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Modi Govt Does Not Want Justice Joseph in SC Because of His Uttarakhand Ruling, Says Congress

The primary reason the government has given for its refusal to appoint Justice Joseph to the apex court was the fact that he lacks the “requisite seniority among high court judges” across India.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:April 27, 2018, 7:15 PM IST
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Modi Govt Does Not Want Justice Joseph in SC Because of His Uttarakhand Ruling, Says Congress
A file photo of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court K M Joseph. (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: The Congress on Friday claimed that the Centre had sent back Justice KM Joseph’s name to the Collegium for reconsideration because it could not digest the unfavourable verdict he had given in the Uttarakhand President rule case two years ago.

The Uttarakhand High Court had in April 2016 quashed the union government’s order imposing President’s Rule on the state and brought back the Harish Rawat-led Congress government. The order, delivered by a division bench headed by Justice Joseph, had held that the situation must be viewed “on a larger canvas of democracy, federalism and the rule of law.”

It was a setback for the Modi government, which had approached the President to prove that there was a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the state.

Senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who had argued for Rawat in Uttarakhand, said that the ruling government sent back the name of Justice Joseph to CJI as a means of "content-based assault on judiciary”.

"This is the worst and first content-based assault on judiciary. Here content means reaction to a judgment given. Non-elevation is based on a judgment which he delivered on imposing President’s rule in Uttarakhand. The verdict he had given was according to his conscience," said Singhvi.

The primary reason the government has given for its refusal to appoint Justice Joseph was the fact that he lacks the “requisite seniority among high court judges” across India to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Secondly, the government has also cited that Kerala High Court already has a representative judge in the Supreme Court and that there is a lack of representation in the Supreme Court from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities.

However, Congress has claimed that the government was peeved by the Uttarakhand matter and that any of the government lawyers who argued the case cannot say that there was incomplete hearing in the case.

"The then Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared with Tushar Mehta and Maninder Singh cannot suggest that more than adequate hearing was not given in the case," said Singhvi, adding that the reason stated by Centre was merely “games played to weaken the judiciary and bring it to its knees."

The Collegium had cleared Justice Joseph’s name along with that of Indu Malhotra for elevation on January 10, but the Centre acted on it only now, after three months. While the name of Malhotra was cleared and she was sworn in as SC Justice on Friday, the appointment of Justice Joseph has been stalled.

A senior Congress leader also questioned why did the government sit on the recommendations for so long. “Why can't the government stomach dissent? Independence of judiciary is becoming an elite word being used across coffee tables," said the Congress leader.

The Congress has now urged the SC to exercise its right to reiteration and make sure that the government doesn't make "pernicious use of it."

"It has happened earlier in CIC appointment too. If the judge does not favour the government, appointment will not happen," said Singhvi, who although agreed that government indeed has the right of first rejection.

Legal experts have opined that if the Collegium sends back Justice Joseph’s name to the law ministry, it is bound to accept it.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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