Justice Joseph to Take Oath Today Amid Row Over 'Downgrade', Govt Says Followed Seniority Principle
Highly placed sources in the Supreme Court said the concerns raised by some apex court judges over the lowering of Justice Joseph’s seniority would be discussed after the judges are sworn in since 'nothing much can be done at this stage'.
File photo of Justice KM Joseph. (PTI)
New Delhi: The oath-taking ceremony of the three judges elevated to the Supreme Court — Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice Vineet Saran and Justice KM Joseph — will be conducted as scheduled on Tuesday in the order of seniority notified by the Centre.
Highly placed sources in the Supreme Court said the concerns raised by some apex court judges over the lowering of Justice Joseph’s seniority would be discussed after the judges are sworn in since “nothing much can be done at this stage”.
The sources said except Justice Ranjan Gogoi, a member of the apex court collegium who was on leave, others had “informally” deliberated on the Centre’s move.
However, it was decided that the oath-taking ceremony should take place. “Let the oath-taking take place. There is no time. The oath-taking can't be deferred. It has to be seen what can be done later,” one of the sources said about the discussion that was held among the judges in the morning at the judges' lounge before they commenced the day's working in the apex court.
Judges, including members of the collegium comprising Justice MB Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice AK Sikri, met Chief Justice Dipak Misra. Sources said they were of the view that there was a need to sit together and ponder over the issue.
They said the CJI, who heads the collegium, assured the judges that he would consult Justice Gogoi who is the senior-most after him and take up the issue with the Centre.
The Centre on Friday last came out with the notification on the appointment of the three judges to the apex court by putting at number three the seniority of Justice Joseph.
In the notification, the name of Justice Indira Banerjee, Chief Justice of the Madras high court, was at number one, followed by that of Justice Vineet Saran, Chief Justice of the Orissa HC.
It is the convention that seniority of judges is determined in accordance with the order of names notified by the government.
Defending its move, the government said it went purely by the “time-tested” principle of the high court seniority list.
Top sources in the government said Justice Joseph was two-and-a-half years junior to Justice Banerjee and Justice Saran in all-India seniority of high court judges.
Some senior judges are upset as they feel that since Justice Joseph’s name was in-principle reiterated before the recommendation for the other two was made, he should have been their senior in the top court. However, government sources said the in-principle reiteration came to the government in July along with two other names.
Quoting the resolution of the Supreme Court collegium recommending their elevation to the top court, they said Justice Banerjee was appointed as a high court judge on February 5, 2002, while Justice Saran was appointed on February 14, 2002. Justice Joseph was appointed as a high court judge on October 14, 2004. “In the all-lndia seniority of high court judges, Justice Baneriee is at number 4 while Justice Saran is at number 5. Justice Joseph is at the 39th place,” a source said.
It was pointed out that none of the three judges will become the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as there are other SC judges who have been elevated to the apex court earlier and they will also retire later.
They said while Justice Joseph will retire on June 16, 2023, Justice DY Chandrachud, who is senior to all the three judges, will continue till November 2024.
The sources recalled that CJI Dipak Misra had become a high court judge on January 17, 1996, while Justice J Chelameswar became a high court judge on June 23, 1997. Justice Chelameswar became the chief justice of a high court on May 3, 2007, while Justice Misra became chief justice of a HC on December 23, 2009.
They said the appointment as chief justice of a high court does not alter the seniority of HC judges in the all-India seniority register. Therefore, Justice Misra took oath as a Supreme Court judge before Justice Chelameswar on the same day and remained senior to him based on the seniority according to seniority list of HC judges.
(With PTI inputs)
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