The drama surrounding Justice K M Joseph doesn’t seem to be ending. Several judges of the Supreme Court, including members from the Collegium, are apparently unhappy over the central government’s decision to lower the seniority of Justice Joseph and are set to meet Chief Justice Dipak Misra today. The name of Justice Joseph, who is currently the longest serving Chief Justice of any high court in India, has been placed at serial number 3 in the notification. This comes after the Centre accepted the Collegium’s reiteration of appointing Justice Joseph as a Supreme Court judge. The swearing-in ceremony of the three newly appointed judges — Justices Joseph, Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran — is scheduled to be held in the CJI’s court at 10.30 am on Tuesday.
Joseph will have a tenure in the apex court till June 16, 2023. Justice Banerjee will serve as a judge till September 9, 2022, and Justice Saran till May 10, 2022, with 65 years as the retirement age of Supreme Court judges. A demand would be made to the CJI to take a corrective measure before the oath-taking ceremony in the Supreme Court, according to PTI report. Some members of the Supreme Court Bar Association said they will also make a representation on the issue.
The Centre on Friday came out with the notification for the appointment of the three judges, including Justice Joseph, to the apex court. There was a tussle between the five-member Supreme Court Collegium headed by the CJI and the Centre over the elevation of Justice Joseph to the apex court. Justice Joseph, the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, had headed a bench, which had quashed the imposition of President’s Rule in the state in 2016. Uttarakhand was then under the Congress rule.
The Collegium had, on January 10, recommended the name of Justice Joseph, along with that of senior advocate Indu Malhotra, for elevation to the apex court. However, the government had returned Justice Joseph’s name for reconsideration and gone ahead with the appointment of Justice Malhotra. The August 4 appointment notification has placed Justice Joseph after Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Vineet Saran. The warrants of appointment of the three judges were signed by the President on August 3.
According to the Collegium’s January 10 resolution, when Justice Joseph’s name was recommended for elevation, “He stands at Sl. No.45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on the all-India basis.” Justice Joseph’s elevation to the apex court put an end to a protracted stand-off between the government and the judiciary. The number of judges in the top court after the fresh appointments has gone up to 25. There are still six vacancies.
The collegium had, on May 16, in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph’s name for elevation to the apex court. The recommendation was sent to the government in July and it was accepted.