Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has finally revealed the reasons behind the Centre’s refusal to clear the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice KM Joseph to the apex court.
The Centre has been sitting on Justice Joseph’s file since January 10 this year, when the Supreme Court Collegium deemed the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court as being worthy of elevation to the Supreme Court. And now, in a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Prasad has disclosed the reasons for the same.
The primary reason the government has given for its refusal to appoint Joseph J is the fact that he lacks the requisite seniority among high court judges across India to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
“In the All India High Court Judges’ Seniority List, Shri Justice KM Joseph is placed at Serial Number 42. There are presently 11 Chief Justices of various High Courts who are senior to him.”
2) It has been stated that around ten high courts – including the High Courts of Calcutta, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Manipur and Meghalaya do not have a representative in the Supreme Court.
3) The fact that the Kerala High Court already has a representative judge in the Supreme Court, in the form of Justice Kurian Joseph.
4) The final reason given is the lack of representation in the Supreme Court from Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe communities.
The Centre has relied on selective excerpts from the Second and Third Judges cases, which talk about seniority and legitimate expectation of elevation to the Supreme Court. However, it has conveniently left out parts of those judgments, wherein it has been stated that merit plays a huge role in appointments to the Supreme Court.
The government’s stance on Justice Joseph also flies in the face of the Supreme Court Collegium’s backing of Justice Joseph, despite the fact that he lacks the seniority to be elevated. In fact, the Collegium resolution passed on January 10 states,
“The Collegium considers that at present Mr. Justice K.M. Joseph, who hails from Kerala High Court and is currently functioning as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India.”
Supreme Collegium had recommended both Indu Malhotra and Justice KM Joseph on January 10, 2018.
Meanwhile, the Centre has cleared the appointment of Senior Advocate Indu Malhotra as a judge of the Supreme Court. Both Malhotra and Joseph J were recommended for elevation by the Collegium on the same day.
Read the letter: