Law Minister Plays Centre's Defence As Top Judges Meet On Appointment Row

The government's stasis on Justice KM Joseph elevation to the Supreme Court has been linked by many to his verdict in 2016 that cancelled President's rule in Uttarakhand.

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Government returned the recommendation to elevate Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court

NEW DELHI:  Just hours before the Supreme Court's five most-senior judges sat down to discuss Justice KM Joseph's elevation, the government insisted that its decision to stop the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice's appointment did not have anything to do with his 2016 verdict cancelling President's rule in Uttarakhand.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also defended the government move to ask the Supreme Court collegium, or a group of five most-senior judges, to reconsider its decision. Mr Prasad told reporters that there was nothing wrong in the government exercising the right to seek reconsideration of a name recommended by the collegium and this was a power given the centre by the Supreme Court.

In his letter to the government last month, Mr Prasad had asked the top judges to be "objective and fair" and reconsider their choice. It had also asked that the collegium explain why Justice Joseph was chosen despite other judges being senior to him.

The Congress alleges that the government is punishing Justice Joseph for his decision to cancel central rule in Uttarakhand in 2016. It is an assessment shared by many in the legal community including ex-judges who have called the centre's move an attack at the heart of judicial independence.

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Former Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had told NDTV that the centre's decision had sent a message that if a judge rules against the government, there will be consequences. There have been voices within the judiciary and the Supreme Court that the top court should be seen to be doing much more to counter such a message.
Mr Prasad said it wasn't true that the decision was linked to Justice Joseph's judicial verdict.

"I wish to deny that Justice Joseph's appointment was halted due to his Uttarakhand president's rule verdict," the Law Minister said.

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