The Centre has blocked the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to appoint Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the top court, citing “breach of seniority”, The Times of India reported on Friday. It also withheld the appointment of Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Surya Kant as the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended promoting Joseph and Kant after a meeting on January 10. The Centre blocked Joseph’s elevation, saying he was “too junior” and his appointment would breach two of the top court’s own judgments from the 1990s that said appointing a High Court judge to the Supreme Court should be determined by seniority.
Judge Ajay Kumar Mittal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is senior to judge Surya Kant. The three-member collegium, which recommends judges for elevation, had acknowledged Mittal’s seniority, but said it found Kant “more suitable” for the post of Himachal Pradesh High Court’s chief justice.
Supreme Court judge Adarsh Kumar Goel as well as former top court judge Ashok Bhan have opposed the collegium’s reasoning. Goel, as a consultee judge, has pointed to the assets Kant allegedly acquired in Delhi, Shimla, and Punjab after becoming a judge. Bhan has written to the collegium, criticising its decision to supersede Mittal on the basis of an Intelligence Bureau report from 2003, the contents of which are unavailable.