the collegium members "simply chose to defer deliberations on the case relating to Justice Joseph and adequate representation to three HCs".

It considered the names of judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Courts but "deferred" the decision, without giving next date of the meeting. Significantly, judiciary watchers noted with interest the focus on "the concept of fair representation" in the agenda of the collegium. The Centre cleared Mahotra but sent back Justice K M Joseph's case to the collegium for reconsideration citing three issues - lack of "seniority", "Kerala HC already having adequate representation in SC" and "non-appointment of judges belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities".

The Kerala High Court is the parent High Court of Justice Joseph, who is ranked number 45 in the inter-seniority among judges on all-India basis.

That the agenda for the collegium meeting considered this problem of representation is significant.

The Supreme Court collegium has "deferred" a decision on Justice K.M. Joseph, whose elevation as a Supreme Court judge has been held up as the Centre had returned the recommendation last week.

Earlier on Monday, Justice Kurian Joseph had told The Indian Express that the collegium is most likely to resubmit Justice K M Joseph's recommendation.

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The law minister said the right of the government to seek a reconsideration of proposals made by the collegium is granted to it by the Supreme Court judgements of 1993, 1998 and 2015 relating to the collegium system.

On Wednesday, the law minister said the charges levelled against the government by the "Congress party in particular and others in general" that justice Joseph's appointment had been stalled because of his Uttarakhand verdict amounted to "sponsored allegations".

If at all there was a point of dispute, the decision to club the reiteration with recommending new names could have been one, though there is no confirmation as yet on why the decision to defer the matter was taken.

The Supreme Court Collegium headed by CJI Dipak Misra deferred its decision on the elevation of Justice KM Joseph, now working as the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court. The splitting to deny Joseph's elevation was a deviation from a long-held convention that collegium's recommendations should be treated as a whole and not as units.

Indu Malhotra was sworn in as judge of the top court on April 27. And justice Joseph's order was confirmed by justice J S Khehar of the Supreme Court, who had also set aside the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act; yet Khehar became CJI under the NDA government, Prasad said.

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