The collegium which constitutes of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice MB Lokur and Justice Kurien Joseph had last met on May 2 had deferred its decision in the matter.
The judicial fraternity by and large stood behind justice Joseph with senior-most judge to the apex court J Chelameswar writing to justice Mishra, seeking to convene the Collegium's meeting to urgently forward justice Joseph's name to the Centre.
The Centre also raised the principle of proportionality contending that Kerala high court was a "comparatively small high court" with a sanctioned strength of 42 judges and was a parent high court for top court judge Justice Kurian Joseph and the chief justices of three high courts - Justice KM Joseph himself (Uttarakhand), Justice TB Radhakrishnan (Chhattisgarh) and Justice Antony Dominic (Kerala).
The elevation of Justice Joseph, who is presently the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, had run into rough weather after the Centre wrote to the Collegium on April 26 and April 30 to reconsider his name. If the Collegium sends it back a second time, as in the present case, the Centre is bound to accept the recommendation. The Centre argued that this HC has enjoyed fair representation in the SC and now has a judge from that State HC. A wide range of issues relating to appointment of judges from High Courts, which did not have representation, was discussed, which remained inconclusive.
The 15-minute meeting, which has a monopoly over the appointment of judges to constitutional courts, was marred by Justices Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph making a strong pitch for reiteration of Justice K M Joseph's name and insisting that his name be sent alone to the government for quick elevation. The Collegium of the five senior most judges saw no fault in the original recommendation in which they had called Justice Joseph as the most suitable among High Court Chief Justices to be elevated to the apex court.
Returning Justice K M Joseph's name, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a letter to the CJI, underlined that "this proposal for reconsideration...has the approval of the Hon'ble President and the Hon'ble Prime Minister" and had listed reasons why his appointment "at this stage does not appear to be appropriate".
The decision might trigger yet another round of judiciary vs government confrontation.