Collegium ‘Dissenter’ Asks Why Justice Joseph Not in Elevation List
In a letter to SC collegium, Chelameswar says Uttarakhand Chief Justice was an ‘outstanding’ judge who deserved to be elevated
New Delhi: Senior Supreme Court judge Jasti Chelameswar, who had declared that he would boycott collegium proceedings over its alleged lack of transparency, has raised a fresh i s s u e b y a s k i n g why Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph is not in the list of judges recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Chelameswar is believed to have written a strong dissent note to the SC collegium led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar for excluding Justice Joseph from the final list. Chelameswar in his letter said that the Uttarakhand Chief Justice was an outstanding judge who deserved to be elevated to the top court. By not elevating such a judge of integrity and competence, the collegium, which comprises the five senior-most judges off the top court, would be setting an unhealthy precedent, the letter said. Collegium members can ignore dis- sent of a sole judge if the other four collegium members agree to a decision. No recommendation goes through if more than one judge dissents and hence Justice Chelameswar’s dissent can be over- ruled, technically, by the other four members of the collegium that comprise the CJI, his likely successor Dipak Misra and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur. Justice Joseph was transferred from the Uttarakhand high court days after he struck down the Centre ’s d e c i s i o n to impose President’s r ule in the state. According to a judiciary insider, the judge was transferred after he made wanted to be at a high court closer to his home state, Kerala, following ill-health related to altitude. But the transfer order never came through. According to the judicial representative, the judge’s health later recovered after a surgery. His name later came up for elevation to the Supreme Court under the collegium presided over by former CJI TS Thakur. However, it did not figure in the final list sent to the top court collegium under CJI Khehar to the law ministry for formal order of appointment. The law ministry ensures that the state intelligence runs a check on a candidate’s antecedents before forward- ing the names to the President for appointment. This takes about a week once the file is sent by the Supreme Court. Justice Chelameswar had opposed what he termed was a ‘non-transparent’ manner in screening candidates for appointment as superior court judges. He and insisted that he would only attend collegium meetings when minutes would be documented for posterity, where all reasons for/against any elevation, transfer or appointment of judges are recorded.