Rejecting suggestions that the central government turned down the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the Supreme Court as he had once overturned the imposition of President’s Rule in the state, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said that it has the right to seek reconsideration of proposals sent by the Supreme Court collegium.
Prasad said that “sponsored allegations” are being levelled against the government by “the Congress party in particular and others in general” that Joseph’s appointment was stalled due to his Uttarakhand President’s Rule verdict.
“I wish to deny with all authority at my command. It has nothing to do with that at all,” he told media persons.
The Law Minister pointed out that there are two “obvious reasons” to support his stand.
“A proper government with 3/4th majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Second that order (of Justice Joseph) was confirmed by Justice J S Khehar of the Supreme Court, who had also set aside the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, yet he became the CJI in the NDA government ... I deny these insinuations,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court Collegium deferred its decision on the issue of reconsidering the name of Uttarakhand Chief justice K M Joseph for elevation as an apex court, judge which was sent back by the government last week.
The meeting was attended by all five judges of the collegium including Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. The five judges met after the workings hours, but no decision was taken.
The resolution of the meeting uploaded on the apex court website said the Collegium had met "to consider the following agenda:
'To reconsider the case of Mr Justice K.M. Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court [Parent High Court:Kerala], pursuant to letters dated 26th & 30th April, 2018 received from Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India and also to consider the names of Judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan, and Telangana & Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, in view of the concept of fair representation. Deferred," the resolution said.
Justice Joseph’s name was recommended along with then senior advocate Indu Malhotra on January 10 for their elevation as apex court judges. The government had on April 26 declined to accept the recommendation of the Collegium and asked it to reconsider his name.
Malhotra was sworn in as the judge of the apex court on April 27.
On April 26, the government had asked the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph to the apex court, saying the elevation may not be “appropriate”.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Prasad had said the government’s rejection of Justice Joseph’s name has approval of the President and the Prime Minister and also flagged that the SCs/STs have no representation in the Supreme Court since long.
“The proposed appointment of .... Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate,” Prasad had said in the letter. “It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices” and senior judges of various high courts.
Through the NJAC law, the government had sought to have more say in appointment of Supreme Court and high court judges.
Prasad said that the right of the government to seek a reconsideration of the proposals made by the collegium is granted to it by the Supreme Court judgements of 1993, 1998 and 2015 relating to the collegium system.
The minister refused to comment on former CJI R M Lodha’s remarks on independence of judiciary, saying he would not like to comment on observations made by a retired judge.
“I always felt that independence of judiciary is non-negotiable and it is for the CJI, who is the leader of the court, to take them forward. He has to show his statesmanship qualities, take all brothers and sisters together,” Lodha had said yesterday, without making any reference to the incumbent CJI Dipak Misra.
“Only one things I would like to observe is the commitment of this government for the independence of the judiciary and respect for the institution of judiciary and the judges is complete and uncompromising,” Prasad said.
(With PTI inputs)