In a fresh confrontation with the judiciary, the government on Thursday told the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its proposal to appoint Uttarakhand high court chief justice KM Joseph to the top court, saying the elevation may not be “appropriate”.
While recommending the name of Justice Joseph for the top court, the collegium had said that he was “more deserving and suitable in all respects than other chief justices and senior puisne judges of high courts for being appointed as judge of the Supreme Court of India”.
The collegium had taken into consideration the combined seniority of chief justices and senior puisne judges of high courts on an all-India basis, apart from their merit and integrity, the body of top five judges of the Supreme Court had said.
Can the government reject a judge’s elevation just because his verdict was not “palatable” to the Executive? Ms. Jaising, who represented the 100 signatory lawyers, asked.
(She was referring to a ruling in 2016, where 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.)
By making one appointment and not making another, the govt has interfered in functioning of the judiciary. This is a very serious matter and should be taken up with the government very strongly: Advocate Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association
— ANI (@ANI) April 26, 2018
Further, reports emerged that Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra was not consulted and the government unilaterally made its decision to “segregate” the recommendations made by the collegium for elevation. On January 22, the Supreme Court collegium’s file recommending the elevations had reached the law ministry.
Legal experts had cautioned the government against accepting one of the recommendations while keeping the other one on hold. A Chief Justice of India had told the law ministry not to “segregate” names sent for appointment together.
The term “segregation” here refers to proceeding with one recommendation and not on the other.
The law of the land does not allow the central government to block the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, and doing so would be “unconstitutional”, eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee said Thursday.
“The government only has a voice, not a veto as far as appointments of judges are concerned,” Sorabjee told ThePrint. “But if the collegium, after considering the point of view of the government, still wants to maintain that a certain judge should be elevated, then it is binding on the government.”
“You see all this done for the reason that justices can dispense justice freely and independently…We don’t want executive or sarkari judges.”