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Government likely to sit on Justice KM Joseph's file despite collegium's reiteration, clears appointment of two other judges

The tussle between the government and the judiciary over Uttarakhand chief justice KM Joseph's elevation to the Supreme Court is likely to continue despite the collegium recommending him for the second time last month.

A top government functionary told Hindustan Times that the Centre is likely to sit on KM Joseph's file while clearing the appointment of two high court chief justices — Indira Banerjee and Vineet Sharan — to the Supreme Court.

According to the report, another government functionary confirmed the development. "The law ministry had moved the file of the two judges to the Prime Minister’s Office for final clearance," the report quoted the government functionary as saying.

 Government likely to sit on Justice KM Josephs file despite collegiums reiteration, clears appointment of two other judges

File image of Justice KM Joseph. News18

The Supreme Court collegium had recommended the elevation of Banerjee and Sharan and reiterated KM Joseph's name on 16 July. According to the rules, the government has no choice but to approve the collegium recommendation if the latter reiterates the same name.

A five-member Supreme Court collegium comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph had recommended KM Joseph's name for elevation to the Supreme Court first in January 2018, however, after sitting on the collegium decision for over three months, the government had rejected it saying that the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails.

In April, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had then written a letter to Misra asking him to reconsider the decision to appoint KM Joseph, while also saying that there were other more senior chief justices in Indian high courts than KM Joseph, who was at No 42 in high court judges seniority list.

"The proposed appointment of... KM Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate," Prasad had said in the letter, adding, "It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices" and senior judges of various high courts.

KM Joseph, who turned 60 this June, has been the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court since July 2014. He was appointed a permanent judge of the Kerala High Court on 14 October, 2004 and had assumed charge of the Uttarakhand High Court on 31 July, 2014.

KM Joseph headed the bench that had quashed the Narendra Modi government's decision to impose president's rule in Congress-ruled Uttarakhand in 2016.

The Supreme Court and the government have been sparring over judicial appointments ever since the Supreme Court struck down the Centre's National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) bill in 2015, which sought to replace the collegium method of appointments. Although the two sides had then agreed on a Memorandum of Procedure, no progress has been made on the same, causing delays in filling vacant posts in both higher as well as lower courts.

Just recently, Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph today asked the Centre not to delay appointments in higher judiciary and clear the names in a time-bound manner after getting the recommendations from the collegium.

"As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, since it is an appointment from among the judges serving in the country for quite a long time, there must not be a delay of more than two weeks," Kurian Joseph, who has been vocal about the delay in elevation of KM Joseph to the apex court, said.

He also said that "as far as appointment to high courts are concerned, once the high court has sent some request, or the high court collegium creates an appointment of a judge, to high court, there should not be a delay of three months".

Meanwhile, Justice MB Lokur had observed recently that over 2.5 crore cases are pending in district courts where as HC have a pendency of 43 lakh cases and hence, the focus must be on district courts as the concentration on grassroot-level will help the litigants.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Aug 03, 2018 08:04:41 IST