New Delhi: Judges of the Supreme Court on Monday met Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and lodged their protest over the Centre's decision to lower down the seniority of Justice K M Joseph, who is scheduled to take oath as an apex court judge along with two others on Tuesday.
SC judges meet CJI Dipak Misra over lowering of KM Joseph's seniority
Highly placed sources in the apex court said the judges, including Justices M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, who are members of the collegium, met the CJI at the judges' lounge during the tea before start of the day's working. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is the senior-most judge after the CJI, was not present as he was on leave on Monday.
The sources said that the CJI assured the judges that he would consult Justice Gogoi and take up the issue with the Centre. Besides the CJI and Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph, the fifth member of the Collegium is Justice A K Sikri.
The Centre on Friday came out with the notification on the appointment of three judges to the apex court by putting at number three the seniority of Justice K M Joseph.
In the notification, the names 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 High Court. It is the convention that seniority of the judges is determined in accordance with the order of names notified by the government.
The warrants of appointment of the three judges were signed by the President on August 3. Justice Joseph, the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, headed a bench which had quashed the imposition of President's Rule in the state in 2016. Uttarakhand was then under the Congress rule.
The collegium had on January 10 recommended the name of Justice Joseph, along with that of senior advocate Indu Malhotra, for elevation to the apex court.
However, the government had returned Justice Joseph's name for reconsideration and gone ahead with the appointment of Justice Indu Malhotra. The collegium had on May 16 in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph's name for elevation to the apex court. The recommendation was sent to the government in July and it was accepted.
The number of judges in the top court after the fresh appointments has gone up to 25. There are still six vacancies. According to the collegium's January 10 resolution, when Justice Joseph's name was recommended for elevation, "he stands at Sl. No. 45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis."
According to the July 16 resolution of the collegium, Justice Banerjee stood at Sl. No. 4 and Justice Saran stood at Sl. No. 5 in the combined seniority of high court judges on all-India basis. Justice Joseph's elevation to the apex court put an end to a protracted stand-off between the government and the judiciary.
Justice Joseph became a high court judge on October 14, 2004 and he was elevated as a chief justice of high court on July 31, 2014. He will retire on June 16, 2023 as an apex court judge.
Similarly, Justice Banerjee became a high court judge on February 5, 2002 and was made a chief justice of high court on April 5, 2017. She would retire on September 23, 2022. Justice Saran became a high court judge on February 14, 2002 and was made a chief justice of the high court on February 26, 2016. He will retire as an apex court judge on May 10, 2022.