- Law Ministry starts process of appointing Justice KM Joseph
- The Supreme Court collegium had reiterated its choice
- If collegium recommends name a second time, centre has to accept it
The elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph as a Supreme Court judge has been cleared by the centre, which had objected to the move and sent back his file to a panel of senior judges.
The law ministry has started the process of appointing Justice Joseph as a Supreme Court judge, along with Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Orissa High Court Chief Justice Vineet Saran.
The government's questioning of Justice Joseph's elevation -- citing inadequate representation in the top court from other states -- had set the stage for its face-off with the country's highest court.
The Supreme Court collegium had reiterated its choice of Justice Joseph for a second time. The court's decision, made last month before one of its members, Justice Jasti Chelameshwar, retired, has been conveyed to the government.
"Objections to Justice Joseph's elevation were not personal but procedural," sources in the law ministry told NDTV.
Government sources had said that the appointment cannot be stopped after the Supreme Court collegium reiterated his name a second time.
The rules say if the collegium recommends a name a second time, the centre has no choice but to accept it.
It is unusual for the government to return a recommendation for elevation to the Supreme Court from the court's collegium. In recent years, it happened only once when the NDA government blocked elevation of senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium in 2014.
The opposition has accused the government of targeting Justice Joseph for his verdict in 2016 cancelling President's Rule in Uttarakhand, which helped the Congress retain power. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had denied the allegation.
The government has said one of the reasons it questioned the appointment was that Justice Joseph's elevation would increase the number of judges from the Kerala High Court to two, though there were many high courts which didn't have a single judge in the top court.