SC collegium defers for 3rd time decision to reiterate recommendation for Justice KM Joseph's elevation to apex court

With the appointments of Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran and KM Joseph to the Supreme Court, the total strength of the judges in the apex court has gone up to 25 against the previous figure of 22.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium, on Wednesday, once again deferred its decision to reiterate its recommendation for the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the top court, as it could not decide on names of other judges for elevation to the apex court.

Sources said the collegium met to deliberate on several issues, including reconsidering the name of Justice Joseph for elevation to the apex court after it was returned by the Central government.

But, as no decision could be taken on elevation of other judges to the apex court, the two-hour collegium meeting also deferred the decision for reiteration of elevation of Justice Joseph to the Supreme Court, said court sources.

The collegium comprises Chief Justice Dipak Misra and four other senior-most judges of the apex court €" Justice J Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph.

Besides reiterating the elevation of Justice Joseph, the collegium has earlier recommended the elevation to the top court of Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice, Calcutta High Court Chief Justice and the Chief Justice of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The collegium during its last meeting on 11 May had taken an in-principle decision to reiterate its recommendation for the elevation of Justice Joseph to the apex court.

The apex court collegium reiterated its 10 January recommendation for the elevation of Justice Joseph to the apex court after the Centre had on 26 April returned it for reconsideration.

Besides Justice Joseph, the collegium had on 10 January also recommended the appointment of Senior Counsel (now a Judge) Indu Malhotra to the Supreme Court. While returning the name of Justice Joseph, the government cleared Justice Malhotra's appointment.

Recommending Justice Joseph for elevation to top court, the collegium had on January 10 said: "The collegium considers that at present Justice KM Joseph is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne judges of the high courts for being appointed as judges of the Supreme Court."

But, the government, while sending back Justice Joseph's recommendation for reconsideration, had invoked the principle of seniority, saying that Justice Joseph stood at number 42 of the seniority of the high court judges and there were 11 Chief Justices of various high courts senior to him €" a clear suggestion that any elevation of Justice Joseph to top court would be at their expense.

It had also said that the Kerala High Court being comparatively a smaller court, with a sanctioned strength of 42 judges, was a parent high court for Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph, and the Chief Justices of three high courts €" Justice KM Joseph himself (Uttarakhand), Justice TB Radhakrishnan (Chhattisgarh) and Justice Antony Dominic (Kerala).

The government had also flagged the issue of non-representation of SC/ST judges in the apex court.

However, the general perception is that Justice Joseph had earned the displeasure of the Central government after a bench headed by him had ruled against the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand.

It is not first time that the government has sought to block a collegium decision on Justice Joseph. Earlier, the government did not materialise the collegium decision to transfer Justice Joseph as Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court. The collegium's decision taken in 2016 remains unimplemented to date.

Also See: KM Joseph's elevation row: Constitution allows president to send back names, but SC collegium's recommendation is binding

Speaking against CJI, judges' appointments to his farewell, a look at Justice Chelameswar's most contentious statements

KM Joseph elevation row: Justice J Chelameswar writes to CJI urging him to convene collegium meet

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