Collegium defers decision on Justice KM Joseph's nomination to SC

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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.

The letter pointed out that justice Joseph is 42nd in seniority among the high court judges and many HCs such as Gujarat, Calcutta and Jammu and Kashmir are not represented in the apex court.

However, if the government's recent history is an indicator, it is likely to be sat on for a while - at least until CJI Misra convenes the full court discussion that Justices Kurian Joseph and Ranjan Gogoi had requested. Though Justice Chelameswar did not attend court on Wednesday, he made it to the meeting that took place after the benches finished their judicial work at 4pm.

Since the Centre had sent back the file, there was a necessity to apply "the principles of natural justice" while considering the suggestion of the government.

A second person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Hindustan Times that so far the collegium had not decided whether to return the name of justice Joseph to the government for elevation.

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It also said it would later decide the issue of elevation of judges from other states "in view of the concept of fair representation".

The top court collegium recommending the elevation of Justice Joseph had said: "The collegium considers that at present Justice K.M. Joseph, who hails from Kerala High Court and is now 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".

A petition was filed by senior lawyer Indira Jaising, which said appointments have now become a matter concerning the "independence of judiciary". One good way to force the hands of the Centre would be to ensure that no other names are recommended before Joseph's appointment is done.

"I wish to deny with all authority at my command that it has nothing to do with it (Justice Joseph's decision) at all, for two obvious reasons. It has nothing to do with that at all", Prasad told reporters at a cabinet briefing. While a unanimous decision by the collegium to reiterate a recommendation is binding on the Centre, it nevertheless is not bound by any time limit to advise the President to issue the warrant of appointment.

"What kind of prayer is this", the top court bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said, adding that the Centre is "well within its right to send back the recommendation for reconsideration".