New Delhi: In a fresh confrontation with the judiciary, the government Thursday told the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its proposal to appoint Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the top court, saying the elevation may not be “appropriate”.
The government received immediate support from the collegium head, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who said the executive was well within its rights to reject Justice Joseph’s name while accepting the second name even though both were recommended for elevation together by the collegium. The names of Malhotra and Justice Joseph were recommended by the collegium in January.
In a letter to Justice Misra, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government’s rejection of Justice Joseph’s name has approval of the President and the Prime Minister and also flagged that the SCs/STs have no representation in the Supreme Court since long.
“The proposed appointment of …. Joseph as a Judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate,” Prasad said in the letter. “It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving Chief Justices” and senior judges of various High Courts.
In theory, the collegium can still reject the government’s proposal and re-send Justice Joseph’s name to the Law Ministry, which can then decide the future action.
The government’s opposition to Justice Joseph’s elevation is likely to deepen the rift between the executive and the judiciary. In a ruling in 2016, Justice Joseph had cancelled President’s rule in Uttarakhand and brought back to power the then Congress government of Harish Rawat in the state.
The judgement was seen at that time as a major setback to the BJP-ruled government at the Centre.
The government’s decision against Justice Joseph’s elevation evoked sharp reactions with the Supreme Court Bar Association President terming it as “disturbing” and the main opposition party, Congress, asserting that the independence of the judiciary “is in danger” and asking if it would now speak in one voice that “enough is enough”.
Meanwhile, the apex court rejected a plea of senior advocate Indira Jaisingh to stay the warrant of appointment of Malhotra. Notification announcing the appointment of Malhotra was issued this morning by the department of justice in the Law Ministry.
“…the government has been constrained to segregate the recommendation of the Supreme Court…such segregation of proposals has been done in many cases earlier, which include appointment of judges to various HCs and even the SC in the interest of expeditious action on appointments,” Prasad told Justice Misra.
In June 2014, the then Chief Justice of India R M Lodha had written to the government making it clear that the executive cannot segregate recommendations without prior approval of the collegium. This had happened when the government had had decided against elevating senior lawyer and former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium to the Supreme Court, while accepting other recommendations of the collegium, a group of senior most judges of the Supreme Court that decides on appointment of the apex court judges.
Revenge politics by PM: Oppn
New Delhi: The Congress Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of indulging in ‘revenge politics’ by ‘refusing’ to clear the elevation of the country’s most senior chief justice, K M Joseph, to the Supreme Court. The judiciary is under the “most vicious attack ever” and totalitarianism will stump democracy if the nation does not rise now, Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala alleged. “PM Modi’s ‘revenge politics’qua judiciary and ‘conspiratorial suffocation’ of Supreme Court exposed again,” Surjewala said on Twitter, adding that Justice Joseph, who heads the Uttarakhand High Court, is India’s most senior Chief Justice. “Yet Modi Government refuses to clear his elevation to SC .”