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The other names will be decided on a meeting on May 16. Until then, Justice Joseph’s name will not be sent back to the Centre.
The collegium, which is a group of five senior-most judges, earlier today, concluded a crucial meeting to discuss the elevation of Justice Joseph to the apex court. The court’s recommendation was returned by the Centre last month, asking the SC to reconsider its decision.
The collegium constitutes CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice M B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph. It had previously met on May 2 but deferred its decision on the matter.
The meeting today took place after the Union government, on April 26, returned the its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph asking the top court judges to reconsider the proposal. The Centre said the recommendation wasn’t in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was already adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where Justice Joseph hails. It also questioned his seniority for elevation as a judge of the apex court.
The Centre had the following objections — it said Justice Joseph stood at number 42 in the seniority of high court judges and there were 11 chief justices of different high courts who would senior to him — a clear suggestion that his elevation to the Supreme Court would be at their expense. The Centre also raised the principle of proportionality contending that Kerala high court was a “comparatively small high court” with a sanctioned strength of 42 judges and was a parent high court for top court judge Justice Kurian Joseph and the chief justices of three high courts — Justice K.M. Joseph himself (Uttarakhand), Justice T B Radhakrishnan (Chhattisgarh) and Justice Antony Dominic (Kerala). The Central government also flagged the absence of SC/ST judges in the top judiciary.
On May 9, Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior-most judge of the apex court, had written a letter to CJI Dipak Misra asking him to convene the collegium’s meeting to discuss the issue. Justice Chelameswar reiterated the decision to elevate Justice Joseph as a judge of the SC, saying there was no change in the circumstances that led the collegium to recommend his name to the government in January this year. Justice Chelameswar in the letter also outlined why the Centre’s objections were not valid. The timing of the collegium is important due to Justice Chelameswar’s imminent retirement. The justice is retiring on June 22 but the top court is left with just six working days before it breaks for a six-week summer vacation next weekend.