Justice KM Joseph sworn in Supreme Court judge but remains junior to justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran

Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran and KM Joseph were on Tuesday sworn in as judges of the Supreme Court in order of seniority notified by the Centre, days after Supreme Court judges filed a protest with CJI Dipak Misra over lowering of KM Joseph's seniority.

The swearing-in ceremony started at 10.30 am in the CJI's courtroom and Justice Banerjee was the first to take oath followed by justices Saran and Joseph. The oath was administered to the three judges by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in a packed courtroom in presence of all judges, law officers, and advocates.

File photo of Supreme Court judge KM Joseph. PTI

File photo of Supreme Court judge KM Joseph. PTI

Calling it a "black day", senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told ANI, "The government has given the message that if a judge doesn't make a judgment in their favour, he may be treated the same. I believe that this day will be seen as a 'black day' in the history of Indian judiciary. This is the arrogance of the government."

CJI Misra on Monday decided to consult the Attorney General on Justice Joseph's seniority row after Supreme Court judges met him to express disappointment with the Centre altering the seniority of Justice Joseph for his appointment as an SC judge.

The Centre on Monday said it went purely by the "time-tested" principle of high court seniority list. It came out with a notification on the appointment of the three judges to the apex court last Friday, putting at third position the seniority of Justice Joseph.

Court sources on Monday said nothing much could be done at this stage and the concerns raised by some of the judges would be discussed after the three judges were sworn in on Tuesday.

Except for Justice Ranjan Gogoi, a member of the apex court collegium who was on leave, others had "informally" deliberated on the Centre's decision to lower the seniority of Justice Joseph, the sources said. However, it was decided that the oath-taking ceremony should take place. The CJI, who heads the collegium, assured the judges that he would consult Justice Gogoi who is the senior-most after him and take up the issue with the Centre, the sources said.

The Centre on Monday had said none of the three judges will become chief justice of India as there are other SC judges who have been elevated to the apex court earlier and will retire later.

The government notification places Joseph below justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran. "It is a blatant interference by the government," one of the judges told NDTV.

Justice Joseph's elevation to the apex court puts an end to a protracted stand-off between the government and the judiciary. He headed a bench which had quashed the imposition of President's Rule in the state in 2016. Uttarakhand was then under Congress rule.

On 10 January, the collegium recommended the name of Justice Joseph, along with that of senior advocate Indu Malhotra, for elevation to the apex court. However, the government returned Justice Joseph's name for reconsideration and went ahead with the appointment of Justice Malhotra. On 16 May, the collegium had in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph's name for elevation to the apex court. The recommendation was sent to the government in July and it was accepted.

The collegium's 10 January resolution, when Justice Joseph's name was recommended for elevation, said "he stands at Sl. No. 45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis". According to the 16 July resolution of the collegium, Justice Banerjee stood at Sl. No. 4 and Justice Saran stood at Sl. No. 5 in the combined seniority of high court judges on all-India basis.

Justice Joseph became a high court judge on 14 October, 2004 and was elevated as a chief justice of high court on July 31, 2014. He will retire on June 16, 2023, as an apex court judge.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Aug 07, 2018 11:59:50 IST

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