Justice KM Joseph Appointed to SC After Govt Clears His Elevation

The collegium had first recommended Justice KM Joseph’s name for elevation to the SC way back in January.

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Ending a protracted stand-off with the judiciary, the Union government cleared the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium to elevate Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the apex court.

A notification issued by Law Ministry in this regard said, “...the President is pleased to appoint Justice KM Joseph, Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of India with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office.”

The government has also given its approval for the elevation of Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Orissa High Court Chief Justice Vineet Saran to the Supreme Court.

Government sources told PTI that the files were cleared in two batches on Wednesday and Thursday.

The appointments mean that the number of judges in the top court would go up to 25, but there would still be six vacancies, reported PTI.


The Standoff

On 10 January 2018, the collegium had recommended that Justice KM Joseph and advocate Indu Malhotra be appointed judges of the Supreme Court.

While Malhotra was subsequently appointed a judge, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote two letters to the collegium on 26 and 30 April, in which he objected to Justice Joseph’s name on several grounds, including (lack of) seniority and lack of representation from other parts of the country.

The executive had pointed out that several high courts remain unrepresented and Justice Joseph's elevation would be against the principle of regional representation. His parent high court is the Kerala HC.

Hitting back at the Centre, the collegium, composed of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, rejected the Centre’s arguments in a resolution dated 16 July 2018, noting that “nothing adverse regarding suitability of Mr Justice KM Joseph has been pointed out in the aforesaid letters”.

The collegium, on May 16, in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph's name. However, it waited for a little while to add the names of more candidates to the list for elevation to the apex court. The recommendation was finally sent to the government in July.

Notably, Justice Joseph had struck down the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand in 2016 after the dismissal of a Congress government led by Harish Rawat.

An earlier recommendation of the collegium to transfer Justice Joseph to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court on health grounds was kept pending by the government for a long time.

The Indian Express also reported that the government was set to agree to SC collegium’s final list of recommendations of judges to the various high courts.

According to the report, this includes Delhi High Court Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal as Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court; acting Chief Justice of Kerala High Court Hrishikesh Roy as Chief Justice of the same high court; Rajasthan High Court judge Justice KS Jhaveri as Chief Justice of Orissa High Court and Gujarat High Court judge Justice MR Shah as Chief Justice of Patna High Court.

(With inputs from PTI and The Indian Express.)

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