A day after Justice Kurian Joseph said that the Supreme Court Collegium is likely to reiterate its recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph after the Government’s request for reconsideration, a top government functionary expressed “surprise” that a “possible decision” has already been taken before the Collegium meeting.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice Kurian Joseph had said: “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.”
The Collegium is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
“There is a well-established tradition that honourable judges don’t speak their mind on sensitive issues like judicial appointments. What’s further surprising is that if the possible decision has already been taken even before the meeting, then what is left to be considered? It is surprising that a senior judge and member of collegium is indicating that the collegium might have to reiterate its recommendations to elevate justice K M Joseph,” the government functionary told The Indian Express.
“This has never happened,” said the functionary, “a member of the collegium discussing whom to appoint and not to appoint…it is distressing.”
The functionary denied that the Government’s request to reconsider the case of Justice K M Joseph is because of his verdict against President’s rule in Uttarakhand. “This is for two obvious reasons. One, elections were held and a popular BJP government was elected in the state. And, secondly, the verdict of Justice K M Joseph was affirmed by Justice J S Khehar who also quashed the NJAC but was elevated as Chief Justice of India during the BJP government.”
While top officials in the government will watch the outcome of the SC collegium meeting, a section in the Government is of the view that the file could once again be returned to the collegium if it sends it back.
“The first proposal was of Indu Malhotra and Justice Joseph,” said a government source, “if the collegium sends Justice Joseph’s file back, we could treat it as a fresh recommendation.”
Questions have been raised over the manner in which the Government “segregated” the recommendation — it returned for reconsideration the recommendation to elevate Justice K M Joseph even as it notified the appointment of senior advocate Indu Malhotra as a judge of the apex court. Both names had been recommended by the collegium on January 10.
The government source also questioned Justice Kurian Joseph’s statement that the government “has kept silent” on the request for transfer of Justice K M Joseph to Andhra Pradesh HC stating that the “collegium subsequently itself recalled its order and decided to transfer another Chief Justice to Andhra Pradesh.”
Justice Kurian Joseph had said the current government had “sat over” Justice K M Joseph’s issue earlier, too.
“This is not the first time this Government has sat over his file. Justice Joseph had, two years ago, asked for a transfer to the plains on health grounds. He had health issues and had asked for a transfer to save himself from the biting cold in the hills and the Supreme Court had sent the file transferring him to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. But the Government has kept silent on it till date,” he said.