The collegium of five most-senior judges of the Supreme Court on Wednesday deferred a decision on reiterating its earlier recommendation to elevate Justice KM Joseph to the top court, a week after the government rejected his name. No reason was given for the deferment. Joseph is the chief justice of the Uttarakhand High Court.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph are the members of the collegium.
Meanwhile, the Centre rejected suggestions that it had turned down Joseph’s appointment to the Supreme Court because he had overturned the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, PTI reported. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that the government has the right to seek reconsideration of proposals sent by the Supreme Court collegium.
The collegium had recommended KM Joseph and lawyer Indu Malhotra for elevation as Supreme Court judges in January. After sitting on the proposal for over three months, the law ministry notified Malhotra’s appointment on April 26, but refused to clear Joseph’s name, and asked the top court to reconsider.
The ministry justified the decision saying there were 11 High Court chief justices senior to KM Joseph and none of those courts had representation in the Supreme Court. It also said judges from marginalised communities had not been appointed to the top court “for long”.
The Centre’s decision sparked a controversy because Justice Joseph had, in 2016, headed a three-judge bench that quashed the government’s decision to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand. Since then, his request for a transfer to Andhra Pradesh and elevation to the top court have been blocked by the government.