SC Collegium defers decision on Justice KM Joseph's elevation, seeks more time

The five judges of the SC Collegium met this afternoon and deferred its decision on Justice KM Joseph's elevation as an apex court judge.

SC Collegium defers decision on Justice KM Joseph's elevation, seeks more time

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Collegium on Wednesday deferred its decision on the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph as an apex court judge.

A decision in this regard was taken following a meeting of all the five member-judges of the SC Collegium, including Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, this afternoon.

The Collegium's move to defer its decision on Justice KM Joseph comes nearly 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 apex court collegium also passed a resolution that it met "to consider the following agenda:'To reconsider the case of Mr. Justice K.M. 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.'Deferred."

The Collegium' had first recommended the name of Justice KM Joseph for elevation to Supreme Court along with the name of Justice Indu Malhotra on January 10 this year.

After more than three months, the Centre cleared the file of Indu Malhotra and notified her appointment to the Supreme Court on April 26.

However, it refused to clear Justice Joseph’s file sending it back to the Collegium with a 6-page explanatory note on why it did not want him to be elevated to Supreme Court.

The Centre's rejection of Justice KM Joseph's name triggered a huge outcry with several legal luminaries alleging that this was a payback by the Centre for the judgement by Justice Joseph, striking down Presidential Rule in the State of Uttarakhand High Court.

Some lawyers had even mentioned the matter before CJI Dipak Misra and demanded that there should be a stay on the warrant of appointment of Indu Malhotra till the file of Justice Joseph is cleared.

However, CJI Dipak Misra dismissed the petitions, saying that the Centre was well within its right to reject the Collegium's recommendation for Justice Joseph's elevation to the apex court.

Refused to stay the presidential warrant appointing senior woman lawyer Indu Malhotra as a Supreme Court judge, the CJI termed the plea of advocates challenging it as "unimaginable," "unthinkable," "unconscionable" and "never heard before."

The CJI said that it was inappropriate to put on hold the appointment of Indu Malhotra as a judge in the Supreme Court just because the central government has not cleared Justice KM Joseph's name.

A top court bench led by CJI took strong note of the submission made by senior advocate Indira Jaising that Malhotra should not be sworn in as the apex court judge and the Centre be directed to recommend the name of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph as well.

"What kind of prayer is this," the top court bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said, adding that the Centre is "well within its right to send back the recommendation for reconsideration."

"Supposing the government is sending it for reconsideration, it will be seen. You are saying 'stay the warrant.' It is 'unthinkable', 'unconscionable', 'unimaginable' and, if I may add, 'never heard before'," the CJI said.

(With PTI inputs)