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Collegium Defers Decision On Justice KM Joseph’s Elevation To SC

If the Collegium reiterates the Uttarakhand Chief Justice’s name, the Centre cannot block his elevation a second time.

The Supreme Court Collegium met on Wednesday but deferred the decision on Modi government’s request to reconsider the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph to the apex court. The collegium also reserved its decision on names of judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh high courts for appointment as SC judges, the Times of India reported.

According to an official update on the Supreme Court website, the Collegium had met to consider the following agenda: “To reconsider the case of Mr Justice KM Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court [PHC: Kerala], pursuant to letters dated 26th & 30th April, 2018 received from Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India and also to consider the names of Judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan, and Telangana & Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, in view of the concept of fair representation.”

On April 29, Supreme Court judge Kurien Joseph, a member of the Collegium, had indicated that the preeminent judges’ panel was “likely to send back to the government its recommendation on Justice Joseph’s name for his elevation as a Supreme Court judge.”

The Collegium is a forum, comprising the Chief Justice of India (Dipak Misra) and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court (Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph), which recommends appointments and transfers of judges. If it reiterates its recommendation of elevating Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court, the Centre will have no choice but accept the proposal.

KM Joseph’s appointment has been the subject of immense controversy, particularly in light of repeated reminders to the CJI by senior judges protesting against the Centre’s growing tendency to sit on the judges’ recommendations.

Many believe that the Centre has rejected Supreme Court Collegium’s January 10 request to appoint KM Joseph as an SC judge because the judge had overturned president’s rule clamped in Uttarakhand by the Modi government in 2016. By overriding the Collegium’s recommendation, many in the legal fraternity claim, the government is trying to attack the independence of the judiciary.

Justice Kurian Joseph, a member of the collegium, had written to the CJI last month saying the government taking three months time to respond to Collegium’s request was an attempt to threaten the “very life and existence” of the Supreme Court. He had asked the CJI to take appropriate steps or “history will not pardon us”. Earlier Justice Chelameswar had also written a similar letter to the CJI.

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