Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to Supreme Court has been cleared by the centre (File)
As a group of judges protest what they call the government’s attempt to alter the seniority of Justice KM Joseph — whose elevation to the Supreme Court has been cleared after much back-and-forth — government sources have justified an order that places him last among the three judges to be sworn in on Tuesday.
Several Supreme Court judges say that is unfair, since Justice Joseph’s name was recommended long before those of Justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Sharan.
They accuse the government of “pettiness” for being forced to accept Justice Joseph’s name after its objections were overruled by the top judges’ panel, the Supreme Court collegium.
Denying the charge, government sources said Justice Joseph was appointed high court judge in October 2004, two years after Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Vineet Sharan (February 2002). They also pointed out that in the seniority list of judges, Justice Banerjee is at number 2, Justice Sharan at 3 and Justice Joseph places 39.
Justice Joseph did become Chief Justice before the other two judges, said sources, but it is their appointment as high court judge that is taken into account in the all-India seniority list.
One judge told NDTV on Sunday that he and a few of his colleagues planned to meet Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and complain about “blatant interference by the government.”
The Supreme Court collegium named Justice Joseph for elevation in January, but the government sent back his file questioning the choice and pointing to inadequate representation in the top court from other states, especially Kerala.
The government had denied opposition allegations that its objections were linked to Justice Joseph’s order in 2016 scrapping President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, which helped restore the Congress’s government.
As the collegium reiterated its choice of Justice Joseph, the government was forced to accept it. The decision was finally cleared on Friday.