06 Aug 2018
Ahead of KM Joseph's swearing-in, "anguished" SC judges seek 'justice'
Even as Justice KM Joseph, along with two others, awaits to be sworn-in to the Supreme Court (SC) tomorrow, the government-judiciary war regarding his elevation looks far from over.
According to reports, some unnamed SC judges are "shocked" and "anguished" that the government placed his name last in seniority among the three, even though his name had been recommended first.
Government overlooked Joseph's name while approving another recommended together
The Collegium, a body of five top judges led by the chief justice (CJI), had recommended Joseph and Indu Malhotra for elevation on January 10.
In an unusual move, the government in April cleared Malhotra's name, keeping Joseph on hold.
It returned his name citing seniority in the All India High Court Judges' Seniority List, where 11 Chief Justices of various HCs preceded him.
Did Joseph's judgments upset the government?
There were accusations that Joseph's rejection was more a result of him striking down the Centre's order to impose President's Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, in his power as the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand HC, rather than seniority.
Some quarters said the government had not only blocked his appointment to the SC, but also his transfer to Andhra Pradesh, as was recommended by the Collegium.
Collegium sent back his name, cornering the government
On May 11, the SC Collegium decided in principle to send back Joseph's name to the Centre for elevation.
When the Collegium recommends a name again, the government is bound to approve him.
It said the decision was taken based on the combined seniority of Chief Justices and senior Puisne Judges of HCs, as well as merit and integrity.
Joseph now placed last among three in seniority
In the SC, seniority of judges appointed on the same day is decided by precedence in issuance of appointment warrant.
According to this system, Joseph has now been placed below Justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran, who too will swear in tomorrow.
This, despite the Collegium sending his file separately and on top of the list of documents sent to the government.
How does this affect him?
Regardless of Joseph's placement in the list of three, he wouldn't have any chance of becoming CJI, sources told TIE, but other judges are "anguished" about the violation of the principle of appointment.
This move is being seen as a message from the government that its decision is supreme.
However, being at the top would make him eligible to head an independent bench earlier.
"Anguished" SC judges want CJI to respond
Some SC judges have now sought a meeting with CJI Dipak Misra today to discuss the matter, TIE reported.
Meanwhile, their swearing-in is scheduled for 10:30 am tomorrow.
Joseph is set to serve in the SC till June 16, 2023. Banerjee will serve till September 9, 2022, and Saran till May 10, 2022.
SC judges retire at 65 years of age.
What does the government have to say?
Apart from citing his seniority in the All India High Court Judges' Seniority List, government sources have justified its move saying the final proposal regarding Joseph's name came on July 16, the same day the Collegium cleared the other two names.