The Central government has approved the elevation of Uttarkhand High Court Chief Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, seven months after the apex court collegium's recommendation.
Justice Joseph's name has been cleared along with the elevation of Chief Justices Indira Banerjee (Madras High Court) and Vineet Saran (Orissa High Court) to the Supreme Court.
Sources say presidential warrants for the appointment will be taken out soon to complete the process.
The five-member collegium comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph had recommended K.M. Joseph’s name for the first time in the court in January last, along with senior counsel and now Supreme Court judge Indu Malhotra.
After over three months, on April 25, the Centre cleared Ms. Malhotra’s name and withheld Justice K.M. Joseph’s name.
The Uttarkhand judgement
The move was interpreted as the Centre conveying its displeasure with Justice Joseph for his April 2016 judgement that quashed President’s rule in Uttarkhand .
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad strongly denied that the Centre's decision had anything to do with the Uttarkhand judgement.
On April 30, Mr. Prasad wrote to the CJI, asking the collegium to reconsider Justice Joseph's name. He argued that Justice Joseph's parent High Court, the Kerala High Court, had adequate representation in the higher judiciary. "The proposed appointment of K.M. Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate," the Law Minister said in his letter. "It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices and senior judges of various high courts," he added.
The collegium, however, reiterated its stand and recommended Justice Joseph’s name for a second time, a move which the government is required to follow.