oppn parties Controversy, Thy Name Is Justice KM Joseph

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Controversy, Thy Name Is Justice KM Joseph

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Is ‘controversy’ the other name of Justice KM Joseph? The recommendation of his name by the SC collegium for elevation as a Supreme Court judge had raised a huge controversy when the government rejected it. Several senior judges, disregarding the fact that it was the right of the government to send back a name for reconsideration with its objections, called it interference in the work of the judiciary. Politicians called it an act of vengeance by the BJP government as Justice Joseph had restored a Congress government in Uttarakhand after the BJP had engineered defections to bring it down. Congress and other opposition parties alleged that the Centre was punishing Justice Joseph by blocking his elevation. But the government is entitled to raise objections and can send back a name for reconsideration. It cannot block the elevation if the collegium resends the same name. Hence, the government has now notified Justice Joseph’s elevation along with two other judges.

But when the government came out with the list of the three judges who are to take oath, Justice Joseph’s name was at number three. This immediately raised the hackles of some senior judges of the Supreme Court who questioned the list. Their contention was that Justice Joseph’s name was recommended more than six months ago, much before the other two judges. Hence, they said, he should have been accorded seniority and made to take the oath first. The judges must know that mere recommendation of a name has no meaning in law until it is accepted and notified. Due process must be followed and rule of law is based on that. Further, the government has gone by time-tested and transparent principles. The convention is that whenever there is bunched oath taking, seniority is accorded to the judge from the date he or she was elevated to the High Court and not when his or her name was recommended by the collegium. On this count, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Vineet Saran are senior to Justice Joseph. There actually is no dispute on that and the judges should have refrained from making the appointment controversial.