The Centre has clearly rejected suggestions that it had turned down the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the Supreme Court as he had once overturned the imposition of President’s Rule in the state.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that it has the right to seek reconsideration of proposals sent by the Supreme Court collegium as the power flows from three apex court judgments.
The government had on April 26 asked the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph to the apex court, saying the elevation may not be “appropriate”.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Prasad had said the government’s rejection of Justice Joseph’s name has approval of the President and the Prime Minister and also flagged that the SCs/STs have no representation in the Supreme Court since long.
“The proposed appointment of …. Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate,” Prasad had said in the letter. “It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices” and senior judges of various high courts.
Responding to questions on the decision to stall Justice Joseph’s appointment to the top court, Prasad said that “sponsored allegations” are being levelled against the government by “the Congress party in particular and others in general” that Joseph’s appointment was stalled due to his Uttarakhand President’s Rule verdict.
“I wish to deny with all authority at my command. It has nothing to do with that at all,” he told reporters. He said there are two “obvious reasons” to support his stand.
“A proper government with 3/4th majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Second that order (of Justice Joseph) was confirmed by Justice J S Khehar of the Supreme Court, who had also set aside the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, yet he became the CJI in the NDA government … I deny these insinuations,” the minister said.
Through the NJAC law, the government had sought to have more say in appointment of Supreme Court and high court judges.
Prasad said that the right of the government to seek a reconsideration of the proposals made by the collegium is granted to it by the Supreme Court judgements of 1993, 1998 and 2015 relating to the collegium system.
The minister refused to comment on former CJI R M Lodha’s remarks on independence of judiciary, saying he would not like to comment on observations made by a retired judge.
“I always felt that independence of judiciary is non-negotiable and it is for the CJI, who is the leader of the court, to take them forward. He has to show his statesmanship qualities, take all brothers and sisters together,” Lodha had said on Tuesday, without making any reference to the incumbent CJI Dipak Misra.
“Only one things I would like to observe is the commitment of this government for the independence of the judiciary and respect for the institution of judiciary and the judges is complete and uncompromising,” Prasad said.