New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra met at 1 pm on Friday to reconsider the Centre’s stand not to elevate the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court KM Joseph as a judge of the apex court.
The collegium met for the second time after deferring its decision earlier last week. The meetings come after Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sent back Justice Joseph's name and asked the judges to reconsider their choice.
The government had cleared the other recommendation, Indu Malhotra, but said Justice Joseph - the chief justice of the Uttarakhand High Court - was not senior enough for the promotion.
The government also said Justice Joseph is from Kerala, which was already represented in the Supreme Court.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has denied that the Centre's decision had anything to do with Justice Joseph's 2016 verdict cancelling president's rule in Uttarakhand, which enabled the Congress to remain in power.
At its earlier meeting last week, the country’s five top judges had decided to draft a point-by-point response to the centre's objections to their choice. But it also discussed names of judges from three other high courts in view of what the court called, was the "concept of fair representation".
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra's decision to convene today's meeting came just a day after Justice Jasti Chelameswar, who ranks after him and retires soon, wrote to him. The letter sought an early meeting of the collegium and said that the judges must be firm on their choice.
While it is not unusual for the Centre to return the collegium's recommendation for appointment of high court judges, it is rare for the government to return a recommendation for elevation to the Supreme Court. The only occasion when such a situation arose in recent years was when the NDA government blocked elevation of senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium in 2014.
However, RM Lodh, who was then the Chief Justice, could not pursue the case because Gopal Subramanium withdrew his consent to be a judge.
If the collegium sends back a name a second time, the Centre has no choice but to accept it.
The country’s apex court is already down to 24 judges as against the strength of 31 and five more are slated to retire this year.