Thursday, 30 June, 2022
HomeIndiaGovernanceGovt cites seniority, diversity to send back recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph

Govt cites seniority, diversity to send back recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph

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The government said a candidate’s seniority may be overlooked in order to ensure regional representation, but that wasn’t the case with Joseph, whose parent high court is Kerala HC.

New Delhi: In a letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has cited “elaborate reasons” and urged the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K.M. Joseph to the apex court.

In a controversial move that defies precedent, the government has cleared one of two candidates recommended by the collegium, while withholding their decision on Joseph.

‘Seniority’ is among the issues cited by the government in its letter.

“In the all India high court judges’ seniority list, Shri Justice K.M. Joseph is placed at serial number 42. There are presently (sic) 11 chief justices of various high courts who are senior to him in (the list),” the government said in the letter.

In order to bolster its argument, the government has also quoted from Supreme Court orders known as the ‘Second and Third Judges’ cases on the collegium system.

“…This legitimate expectation has relevance on the ground of longer experience on the bench, and is a factor material for determining the suitability of the appointee,” the bench had said.

Another reason cited is the “inadequate representation” of the high courts of smaller states, and the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities, among Supreme Court judges.

The government said a candidate’s seniority may be overlooked in order to ensure regional representation, but that wasn’t the case with Joseph, whose parent high court is Kerala HC.

It pointed out that if Joseph were appointed, the “comparatively small high court” of Kerala would account for two of the court’s sanctioned strength of 31 judges. Including the CJI, the SC currently has 24 judges. Advocate Indu Malhotra, who the collegium had recommended for elevation along with Joseph, is expected to be sworn in Friday as the 25th.

“In view of the sanctioned judge strength of the Kerala High court of 47 judges, it has received adequate representation in the Supreme Court… At this stage, elevation of one more judge from Kerala High Court…does not appear to be justified as it does not address the legitimate claims of the chief justices and puisne judges of many other high courts,” the government added.

Citing these points, the government said the appointment of Joseph to the Supreme Court would not be “appropriate” or “fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving” judges.

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