New Delhi: With the judiciary and the government crossing swords over the appointment of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph in the Supreme Court, Justice J Chelameswar has said that he feels sorry a “good judge” has not been cleared for elevation in spite of “best efforts”.
On the eve of his retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar called it unfortunate that the high court Chief Justice has not been elevated despite the Collegium’s recommendation in January this year.
“I do feel sorry that a good judge could not come to the Supreme Court in spite of my best efforts. It is unfortunate that a good judge has not come so far,” he told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interaction.
When asked if Justice Joseph’s name should have been reiterated to the Centre immediately after the latter returned his name with certain objections, Justice Chelameswar said that he has already written to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on the issue and that his views are official now.
“I have put my views on record before the Collegium. It (issue of reiteration) is now pending with the Collegium and therefore, I would not want to make further comments about it,” he added.
Elevation of Justice Joseph has become the latest flashpoint between the judiciary and the government with the latter questioning the Collegium’s mandate on grounds of Justice Joseph’s seniority and regional representation of judges in the top court.
In February 2017, Justice Chelameswar had first recorded a strongly worded dissent note for not elevating Justice Joseph to the Supreme Court.
The unparalleled note of dissent stood out also because Justice Joseph had in 2016 delivered the verdict quashing central rule in the hill state.
Justice Joseph “is an outstanding” judge with impeccable integrity and the most suitable judge for elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar had then written, taking strong exception to dropping the name from the list of the high court judges who were being recommended for elevation.
Justice Chelameswar again threw his weight behind Justice Joseph at a Collegium meeting in January 2018, and it was unanimously decided that his name should be sent to the government for elevation as a judge in the top court.
With the government comfortably sitting over the recommendation, Justice Chelameswar wrote to the CJI again in February this year, regretting how appointments were being “stalled” by the government.
“For some time, our unhappy experience has been that the Government’s accepting our recommendations is an exception and sitting on them is the norm. Inconvenient but able judges or judges to be are being bypassed through this route,” he wrote to CJI Dipak Misra.
Another member of the Collegium, Justice Kurian Joseph, in his letter dated April 9, also cautioned the CJI that “dignity, honour and respect of this institution is going down day by day” because of the judiciary’s inability to get judges appointed.
But later that month, the Centre declined to process Justice Joseph’s name for appointment in the Supreme Court and raised issues of his seniority and of regional representation in the Supreme Court.
In May, Justice Chelameswar wrote to the CJI once again, requesting him to convene a meeting of the Collegium to urgently reiterate to the Centre the name of Justice Joseph as judge of the apex court.
Subsequently, the Collegium, comprising CJI Misra and Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, unanimously agreed in principle that Justice Joseph’s name will be reiterated to the government.
The final decision was, however, deferred because it was resolved that his name will be accompanied with the recommendation of other judges in high courts for elevation as judges of the Supreme Court.
The last Collegium meeting took place on May 16 but final decisions could not be reached regarding other names that ought to be sent along with Justice Joseph. And this delayed, for the third time in a row, reiteration of Justice Joseph’s name by the Collegium.