New Delhi: As Justice Chelameswar prepares to demit office on Friday, the major change in the Collegium might cause further delay to the already deferred process of elevation of Uttarakhand High Court judge KM Joseph.
After the Centre sent back its recommendation of Joseph, the Supreme Court had in May agreed to reiterate it’s his sanction for the judge. However, it is yet to formally move on the same.
The Supreme Court Collegium — comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — on its next meeting on May 16 deferred the decision saying "... There should be further deliberation and broad-based consideration of the names of the chief justices as well as judges of the high courts which are at present not represented in the Supreme Court."
Now, with Justice Chelameswar retiring on June 22, Justice A K Sikri, who is number six in seniority at the moment, will become part of the five-member Collegium, thus necessitating the need to freshly reconsider the decision to reiterate Justice Joseph's name back to the Centre.
The Centre on April 26 had returned Joseph's file back to the Collegium for it to re-consider the recommendation on grounds, including that the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of his native state Kerala in the apex court.
The government had also questioned Justice Joseph's seniority among high court judges while returning the file.
Subsequently, the apex court Collegium met thrice on May 2, 11 and 16 and could not send its recommendation back to the Centre despite agreeing on it in principle.
Notably, Justice Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph later also wrote separate letters to the CJI and other apex court judges highlighting various issues including the recommendation of the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
In the last meeting held on May 16, the collegium was unanimously in favour of "further deliberation" and "broad-based consideration" of names of chief justices and judges of various high courts before sending its decision of reiterating the elevation of Justice Joseph.
It had then adopted a resolution which also stated that there was a need for further discussion on the issue of sending the other names of judges to the Centre.
According to sources, the judges of high court whose names are being considered by the collegium include Chief Justice of Madras High Court Indira Banerjee, who is originally from the Calcutta High Court, Gujarat High Court Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, whose parent cadre is Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Court, and Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, who is originally from Rajasthan High Court.
After Justice Chelameswar, CJI Misra will be retiring on October 2, followed by Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Lokur who will retire in November and December respectively.