The Supreme Court Collegium once again deferred the decision to reiterate Justice K M Joseph’s name for elevation to the Supreme Court. This is the third time the decision to recommend Uttarakhand Chief Justice has been deferred; Earlier the Collegium had met on May 2 and May 11. The meeting, attended by all five members of the Collegium, lasted nearly two hours and was longest any Collegium meeting has lasted this year.
According to reports, the five top judges are united in recommending Joseph’s name, but the plan is to reiterate the name with a clutch of other names, and therefore they could not reach a decision. The apex court is currently functioning with just 25 judges, six below its sanctioned strength. Five judges of the court are scheduled to retire in 2018, Justice Chelameswar as early as June 22.
K M Joseph’s recommendation was sent back by the government last month, triggering a face-off between the executive and the judiciary. On May 11, the Collegium had declared that “The Chief Justice and other members of the Collegium have, on principle, unanimously agreed that the recommendation for appointment of Mr Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court (Parent High Court: Kerala) as a Judge of the Supreme Court should be reiterated. However, the said reiteration should also be accompanied by the recommendation of the names of Chief Justices of High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, for which detailed discussion is required.”
Despite the meeting lasting more than two hours, it is not known what happened resulting in the deferral. The date of the next meeting too has not been fixed.
The deferral in decision has caused much debate about what is stalling the Collegium from formally reiterating Joseph’s name. According to rules, if the Supreme Court reiterates the name, the Centre would be left with no choice but to swear him in.
The matter of the elevation of the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court was stalled last month, as Centre had refuted to clear his name, while Indu Malhotra, who was recommended in the same meeting, sworn in last month.