The Supreme Court appears to be facing another round of revolt by its own senior judges over the Centre’s Narendra Modi government lowering the seniority of Justice KM Joseph.
This was after the central government’s notification placed Justice KM Joseph third in the order after Justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran. Justice Joseph is the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, while Justices Banerjee and Saran are the chief justices of Madras and Odisha High Courts respectively.
On protesting Supreme Court judge told NDTV that it was a blatant interference by the government. He said, “Justice Joseph’s name was sent first and reiterated by the Collegium and his name should have been first in the appointment notification. But his name is the third, making him junior to the other two judges.”
The protesting judges are expected to meet Chief Justice Dipak Misra to officially lodge their protest on Monday. The newly promoted three judges are likely to take oath as the Supreme Court judges on Tuesday.
Many suspect that the Centre has punished Justice Joseph for his landmark verdict in 2016 quashing the Modi government’s decision to diss a Congress-led government. The Supreme Court’s Collegium had recommended Justice Joseph’s name in January this year along with Indu Malhotra. The Centre, in April this year, cleared Malhotra’s file but withheld Justice Jospeh’s name.
The Collegium had then refused to change its mind and sent his file once again on 16 May to the Centre, forcing the government to approve his name. The total strength of the Supreme Court judges has now gone up to 25.
Not so long ago, Justice Kurian Joseph had written to CJI Misra stating that the ‘very life and existence’ of the Supreme Court was under threat and “history will not pardon us,” if the court did not respond to the government’s unprecedented act of sitting on the collegium’s recommendation.
He had said, “it is the first time in the history of this court where nothing is known as to what has happened to a recommendation after three months.”
Justice Joseph’s letter had followed another extraordinary letter written by recently retired Justice Chelameswar to CJI Misra in March this year demanding a full court on the intervention by the central government in the appointment of judges to high courts.
The second senior most judge had decided to write to CJI Misra after it emerged that Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari had initiated a probe against a judge recommended twice by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation to the High Court.