The Tussle Between Centre & Collegium Regarding Appointment Of Supreme Court Judge



  • GS Mains Paper-2, Judiciary, Polity

Why in news?

  • The Union government recently cleared the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court.

Appointment of a Supreme Court judge:-

  • The Chief Justice of India and the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President under clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution.
  • Whenever a vacancy is expected to arise in the office of a Judge of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India will initiate proposal.
  • The recommendation will be forwarded to the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs to fill up the vacancy.
  • The opinion of the Chief Justice of India for appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court should be formed in consultation with a collegium of the four senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court.

Appointment of K.M Joseph:-

  • M Joseph was the chief justice of Uttarakhand high court.
  • The five member collegium earlier recommended K.M Joseph for elevation to the SC, and it was reiterated again.
  • Union government has made unusual delay in first responding to the Collegium’s recommendation, and later it took more time for reconsideration of the proposal.
  • This had created stand-offs between judiciary and executive, and within the judiciary.

The concerns with the Government’s move:-

  • Union government explained the delay was due to invocation of the seniority or diversity norms in appointments to the higher judiciary.
  • It made an issue of K.M. Joseph’s relative lack of seniority among the Chief Justices of the various high courts.
  • It also said that his elevation would give excessive representation to Kerala, as he belongs to the state.
  • Union government has been splitting recommended lists and selectively approving proposals from the collegium, while holding back or returning some names.
  • Even in its adherence to the norm that reiteration of a recommendation is binding, the government has not been consistent.

What is the way forward?

  • The Centre had no option but to elevate the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice once the collegium reiterated its original recommendation after the Law Ministry returned his name.
  • But it will require more outreach by the government to assuage the anxieties expressed by senior judges in letters written to the CJI.
  • Given this past turbulence, the government will be watched carefully for the role it plays or doesn’t play in the future in the next big transition in the Supreme Court.



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