Justice Kurian Joseph, third senior-most judge of the Supreme Court who was one of the four senior judges to have conducted an unprecedented January 12 presser mounting a virtual revolt against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, retired from the top court Thursday after a five-and-a half-year tenure.
Along with Justices Ranjan Gogoi, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur, he had raised questions on “selective” allocation of cases, including the sensitive case of special CBI judge B H Loya, who died on December 1, 2014. Justice Gogoi is presently the Chief Justice of India and Justice Chelameswar retired in June this year.
The press meet on January 12, the first such in the chequered history of the apex court, had caused shock waves across the nation.
On Thursday, bar leaders bid adieu to Justice Joseph by terming him as one of the most “popular” judges in recent times with a “pleasant smile” and urged Justice Gogoi to replace him a judge having similar smile.
Justice Joseph had extensively volunteered at two relief collection drives organised by lawyers in Delhi after Kerala faced one of its worst floods in a 100 years during August this year.
He was also seen singing along with Justice K M Joseph and Hindi singer Mohit Chauhan to raise funds for the southern state in a relief program held in Indian Society for International Law Auditorium here.
Justice Kurian Joseph, who will turn 65 on November 30, was part of the five- judge bench which by a majority of 3:2 had ruled the practice of divorce through triple talaq among Muslims as “void”, “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
He has been actively writing letters to top notches in the judiciary and the government regarding issues ranging from the government’s delay in acting upon the Collegium recommendations to restoring the glory of Taj Mahal.
The apex court judge had in April penned a letter to Justice Misra regarding the government sitting on the Collegium’s recommendation for elevating a senior judge and a senior advocate to the Supreme Court.
In his letter, he had said that the “very life and existence” of the court was under threat and that “history will not pardon us” if the top court did not respond to the government’s delay in adhering to the recommendations.
He had in 2015 raised objections with the then Chief Justice of India, H L Dattu over holding a three-day long judge’s conference during Good Friday and Easter and had declined to attend dinner arranged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for top judges on the ground that the event and the ongoing conference clashed with the holy weekend for Christians.
He had written a letter to the prime minister explaining his stand and also questioning such meetings on holy days.
In the same year, he had also written to Justice Dattu seeking court intervention into the monument, Taj Mahal, facing threat from pollution due to burning pyres from a nearby cremation ground.
He was part of the five-judge constitution bench, which in unanimous decision had turned down the Centre’s plea for considering overall population of SC/ST for granting quota for them and had declined to refer the matter to a larger bench.
He was a part of the seven-judge constitution bench, which for the first time in the history of Indian judiciary, had held a sitting high court judge — Justice C S Karnan of the Calcutta High Court — guilty of contempt and sentenced him to a six month jail term.
Justice Joseph was also in the Constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar that had scrapped the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act to deal with appointments in higher judiciary.
Born on November 30, 1953 in Kerala, he had his early education at St. Joseph’s U.P. school at Kalady in Ernakulam district and attained his law degree from Kerala Law Academy Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.
Justice Joseph, who began practising in the Kerala High Court from 1979, was appointed as an Additional Advocate General in 1994 and was designated as a senior advocate in 1996.
He assumed office as a judge in the Kerala High Court on July 12, 2000 and served as the Acting Chief Justice of the high court twice.
He was later appointed as the Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court on February 8, 2010. Justice Joseph was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court on March 8, 2013.