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More than a year has passed since the Collegium recommended the transfer of Justice KM Joseph from Uttarakhand High Court to High Court of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana. The transfer of Justice Joseph was recommended around May 2016. However, this has not materialized yet.
Therefore, we tried to explore the RTI route to source more information in this regard.
Responding to our RTI query about the status of the transfer file of Justice Joseph, the Central Public Information Officer of Department of Justice, KC Thang has responded that the “matter is still under the consideration by the government.”
In fact, there have been demands from various quarters that Justice Joseph should be elevated to Supreme Court. Justice Jasti Chelameswar, currently, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice, had written a dissent note to the Collegium earlier this year stating that the Uttarakhand Chief Justice was an outstanding judge who deserves to be elevated to the Supreme court.
Interestingly, Justice Chelameswar also wrote to the former Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar earlier this year regarding the random manner in which Collegium functions. In this letter, Chelameswar J. objected to the attempt to pass-off discussions that happened at an informal meeting of the Collegium judges, as the decision of the Collegium.
“If these discussions across the coffee table are to be treated by you as meetings of collegium where important decisions in discharge of the obligations arising from the Constitution are to be taken, I feel sad for this country. But I am of the view that such a procedure falls short of the legal requirements of a meeting. I believe collegium meetings are too solemn events to be conducted so casually.”
Chelameswar J. also stated in his letter that the Chief Justice is only the first among equals and that holds true even with respect to the Collegium.
“It is this understanding of the successive CJIs that the puisne judges (senior-most judges) who are members of the collegium (for that matter even others) are lesser mortals which creates all those problems which we are going through. Chief Justice is nothing more than first among equals. The other consulate judges whether they are members of the collegium or beyond the collegium are equal participants in the decision-making process, entitled to make suggestions and ask for information”.
With Justice PC Pant retiring tomorrow, the vacancies in Supreme Court will rise to 6. Whether the Collegium headed by new Chief Justice will take steps to fill up vacancies in Supreme Court and various High Courts remains to be seen.
Read the RTI response below.
Image taken from here.