The government gains nothing by being edgy as far as other institutions like the judiciary are concerned.
Having had the K.M. Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court thrust upon it after the collegium reiterated its choice, the government should have had the grace to wholeheartedly accept it. In trying to make him even more junior than he already is by keeping his swearing-in behind those of two other judges, the Centre is just being petulant. The order will have no bearing on the Chief Justice’s post as none of these three judges will make it as CJI. The only difference is that Justice Joseph will not be able to head even a three-judge bench in future due to his junior status. Such pettiness may have to do with the grudge the government bears against Justice Joseph for his decision on the Uttarakhand Assembly case involving the legitimacy of the Harish Rawat government in 2016.
This isn’t just a matter about a few senior Supreme Court judges urging the CJI to talk it out with the government. The larger picture is whether the government accepts that in a democracy there are several institutions which must function in a cordial and harmonious manner. Elected rulers alone don’t constitute a nation’s sole power centre in a free country, where several bodies, including citizen forums, must have a say in important matters pertaining to society at large. The government gains nothing by being edgy as far as other institutions like the judiciary are concerned. Such tensions being thrust upon relations between the executive and the judiciary don’t augur well for the system’s smooth functioning. It’s still not too late though for the Centre to act with grace in this matter.