SC Collegium defers decision on KM Joseph elevation

SC Collegium defers decision on KM Joseph elevation

The Supreme Court collegium on Wednesday deferred its decision on Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K.M. Joseph, whose name for elevation to the top court was returned by the government last week for reconsideration even as the Centre maintained that the rejection had nothing to do with his judgment in quashing President's Rule in Uttarakhand a year ago.

It considered the names of judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Courts but "deferred" the decision, without giving next date of the meeting.

Four of the five collegium members were also for the first time informed on Wednesday of a letter written by law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to the CJI on April 30 wherein he reiterated the government position that the principle of seniority must be followed in the elevation of judges to the top court.

The government is well within its right to seek reconsideration of proposals sent by the Collegium of the Supreme Court, he also said. "Secondly, that order was confirmed by Justice (J.S.) Khehar of the Supreme Court", Prasad said in response to a media query.

The Centre had ignored convention that the collegium's recommendation be treated as a whole, when it split a January file and appointed Justice Indu Malhotra alone as a judge.

Justice Joseph was in news for passing the verdict quashing the Narendra Modi Government's decision to impose President's rule in the hill State of Uttarakhand in 2016.

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It was indicated that while Justices Misra, Gogoi and Lokur were of the opinion that the Centre's suggestions needed to be considered further at the next meeting, the other two judges were determined that the name must be iterated.

Malhotra was sworn in as the judge of the apex court on 27 April.

The members of the collegium including Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph had expressed concern over the delay in clearing the name of the Uttarakhand chief justice as the apex court judge.

Last week, the Centre had refused to accept the decision of the collegium to elevate Justice Joseph.

After putting on hold justice Joseph's elevation, law minister wrote to the CJI that it would "not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable, and deserving chief justices and senior judges of various high courts". "There was no question of anyone agreeing or disagreeing on any particular name as no names were discusssed", said a senior source.

Though it had cleared the recommendation of Malhotra for appointment as top court judge, the Central government flagged the absence of SC/ST judges in the top judiciary while returning the recommendation of Justice Joseph for reconsideration.

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