Chief justice meets attorney general over Justice Joseph seniority row

The judges accused the government of ‘blatant interference and pettiness’ after being forced to accept Justice Joseph’s name

New Delhi: After a group of Supreme Court (SC) judges protested over the government altering seniority granted to Justice KM Joseph while clearing his appointment as SC judge, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Monday met Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal to discuss the issue.

The judges, including three from the collegium or the panel that recommends appointments of judges to SC, told the CJI that the government order was unfair since it placed the name of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court (HC) Justice KM Joseph last in seniority of appointment list.

They said they were “shocked” that Justice Joseph’s name figured last in the list despite being recommended before the other two names – Madras HC Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Orissa HC Chief Justice Vineet Saran.

The judges accused the government of “blatant interference and pettiness” after being forced to accept Justice Joseph’s name.

The appointments of Justices Banerjee, Saran and Joseph to the top court was cleared by the government on August 3. But the government notification placed Justice Joseph below Justices Banerjee and Saran, thereby making them senior to him in the court’s hierarchy.

The move is expected to hamper Justice Joseph’s chances of being elevated to the post of CJI.

The swearing-in ceremony of the three newly appointed judges is scheduled to be held in the CJI’s court on Tuesday.

There is no written convention over who should be administered oath first. But according to the precedent, the senior most HC judge is administered the oath first.

Justice Banerjee was appointed as a HC judge in February 2, 2002, Justice Saran was appointed on February 14, 2002 and Justice Joseph was appointed on October 10, 2004.

Justice Joseph’s elevation to SC had been cleared after much back-and-forth in the past eight months.

The SC collegium had first recommended Justice Joseph’s name for elevation in January this year. But the government struck it down on the grounds that he lacked seniority and his elevation would lead to “over-representation” from Kerala.

His name was sent again in July along with the names of Justices Banerjee and Saran.

In 2016, Justice Joseph had struck down the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand after dismissal of a Congress government led by Chief Minister Harish Rawat.

This later helped restore Congress’s government in Uttarakhand.


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