Collegium backs KM Joseph again

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The Supreme Court collegium on Friday unanimously agreed to reiterate Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph's name for Supreme Court judge.

"However, the said reiteration should also be accompanied by the recommendation of the names of chief justices of high courts for elevation as judges of the Supreme Court, for which detailed discussion is required", a note put up on the court website after the meeting said. "In view of the aforesaid, the meeting stands deferred for being held at 4.15 p.m. on Wednesday, 16th May, 2018".

The collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court-J.

On 26 April, the government rejected the collegium's recommendation to elevate Joseph but accepted its recommendation to elevate senior advocate Indu Malhotra as a judge of the apex court. Lokur and Kurian Joseph-has not yet sent his name back. Under this, the Justice Joseph file would be sent along with names of other judges for the Supreme Court. However, the agenda for Friday's meeting dropped the term "fair representation" and simply stated that the collegium was "to consider names of HC judges for elevation as judges of the SC". A wide range of issues relating to appointment of judges from High Courts, which did not have representation, was discussed, which remained inconclusive. It also questioned his seniority for elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court.

This resolution of the issue would in effect affect Justice Joseph's seniority, likely precluding his chances to be a part of the Collegium in the future or becoming Chief Justice.

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It is also learnt that Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, has responded to all the points raised in the communication to the CJI by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressing reservations on the elevation of Justice Joseph.

There has been speculation that Justice Jospeh's name wasn't cleared because he, in 2016, had revoked the president's rule in Uttarakhand, thus enabling the Congress to remain in power, something that did not go down well with the ruling BJP.

The 15-minute meeting, which has a monopoly over the appointment of judges to constitutional courts, was marred by Justices Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph making a strong pitch for reiteration of Justice K M Joseph's name and insisting that his name be sent alone to the government for quick elevation.

The decision might trigger yet another round of judiciary vs government confrontation.

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