Collegium must reiterate KM Joseph elevation: Justice Chelameswar to CJI

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He had written against the government's interference in the judiciary when the Centre, bypassing the Supreme Court collegium, directly asked the Karnataka Chief Justice to conduct an enquiry into a judge recommended by the collegium for elevation to the High Court.

SCBA President Vikas Singh, appearing for one of the parties, was also present in the court when the judge made the scathing observations.

The top court collegium recommending the elevation of Justice Joseph had said: "The collegium considers that at present Justice K.M. Joseph, who hails from Kerala High Court and is now functioning as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India".

In the intervening hours, the five-judge bench headed by the sixth senior-most judge was formed after the Chief Justice spoke to some judges, none of whom was from the collegium, the sources said.

Justice Mishra also expressed displeasure that the Supreme Court Bar Association was silent on the issue.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a letter to the CJI said that justice Joseph's proposed appointment was not "appropriate" because there were "more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices and puisne judges of various high courts". This order overruled Justice Chelameswar's decision. The Supreme Court has maintained that it is final as far as it is concerned and there will be no further changes. They want the CJI to clarify the matter to the government.

After sitting over the Collegium's recommendations for over three months, the Centre sent back Justice Joseph's name for reconsideration in the last week of April. Earlier, Justice Chelameswar stood out by raising the banner of protest against the non-transparent and arbitrary functioning of the Collegium. The recommendation is in limbo with the government sending the file back to the collegium for re-consideration.

According to New18, Chelameswar has also refused to take up the role of executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), a position nearly exclusively reserved for the seniormost judge in the SC, as well as a similar position with the state legal services authority.

This was cited by the five-judge bench on Tuesday, suggesting neither the Chief Justice nor the collegium members could have adjudicated on the petition.