In the latest round of the tussle between the Supreme Court and the government, the Collegium, consisting of the five most senior judges of the apex court, is expected to reiterate Wednesday afternoon the name of Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
His name was returned to the Supreme Court by the government last week after a delay of more than three months. There is no other item on the agenda of the Collegium meeting, as per the notice issued by Chief Justice Dipak Misra late Tuesday evening.
That puts to rest all speculation that the Collegium could recommend some other names, along with reiterating the name of Justice K M Joseph. Against a sanctioned strength of 31, there are currently only 25 judges appointed to the Supreme Court.
Sources said the Collegium meeting will be held at 4.15 pm at the Supreme Court premises. All the members of the Collegium — CJI Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph — are expected to attend the meeting which will discuss the controversial government order to segregate its two recommendations and return Justice K M Joseph’s name to the CJI.
Last Thursday, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to CJI Misra returning Justice Joseph’s name, after the government had approved Ms (now Justice) Indu Malhotra’s name. Justice Malhotra was sworn in as a judge of the apex court last Friday.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the collegium is widely expected to strongly reiterate Justice K M Joseph’s name to the government. A reiteration by the collegium would make it incumbent upon the government to issue a warrant for the appointment of Justice Joseph to the Supreme Court.
The same collegium under CJI Misra had unanimously recommended Justice K M Joseph’s name in January, stating that he “is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India”. As per sources, “there had been no material change of facts in the case, only expression of an opinion by the law minister” to elicit a different response from the collegium now.
Sources also said that the collegium is likely to decide that no further names will be sent to the government unless Justice Joseph’s name is approved for appointment to the Supreme Court.
Sources said at least six judges of the apex court had conveyed their concerns to the CJI about the government’s response to Justice Kurian Joseph’s statement about the likely decision of the collegium. These judges felt, sources said, that Justice Kurian Joseph had not done anything improper to draw such a sharp rebuke from the government which itself has not been following any of the established norms in dealing with the judiciary.
As reported by The Indian Express on Tuesday, a top government functionary expressed “surprise” that a “possible decision” on reiterating Justice K M Joseph’s name had already been taken before the collegium meeting. His statement came a day after Justice Kurian Joseph had told The Indian Express that “the Collegium might have to reiterate its recommendation furnishing facts and figures and citing precedent which have not been put in perspective by the government when it returned his name.”