Supreme Court collegium defers decision on Justice KM Joseph's elevation

Supreme Court collegium defers decision on Justice KM Joseph's elevation

The collegium of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurien Joseph is expected to take the final decision by Monday or Tuesday next.

Justice Joseph's name was recommended along with the senior advocate Indu Malhotra on 10 January for their elevation as apex court judges.

The present government had, at that time, hived-off Senior Counsel Gopal Subramanium's name, though his name had been recommended by the collegium as well.

It was indicated that while Justices Misra, Gogoi and Lokur were of the opinion that the Centre's suggestions needed to be considered further at the next meeting, the other two judges were determined that the name must be iterated.

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The Collegium's move to defer its decision on Justice KM Joseph comes almost a week after the Centre rejected its recommendation to elevate the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice as an apex court judge and asked it to reconsider its choice. "The government has exercised that power only", he said. With the Supreme Court facing a large number of vacancies, making it hard for the CJI to constitute adequate number of benches to deal with over 50,000 pending cases, the agenda circulated among the judges appeared to recognise the need for expeditious filling up of seven vacancies in the SC, which would with the retirement of Justice R K Agrawal on Friday increase to eight, by mentioning about fair representation to HCs which have not a single or less than adequate representation in the apex court at present.

Jaising told the court that the government was stalling justice Joseph's elevation because as chief justice of the Uttarakhand high court, he had quashed the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, leading to the reinstatement of the Congress party government led by Harish Rawat. "No.45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis". On the other hand, considering the public outcry that ensued after his recommendation was returned, the government may surprise us all and act on the collegium's opinion. Prasad noted that a Bharatiya Janata Party government was elected with a three-fourths majority previous year. "There was no question of anyone agreeing or disagreeing on any particular name as no names were discusssed", said a senior source. Regional representation was another reason for the Centre to seek reconsideration of Collegium's decision.

On former CJI RM Lodha's remarks that the independence of the judiciary is under challenge and should be "non-negotiable", Prasad said that he did not want to comment on observations made by a retired judge.

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