New Delhi: One of the top judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Kurian Joseph, today said the government's move to reject the elevation of Justice KM Joseph was unprecedented.
"The meeting is going to be convened. It is not right for me to say anything before that happens. Never has it happened before like this that the names sent by the Collegium are asked to be reconsidered," news agency ANI reported Justice Joseph as saying. ANI had earlier attributed the comment to Justice KM Joseph, who is the chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court.
The rejection has caused a never-before face-off between the government and the judiciary and triggered Congress allegations that the judge was being punished for his decision to cancel central rule in Uttarakhand in 2016. Endorsing the view, a section of the legal community has also raised concerns about encroachment on the independence of the judiciary.
Last week, sources told NDTV that the Collegium -- a group of the top court's five most senior judges -- is firm on the elevation of Justice Joseph. If his name is recommended a second time, rules require that it be approved by the government.
The government -- which earlier tried to revise the process of judicial appointments -- rejected the Collegium's recommendation for Justice Joseph's elevation last month, asking judges to be "objective and fair" and reconsider their choice.
Sources said the government's contention was that Justice Joseph's elevation would increase the number of judges from the Kerala High Court to two, even though many high courts did not have any representation in the top court's bench. Justice Joseph, the government also contended, was not among the senior high court chief justices. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has rejected allegations that the government was punishing Justice Joseph for his Uttarakhand verdict.
A section in the legal circle has said the unprecedented government action "sends a message" and that the independence of the judiciary is at stake.
Similar concerns were raised earlier too as the government tried to create a National Judicial Appointments Commission that was to include members of the government and the opposition.
In October 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the law that paved the way for the creation of the commission, calling it "unconstitutional". Independence of the judiciary, the judges said, is a basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be tampered with.