SC collegium-Centre standoff over KM Joseph's elevation to Supreme Court: A look at regional representation in apex court

The central government, which refused to accept the Supreme Court's collegium's recommendations regarding the appointment of Justice KM Joseph to the apex court, had said doing so would distort the court's regional representation. The collegium is likely to have a meeting on Wednesday in this regard.

The Centre had said the apex court already has Justice Kurian Joseph, who was elevated as an Supreme Court judge on 8 March, 2013, from the Kerala High Court and there were two other high court chief justices — justices TB Radhakrishnan and Antony Dominic, whose parent high court was Kerala. Radhakrishnan is the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court, while Dominic is Chief Justice of Kerala High Court.

The government's contention is that having another Supreme Court judge from Kerala would distort the carefully maintained composition of the apex court.

File image of Justice KM Joseph. Courtesy: News18

File image of Justice KM Joseph. Courtesy: News18

As explained by The Times of India, there are 25 Supreme Court judges, of whom three each are from Bombay and Delhi High Court, while the high courts of Allahabad, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh provide two each. The high courts of Kerala, Odisha, Gauhati, Punjab & Haryana, Madras, Patna and Himachal Pradesh contribute one Supreme Court judge each.

The government has said that since Kerala's is a small high court, its representation in the apex court can't rise to two. The Times of India report also said that there are 10 high courts — Calcutta, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Manipur and Meghalaya — which have no representation in the Supreme Court.

The note of the Union law ministry addressed to the Chief Justice of India (CJI), who heads the five-member collegium, said the proposal to reconsider Joseph's name had the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The note also said the elevation of one more judge from Kerala High Court does not address the "legitimate claims of the chief justices and puisne judges of many other high courts" and "forestalls the claim of other senior chief justices and puisne judges".

"From our records, it is evident that to ensure regional representation, seniority may not have been taken as an important consideration, but in case where the high court concerned is adequately represented in the Supreme Court and also as chief justices of different high courts, then this consideration cannot be and should not be ignored all together to the detriment and prejudice of other senior judges," it said.

Furthermore, a report on NDTV argued, it could also be because there is no Dalit judge on the roster of Supreme Court justices. It said that ever since KG Balakrishnan retired as the chief justice of India in 2010, not a single Dalit judge has been elevated to the Supreme Court or even as chief justice of a high court.

At a time when the government is facing a backlash from Dalits over a court verdict that relaxed provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, the government also pointed out that the communities have not been represented in the Supreme Court for a long time.


Updated Date: May 02, 2018 09:23 AM

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