New Delhi, May 3: The Supreme Court Collegium on Wednesday deferred its decision on the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the apex court. The Collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and four other senior most judges – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, agreed that wider deliberation was required after the second letter by the government on the issue.Also Read - US Supreme Court Halts Biden Administration's COVID-19 Vaccine Rule For Businesses

After sending a letter to the CJI Dipak Misra on April 26, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote a second letter on April 30 on the issue of elevating Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court. In the second letter, which was “much mild in its tenor” than the first one, the government said that it completely respected judiciary’s independence but had sent back Justice Joseph’s name for reconsideration over certain valid issues, reported News18. Also Read - Who is Indu Malhotra, Former SC Judge to Head Panel Probing PM Modi’s Security Breach in Punjab

The two letters were taken up for discussion by Justice Misra when the Collegium met on Wednesday. A brief statement issued on Wednesday stated that the Collegium, besides reconsidering the recommendation of Justice Joseph, also met to consider names of judges from other high courts for elevation to the Supreme Court. The statement further said that the decision was “deferred” and did not give the next date of the meeting of the Collegium. Also Read - Return Money by Jan 17 or Face Jail: Supreme Court to Supertech Directors

“Recording the agenda of the meeting: To reconsider the case of Justice KM Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court, pursuant to letters dated 26th and 30th April, 2018 received from Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India and also to consider the names of Judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan, and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, in view of the concept of fair representation”, the statement said, ending with “Decision: Deferred”.

After sitting over the Collegium’s recommendations for over three months, the Centre sent back Justice Joseph’s name for reconsideration while approving senior Supreme Court lawyer Indu Malhotra’s name for apex court judge post. The Centre said the proposal was not in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was an adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails.

The top court collegium recommending the elevation of Justice Joseph had said: “The collegium considers that at present Justice K.M. Joseph, who hails from Kerala High Court and is currently functioning as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India.”

However, the Central government had said that he stood at number 42 in the seniority of High Court judges and there are 11 Chief Justices of different High Courts who are senior to him — a clear suggestion that his elevation to the Supreme Court would be at their expense. Notably, Justice Joseph had headed the bench that had quashed the Narendra Modi government’s decision to impose President’s rule in 2016 when the Congress was in power in the hill state.

The government on Wednesday reiterated that the decision to return the file of Justice Joseph had “nothing to do with his order quashing the President’s Rule in Uttarakhand”. “I wish to deny with all authority at my command it has nothing to do with it (Justice Joseph’s decision) at all for two obvious reasons. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with nearly three-fourth majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Secondly, that order was confirmed by Justice (J.S.) Khehar of the Supreme Court,” Prasad said.

(With agency inputs)