The Supreme Court collegium on Wednesday deferred its decision on Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K.M. Joseph, whose name for elevation to the top court was returned by the government last week for reconsideration even as the Centre maintained that the rejection had nothing to do with his judgment in quashing President's Rule in Uttarakhand past year.
The Supreme Court Collegium headed by CJI Dipak Misra deferred its decision on the elevation of Justice KM Joseph, now working as the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
"The proposal for reconsideration of the case of K.M. Joseph has the approval of President and Prime Minister", said the letter that was sent to the Chief Justice by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Prasad noted that a Bharatiya Janata Party government was elected with a three-fourths majority past year.
The present government had, at that time, hived-off Senior Counsel Gopal Subramanium's name, though his name had been recommended by the collegium as well.
Judicial sources said the five-member collegium was keen on iterating the name of Justice Joseph as available facts and figures suggested that he was the "most meritorious" among the names considered.
In April, the Centre split a January recommendation of the collegium and appointed Justice Indu Malhotra alone as a judge.
It was also learnt that the collegium did not discuss any specific names of other high court chief justices for elevation to the Supreme Court.
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The Centre's rejection of Justice KM Joseph's name triggered a huge outcry with several legal luminaries alleging that this was a payback by the Centre for the judgement by Justice Joseph, striking down Presidential Rule in the State of Uttarakhand High Court.
A second person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Hindustan Times that so far the collegium had not decided whether to return the name of justice Joseph to the government for elevation.
After more than three months, the Centre cleared the file of Indu Malhotra and notified her appointment to the Supreme Court on April 26.
Justice Joseph will turn 60 this June and has another two more years as Chief Justice of High Court.
"What kind of prayer is this", the top court bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said, adding that the Centre is "well within its right to send back the recommendation for reconsideration".
Notwithstanding the letters written by the collegium members to the CJI, which had come into the public domain, the centre disregarded the recommendation about Justice Joseph.