Collegium judges meet CJI; ask to reiterate Justice Joseph's name: Updates

A file photo of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court K M Joseph during the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday, April 24, 2016
Although the much speculated Supreme Court Collegium meeting did not take place on Wednesday, four of the five senior most judges reportedly met at the chamber of CJI Dipak Misra to discuss the reiteration of Justice K M Joseph’s name for elevation to the apex court.

An apex court official said while there was a likelihood of the meeting being held on Wednesday, it was for the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to fix the date but as of now there is no official word on it.

"There is no official confirmation when the Collegium would meet," the official said, adding that "it is obvious that the agenda of the meeting would be the elevation of Justice Joseph to the apex court".

According to The Indian Express, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur met Chief Justice Dipak Misra in his chambers around 4.15 pm. Justice J Chelameswar, the senior-most Supreme Court judge who led a virtual revolt against the CJI, was not present in the meeting as he was on leave. The English daily, however, reports that he has written to the members of the Collegium reiterating Justice K M Joseph's name for elevation to the Supreme Court.

The Collegium had earlier met on May 2, but had deferred a decision on the issue of reconsidering its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph as the judge of the apex court, after it was sent back by the government last week.

In a related development, Justice J Chelameswar, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court who retires on June 22, has declined an invitation from the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) for his farewell function citing personal reasons. 

Justice Chelameswar had recently courted controversy by holding a press conference along with other three senior most judges -- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- on January 12, in which litany of allegations were made against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

Here is all about the controversy that has led to another Centre-Judiciary face-off - 

The controversy

On April 26, the government had returned the Collegium's recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph seeking its reconsideration, saying the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails.

The opposition has alleged that the Centre's decision to return the recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph came due to his judgement against the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand.

Justice Joseph had headed the Bench that had quashed the Modi government's decision to impose President's Rule in 2016 when the Congress was in power in the hill state.

What happens if the Collegium repeats its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph?

The government will be bound to appoint Justice Joseph as a Supreme Court judge if the Collegium reiterates its recommendation.

According to legal experts, government has to follow the guidelines laid down by the apex court in its 1993 and 1998 judgements, referred to as the second and third judges case, relating to the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. 

However, the experts said, there would be no time frame for the government to implement the Collegium's recommendation.

Congress' stand

Terming the Central Government's move 'revenge politics', Congress has said that the government was "appointing judges only of their own choice".

The party also said the independence of judiciary is in "danger" and if it does not protect its autonomy in one voice, "then democracy will be in danger."

Government's reasons

Justifying its stand while returning the recommendation, the Centre had sent a detailed note to CJI Misra, giving reasons to the Supreme Court Collegium for its decision on Justice Joseph's elevation, including that seniority may not be an important consideration to ensure regional representation. The note of the Union Law Ministry had said that the proposal to reconsider Justice Joseph's name had the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Centre has said that the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails. His seniority was also questioned by the Centre.

While sending back the recommendation for reconsideration, the government has also flagged the non-representation of SC/STs in the top court judges.

Govt's response on 'revenge' allegations

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that the government's decision to return the file of Justice Joseph had "nothing to do with his order quashing the President's Rule in Uttarakhand".

"I wish to deny with all authority at my command it has nothing to do with it (Justice Joseph's decision) at all for two obvious reasons. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with nearly three-fourths majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Secondly, that order was confirmed by Justice (J S) Khehar of the Supreme Court," the minister had said in response to a media query.

Justice Joseph's career in brief

Justice Joseph, who will turn 60 this June, has been the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court since July 2014. He was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Kerala High Court on October 14, 2004, and had assumed charge of the Uttarakhand High Court on July 31, 2014.

                                                                                                                                                                         


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