NEW DELHI: Prodded by Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second seniormost judge of the Supreme Court, the apex court collegium is expected to meet on Friday to take a call on recommending Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph for elevation to the top court. The issue has become a major bone of contention between the judiciary and the executive.
Justice Chelameswar had on Wednesday written to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asking him to convene the meet.
If the collegium sends back a name, the Centre will have no choice but to accept it. It is also likely that a point wise rebuttal would be given along with the recommendation of the name this time to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
The letter comes weeks before Justice Chelameswar is due to retire on June 22. Since the court’s six-week summer vacation begins on May 19, he has just a week left for wrapping up his official work. Justice Chelameswar has been skipping the court to write pending judgments. He also refused to be part of a farewell party the Supreme Court Bar Association intended to organise in his honour on May 18.
In January last, the collegium had recommended Justice Joseph as well as senior advocate Indu Malhotra for Sc berths. But the Centre split the recommendation, accepting Malhotra while rejecting Joseph, for which it was roundly criticised as it was against convention.
The government argued that Justice Joseph was not senior enough - he is number 42 in the All India High Court Judge’s list. But he is the senior most chief justice amongst the 24 high courts. The delay in his elevation is bound to affect his seniority in the apex court.
Justice Joseph found himself on the wrong side of the ruling BJP after a bench led by him quashed the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016 and restored the then Congress government led by Harish Rawat.