The President of India on Friday appointed Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, Orissa HC CJ Vineet Saran and Uttarakhand HC CJ K M Joseph as judges of the Supreme Court.
Sources said the order of their elevation was according to the all-India seniority of HC judges. Which effectively means that Justice Banerjee and Justice Saran will be senior to Justice Joseph in the SC. The President, under the provisions of Article 124 of the Constitution, issued the warrant of appointment for the three judges.
At present, the SC has 22 judges. With Friday’s appointments, it will have six vacancies. With the elevation of Justice Banerjee, the SC will have a total of three woman judges, that includes Justices R Bhanumathi and Indu Malhotra — the most woman judges the apex court has had. Also Read: Deadlock to end, Govt clears Supreme Court Collegium’s move to elevate Justice KM Joseph
Justice Joseph is, currently, the longest-serving Chief Justice of a HC in the country and has served as CJ of Uttarakhand for a little over four years. Justice Joseph will have a longer tenure as SC judge as compared to Justices Banerjee and Saran.
The appointments end the six-month-long standoff between the judiciary and the executive over the elevation of Justice Joseph. The SC collegium, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, had on January 10, recommended the elevation of Justice Joseph along with senior advocate Indu Malhotra. However, the government while agreeing to the elevation of Malhotra, returned the Joseph recommendation on April 26.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in April, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited Justice Joseph’s standing in the all-India seniority list of High Court judges, adequate representation for the Kerala High Court – which is his parent High Court – in the apex court, and lack of representation of some other High Courts to request for reconsideration of the recommendation.
On July 16, the SC collegium reiterated the recommendation elevating Justice Joseph, along with Justices Banerjee and Saran.
Justice Joseph was appointed as the CJ of Uttarakhand on July 31, 2014. Justice K M Joseph, who studied in Loyola college in Chennai, secured his law degree from Law College, Ernakulum. He is the son of former SC judge K K Mathew who also served as Chairman of the Law Commission. Also Read: SC Collegium reiterates Justice K M Joseph’s name, recommends two others
A member of the bar, Justice Joseph was elevated directly as the permanent judge of Kerala HC on October 14, 2004 and is currently the senior most judge from the parent HC of Kerala. He turned 60 on June 17. Which effectively means he will serve as the Supreme Court judge for over four years. In April 2016, the bench headed by Justice Joseph had quashed President’s Rule imposed by the Centre in Uttarakhand.
It was speculated that this was why the government was stalling his appointment to the SC. However, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, had rubbished the allegation, and said : “I wish to deny with all authority at my command that it has nothing to do with it (Justice Joseph’s decision) at all, for two obvious reasons. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with nearly three-fourth majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Secondly, that order was confirmed by Justice (J S) Khehar of the Supreme Court… Khehar was the judge who also set aside the National Judicial Commission initiative of the government. Yet he became the Chief Justice of India during the BJP-led NDA government. I think that by itself is (proof) enough.”
Justice Banerjee, elevated from the bar, was directly appointed as the permanent judge of Calcutta HC on February 5, 2002.
She is two years and 8 months senior to Justice Joseph. Justice Banerjee is currently the senior most judge from Calcutta and was appointed as the CJ of Madras HC on March 5, 2017. She turns 61 in September and will serve in the apex court for approximately four years.
With Justice Banerjee’s appointment to the SC, the Calcutta HC will have a representation in the apex court. Justice Pinaki Chandra Bose was the last judge of SC, from the Calcutta HC.
Justice Vineet Saran, a member of bar, was elevated directly as permanent judge of Allahabad HC February 12, 2002. He turned 61 in May — he will serve for just under four years. He is currently the senior most judge from the parent HC of Allahabad and was appointed CJ of Orissa in February 2016.
Meanwhile, the government on Friday also notified the appointments of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal as Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court; acting Chief Justice of Kerala High Court Hrishikesh Roy as Chief Justice of the same High Court; Rajasthan High Court judge Justice K S Jhaveri as Chief Justice of Orissa High Court and Gujarat High Court judge Justice M R Shah as Chief Justice of Patna High Court ; Chief Justice of Patna High Court Justice Rajendra Menon as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court while Calcutta High Court judge and Justice Aniruddha Bose as Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court.