NEW DELHI, Apr 26:
The Government today turned down a Supreme Court collegium proposal to elevate Justice K M Joseph to the top court, saying his promotion may not be “appropriate” and needs to be reconsidered, a decision that evoked sharp reactions from legal fraternity and opposition parties.
The Government’s stand on 59-year-old Joseph, Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice who has over two years of service left, is being seen as widening of the rift between the executive and the judiciary, which have been at loggerheads over issues like appointment and transfer of judges.
However, the Government received immediate support from the collegium head, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who said the executive was well within its rights to reject Justice Joseph’s name while accepting the second name even though both were recommended for elevation together by the collegium. The names of Malhotra and Justice Joseph were recommended by the collegium in January.
In a letter to Justice Misra, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Government’s decision that the collegium should reconsider its proposal for Justice Joseph’s elevation has approval of the President and the Prime Minister. Making its case, Prasad also flagged that the SCs/STs have no representation in the Apex Court since long while Kerala High Court, Joseph’s parent court, is sufficiently represented in the top judiciary.
The last Dalit judge in the Supreme Court was K G Balakrishnan, who retired as Chief Justice of India in May 2010.
Prasad said the proposed appointment of Joseph “at this stage does not appear to be appropriate” and it would also not be “fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving Chief Justices” and senior judges of various High Courts.
The Government’s decision evoked sharp reactions with the SC Bar Association president Vikas Singh terming it as “disturbing” and the main opposition party, Congress, asserting that the independence of the judiciary “is in danger” and asking if it would now speak in one voice that “enough is enough”.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “What is holding up Justice K M Joseph’s appointment? His State or his religion or his judgement in the Uttarakhand case? As the law stands now, the recommendation of the SC collegium is final and binding in the appointment of Judges. Is the Modi Government above the law?”
Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleged that the Government was trying to “erode and destroy” the independence of judiciary by not appointing those recommended by the collegium.
“It is very shameful and shocking for a Government which talks about the independence of judiciary to try and erode the independence of judiciary by sitting on appointment of people that it doesn’t like,” Bhushan said. (PTI)
NEW DELHI, Apr 26: