Not avenging Justice Joseph's U'khand order, says Prasad

The big news SC collegium to decide on KM Joseph’s elevation today and nine other top stories

The Supreme Court Collegium headed by CJI Dipak Misra deferred its decision on the elevation of Justice KM Joseph, now working as the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.

The SC website used a single word, "Deferred", to describe the outcome of the much-awaited meeting of the collegium: the first since the Centre last month segregated its recommendations for the appointment of senior advocate Indu Malhotra to the apex court and for elevation of the Uttarakhand Chief Justice.

The present government had, at that time, hived-off Senior Counsel Gopal Subramanium's name, though his name had been recommended by the collegium as well.

Contrary to speculations, sources confirmed to TNIE that though the agenda was to examine the government's response to Justice Joseph's elevation, during the brief meeting they agreed to discuss it at length early next week when the collegium will meet again.

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It was also learnt that the collegium did not discuss any specific names of other high court chief justices for elevation to the Supreme Court. One of the reasons cited was that his parent High Court of Kerala already had a representation in Justice Kurian Joseph, while many high courts had no representation in the Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court facing a large number of vacancies, making it hard for the CJI to constitute adequate number of benches to deal with over 50,000 pending cases, the agenda circulated among the judges appeared to recognise the need for expeditious filling up of seven vacancies in the SC, which would with the retirement of Justice R K Agrawal on Friday increase to eight, by mentioning about fair representation to HCs which have not a single or less than adequate representation in the apex court at present.

A petition was filed by senior lawyer Indira Jaising, which said appointments have now become a matter concerning the "independence of judiciary".

It should be noted that Justice Joseph had headed the bench that had quashed the Narendra Modi government's decision to impose President's rule in 2016 when the Congress was in power in the hill state. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with almost three-fourth majority has been elected in Uttarakhand.

"What kind of prayer is this", the top court bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said, adding that the Centre is "well within its right to send back the recommendation for reconsideration". While a unanimous decision by the collegium to reiterate a recommendation is binding on the Centre, it nevertheless is not bound by any time limit to advise the President to issue the warrant of appointment. "I think that by itself is (proof) enough", Prasad said.

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