Speculations surrounding elevation of Justice Joseph to the Apex Court

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Justice KM Joseph’s appointment to the Apex Court is a fresh instance of friction between the judiciary and the government.

Despite being recommended by the Collegium headed by Justice Dipak Misra, the government showed reluctance in appointment of Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Apex Court on broadly two grounds. First being his standing in the All India High Court Judges’ Seniority List and secondly, that there is adequate representation for the Kerala High Court in form of justices Kurian Joseph and at the same time, some other high courts lack representation in the Supreme Court. In an earlier instance, in May 2016, the government had not acted on the Collegium’s recommendation to transfer him from the Uttarakhand High Court to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh &Telangana on medical grounds.

Even though the government did its best to justify its request for reconsideration of Justice Joseph’s name, it is being speculated that he had struck down President’s Rule imposed by BJP led government at the center. The concern echoed not only in the legal fraternity but also in the Parliament. K C Venugopal of Congress asked, “The (SC) collegium had recommended the name of a judge. Why did the government reject only that name? What situation prompted the government to reject that name?” to which Ravi Shankar Prasad replied, “if judges come from one state”, but at the same time many High Courts go “unrepresented” in Supreme Court, “then as the Minister for Law and Justice, I am duty-bound to convey that concern to the court”.

Subsequent reiteration by the collegium to elevate Justice Joseph to the Apex Court has been accepted by the government, but the controversy does not seem to abate. The central government has placed justice K M Joseph last in seniority of appointment list, despite his name being recommended and reiterated before Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran, two other judges elevated to the Apex Court. This concern was addressed to Justice Dipak Misra by other judges of the Supreme Court.

Article 50 of the Indian Constitution separates Judiciary from the executive, and the same has been reiterated in the judicial precedents. An independent judiciary is quintessential for a democracy to function smoothly and therefore, the principle of appointment of Supreme Court judges which is being violated and needs to be defended.

By- Anubhav Bijalwan

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