Justice Kurian Joseph has urged the Supreme Court to act against the government’s delay in approving two appointments to the top court despite the collegium’s recommendation, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.
The “very life and existence” of the Supreme Court is under threat and “history will not pardon us” if the court does not act, Joseph told Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in a letter on April 9. He sent copies of the letter to the 22 other Supreme Court judges too.
He said the government sitting on the recommendation for so long sends a message that judges must not “cause any displeasure to the executive”. This is a threat to the independence of the judiciary, he claimed.
In January, the collegium of five senior-most judges had recommended the elevation of advocate Indu Malhotra and Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the post of Supreme Court judges.
The law ministry reportedly wanted to approve Malhotra’s appointment but not Joseph’s, citing “breach of seniority”. Joseph had headed the three-judge Uttarakhand High Court bench that had quashed the Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule in the state in 2016.
The ministry has not yet approved Malhotra’s appointment either, as experts advised against making different decisions on two names that the collegium recommended simultaneously, PTI had reported in March. If approved, Malhotra would have become the first woman to be directly elevated from a lawyer to a Supreme Court judge.
In his letter to Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph has asked for a bench of the seven senior-most judges to be formed to take up the matter suo motu. For “the first time in the history of this court...nothing is known as to what has happened to a recommendation after three months”, Joseph wrote.
“The dignity, honour and respect of this institution is going down day by day since we are not able to take the recommendations for appointment to this court to their logical conclusion within the normally expected times,” the judge said.
The government “owes a duty” to decide on the recommendation as soon as the collegium sends it, and just sitting over it is abuse of power, Joseph said.
In January, Justice Kurian Joseph was one of the four Supreme Court judges who had openly protested against alleged maladministration within the top court and had levelled several allegations against Chief Justice Misra.