The Indian judiciary slipped into yet another crisis on Thursday as top Supreme Court lawyers called for an extraordinary meeting to protest against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to return the file on Justice KM Joseph’s recommendations to the collegium.
In the petition sent to the Supreme Court Bar Association, as many as 100 top SC lawyers expressed their ‘displeasure and opposition to the Executive action of splitting up/segregating the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium.’
The statement, jointly signed by 100 top Supreme Court lawyers, called upon President Ram Nath Kovind to ‘forthwith issue warrants of appointment of both learned judges.’
The Centre on Wednesday had approved the name of lawyer Indu Malhotra for the role of the Supreme Court judge, but returned the recommendation for Justice KM Joseph, who’s currently the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court. The Centre’s refusal to give its consent to the collegium’s recommendation was widely believed to be in reaction to Justice Joseph’s 2016 decision to quash the Modi government’s President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, which was then being headed by Harish Rawat of the Congress.
The Supreme Court lawyers further added, “While we stand for nomination of Ms Indu Malhotra, senior advocate and one of our distinguished members, we express our deep anguish for non-inclusion of Justice KM Joseph and selective processing of files contrary to the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium.
“We strongly condemn the selective approach of the Executive and call upon the Hon’ble Supreme Court to take appropriate steps to restore independence of the judiciary.”
This came amidst senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising submission of a plea in the top court to stay the oath taking ceremony of Indu Malhotra, scheduled for 10 AM on Friday. Meanwhile, Chief Justice of India has said that there was nothing wrong in the Centre returning the file on Justice Joseph. This could fuel the controversy further in light of allegations of his biases in favour the current government at the Centre.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal too had expressed his shock on Justice Joseph’s name not being approved for the SC judge’s role. He had gone on record to conclude that the Centre’s decision was tantamount to endangering the Indian judiciary.