The government's decision to accept only one of the two names recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation as Supreme Court judges has angered not only the Opposition parties but also some lawyers.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Vikas Singh, speaking in his individual capacity, expressed concern over the delay in the appointment of Justice Joseph and said "this kind of interference by the executive is definitely uncalled for".
"This elevation is very wrong as it disturbs the seniority in the Supreme Court. We have seen in recent past how important seniority is in the apex court. Judges are being labelled as junior judges and said that they were not fit to hear sensitive matters. So tomorrow, if somebody says Justice Joseph is a junior judge and not fit to hear a particular matter, it will be very sad."
"Government will be responsible. This kind of interference by the executive is definitely uncalled for. By delaying this, they have definitely interfered in seniority rules and in that sense they have interfered in the functioning of judiciary. A very serious matter. The civil society and the judges of the Supreme Court in full court should discuss and take it up with the government," Singh told PTI.
Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan was also vocal in criticising the Centre and alleged that the government was trying to erode and destroy the independence of judiciary by not appointing those recommended by the collegium.
"Justice KM Joseph's instance is a very clear one, whose name has been stalled, which was recommended by the collegium four months ago. The name was unanimously recommended by the collegium and yet it has been stalled by the government because he gave a judgment in Uttarakhand case against the government."
"It is very shameful and shocking for a government which talks about the independence of judiciary to try and erode the independence of judiciary by sitting on appointment of people that it doesn't like," Bhushan said.
Senior jurist Fali Nariman also said that the word of the collegium is final and a conflicting decision by the government will be malafide.
According to The Indian Express, Nariman said that the current impasse between the judiciary and the government may be a result of the government "still smarting" under the apex court's decision to strike down the Parliament's decision to vote for the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
Former high court judges SN Dhingra, Ajit Sinha and senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Vikas Singh were concurrent in their opinion that it would be binding on the government to elevate Justice Joseph to the apex court if the collegium sticks to its recommendation.
All of them were categorial that if any name on reconsideration is cleared, the government has to act on it.
However, they said there was no mention of any time frame for the government to implement the collegium's recommendation.
All of them said the government has to follow the guidelines laid down by the apex court in 1993 and 1998 judgment, referred to as second and third judges case relating to appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
Citing the Supreme Court collegium's view that Justice Joseph, currently Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, was "more deserving and suitable in all respects" than other Chief Justices and senior judges of high courts, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that it seemed that "the government thinks he is not deserving".
"The SC's own website said this. Four months have passed, today we got to know that government has returned the file and said more discussion is required on it. The Central government wants only those judges, on whom only the government has approval."
"The law says what collegium recommends, only they will be appointed. The government wants to ignore the collegium recommendations. If it is not of their choice, they will not appoint him," he said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2018 10:50:05 IST