SC Collegium Defers Reiteration of KM Joseph’s Name for Top Court 

The BJP said, in response to the opposition, that the functioning of the judiciary should not be politicised.

3 min read
CJI Dipak Misra.

On Wednesday, 2 May, the Supreme Court Collegium decided to defer its decision on whether to reiterate the name of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph for elevation to the top court.

SC Collegium Defers Reiteration of KM Joseph’s Name for Top Court 

The Centre had returned Joseph’s name to the Supreme Court in the last week of April. Senior lawyer Indu Malhotra was on Friday, 29 April, was sworn in as Supreme Court judge, making her the first woman to be elevated to the apex court from the Bar Association.

The Collegium comprises five senior-most judges of the top court – in this case CJI Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph. The Collegium meeting was scheduled for 4:30 pm on Wednesday.

What Happens Now?

The Centre cannot refuse to appoint a judge of the Supreme Court whose name has been recommended by the Collegium. At best, if the Union Government disagrees with one or more of the persons recommended, it can send the name(s) back to the Collegium for reconsideration.

If the Collegium reiterates any of the names, the Government cannot send them back again, and the President will have to give his/her consent for the appointment. However, the decision of the Collegium needs to be by consensus - if even one of the five judges refuses, then the decision is not confirmed. It should be noted, however, that the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges does not specify a timeframe within which the Government has to indicate its acceptance of the recommendation.

The CJI and the Collegium have been widely encouraged to do the same, and the expectation was that they would reiterate Justice KM Joseph’s name. It is being viewed in the legal community as a genuine shock that the decision hasn’t been made immediately - the Collegium’s notice does not provide any reasons for deferring the decision. This is likely to mean, however, that at least one of the five judges did not want to reiterate Justice Joseph’s name.

Those Scrutinising the Collegium Are Trying to Influence It: BJP

The Congress hoped the SC Collegium would reiterate its decision to elevate Justice Joseph to the apex court and that the deferment was only temporary, even as the BJP said the functioning of the judiciary should not be politicised.

The CPI, however, alleged that there was "something going on" over the deferment of the Collegium's decision and it all shows that the crisis is not over and has instead deepened.

"Hope this deferment is only temporary and the collegium will soon reiterate its earlier recommendation," senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

BJP leader Nalin Kohli, however, alleged that some political parties and individuals are constantly "scrutinising and commenting" on the collegium meetings and are trying to influence its decision-making process.

The constant approach of some political parties and individuals to scrutinise and comment on the meetings and functioning of the collegium and the apex court, in some way or the other, may also be seen as an attempt to influence its decision making, which it is fully capable of doing without these comments.
Nalin Kohli, Spokesperson, BJP

"Our approach is that the entire process and functioning of the judiciary and issues related to it should not be politicised or motives constantly alluded to it. It is unfortunate that some political parties and individuals are persisting to do," Kohli said.

"Nobody knows what is happening. There is no transparency. The government had earlier objected to Justice Joseph's elevation. There is something going on between the government and the judiciary," CPI leader D Raja said.

Seven Opposition parties had moved a notice before the Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu for impeachment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on five grounds of "misbehaviour.”

However, Naidu rejected the motion.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times and The Indian Express)

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