NEW DELHI: The tussle between the judiciary and the Union government reached an all-time high on Thursday when the Centre chose to accept the docket on senior advocate Indu Malhotra for elevation as a Supreme Court judge but spiked that on Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph.
The two recommendations had been sent together. The government asked the collegium to reconsider its decision on Justice Joseph.
Both recommendations had been pending with the law ministry since January 10, 2018. Sections of the legal fraternity as well as the opposition launched a broadside on the government for alleged cherry picking. The Congress attacked the government for being vindictive and accused it of not clearing Justice Joseph’s name because of his ruling in 2016 against the BJP in Uttarakhand.
He had cancelled President’s Rule in the state and restored the Congress government of Harish Rawat.
Critics of the government also recalled how Justice Joseph’s transfer to the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court never saw light of the day.However, the issue is not just about returning of a file on a collegium recommendation to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for reconsideration.
The concern is over the Centre’s attempt to use the reconsideration option to deny Justice Joseph seniority within the Supreme Court by clearing Malhotra’s appointment first. If the collegium submits the same name again, it would be binding on the Centre to clear the appointment.
The government sent back Justice Joseph’s name based on the argument that there is already adequate representation from the Kerala High Court in the SC and among chief justices in the HCs.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a letter to CJI Misra, argued that Justice Joseph’s elevation to the SCwould breach the norm of seniority amongst judges of the high courts.