Justice Kurian Joseph to retire today: SC judge, who authored 1,034 judgments, was part of triple talaq, Nagraj verdict
Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court of India, is set to retire on Friday. He is also the tenth on the list of judges at the apex court who have authored the maximum amount of judgments.
Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court of India, is set to retire on Friday. He is also the tenth on the list of judges at the apex court who have authored the maximum amount of judgments. Justice Joseph, a member of the Supreme Court Collegium, has reportedly authored 1034 judgments so far and is the only top court judge on the list put together by LawConsult.
Justice Joseph, who has been part of several crucial judgments like the triple talaq verdict and the coal allocation scam, began his legal career in 1979. He was appointed as a Kerala High Court judge in 2000 and served as the chairman of the Kerala High Court Legal Services Committee from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, Justice Joseph was elevated to the post of the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
Justice Joseph was appointed as a Supreme Court judge on 8 March, 2013. Here is a look at the most significant judgments the apex court judge has been part of:
Review of the death penalty
On Wednesday, a three-judge bench reviewed the effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring crime. The bench sentenced an accused Channu Lal Verma, who was charged with the murder of three people, to life imprisonment and unanimously chose to not choose the death sentence.
Justice Joseph presented a dissenting opinion on the validity of the death penalty, saying that the "irrevocable nature of the sentence and the fact that the death row convicts are, for that period, hanging between life and death are to be duly considered".
He said, "Every death penalty case before the court deals with a human life that enjoys certain constitutional protection and if life is to be taken away, then the process must adhere to the strictest and highest constitutional standards. Our conscience as judges, which is guided by constitutional principles, cannot allow anything less than that."
However, Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, who were also part of the bench, gave divergent views on Justice Joseph's opinion on the death penalty. They said that said a five-judge constitution bench in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab in 1980 had already held the constitutional validity of death penalty provided in Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Justice Joseph, who wrote the verdict for the bench, also voiced his "anguishing concern" with regard to public discourse on crimes which have an impact on the trial, conviction and sentence in a case.
Triple talaq verdict
On 22 August 2017, the apex court delivered a landmark judgment on triple talaq, the practice through which Muslim men can grant divorce to their wives by uttering the word 'talaq' thrice. The bench was to examine whether the practice of divorce was fundamental to Islam.
The five-judge bench ruled the practice to be illegal, a move that was lauded by activists and members of the community. Three judges, Justices Joseph, RF Nariman, and UU Lalit agreed that the practice should be set aside. Two judges on the bench were of the view that the practice was part of the Muslim personal law.
Justice Joseph disagreed with the minority judgment and said, “Triple talaq is against the tenets of the Holy Quran and hence violates Shariat… It is extremely difficult to agree with the CJI that triple talaq is integral to the practice of Islam. What is bad in Quran cannot be part of Shariah.”
The verdict was delivered after a batch of petitions by women from the community, who had been subject to the practice, were heard in the court. The Parliament, in its Monsoon Session in August, deferred the Triple Talaq Bill to the winter session.
Review of Nagraj verdict
A bench headed by former CJI Dipak Misra and comprising senior Supreme Court judges including Justice Joseph declined to refer the matter of the 2006 Nagraj verdict — which had put certain conditions for granting quota to SC/ST employees in job promotions — to a larger bench.
A report by Economic Times said, "The Supreme Court paved the way for grant of quota for promotions in the government jobs to SCs and STs, holding that the states were not required to "collect quantifiable data" reflecting the backwardness among these communities."
Coal allocation scam case
Justice Joseph, along with Justices RM Lodha and M Lokur, has presided over the controversial case of the coal allocation scam. According to reports, the bench had aimed to free the investigative agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from any "political and bureaucratic" interference during its investigation.
Justice Joseph was also part of the eight important judgments that were delivered in six working days ahead of former CJI Misra's retirement in September. The judgments included decriminalising parts of Section 377, which empowered members of the LGBTQI+ community. The verdict of allowing women of menstruating age access to the iconic Sabarimala Temple was also part of the batch of judgments. The validity of the Aadhaar project was also reviewed.
He was also part of the panel who spoke against Misra over "selective" case allocation and certain judicial orders in January 2018. According to reports, Justice Joseph expressed confidence that the matter would be resolved without the need for intervention. He said, "An issue was raised. Those concerned have listened to it. Such actions would not occur in future. So (I) believe that the issue has been settled."
The panel, which included current CJI Ranjan Gogoi had said that it had written to Misra about situations in the Supreme Court which were "not in order".
With inputs from agencies
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