Justice Chelameswar was an open critic of the functioning of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
New Delhi: Justice J Chelameswar, senior most judge of the Supreme Court retired on Friday after a tenure of six years and eight months. He left for Hyderabad Friday morning.
Justice Chelameswar, who shot into the limelight on January 12 by holding a press conference along with three others Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, was an open critic of the functioning of the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
He was appointed on the same day, October 10, 2011, along with CJI Misra, who became senior by virtue of his seniority of being sworn in first. Being a victim of collegium system, he has been criticising the collegium system of judicial appointments as he feels that a lot of “bargaining’ takes place in the appointments.
When the apex court quashed the national judicial appointments commission law, Justice Chelameswar criticised the “opaque” collegium system and called for a more transparent procedure. He was keen on the elevation of the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court K M Joseph as a judge of the apex court, two years ago, which is yet to materialise with the Centre returning the file of Justice Joseph.
The present collegium comprised of the CJI, and Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph. With Justice Chelameswar’s retirement, Justice A K Sikri will be inducted into the collegium.
At its meeting on May 16, the collegium decided in principle to reiterate the recommendation in respect of Justice Joseph but deferred its decision. The new collegium will take up the issue of elevation of Justice Joseph soon after the court re-opens in July.
After Justice Chelameswar’s retirement, there are eight vacancies in the apex court. As CJI Misra, Justices Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph are also due to retire this year, vacancies will go up to 11 if immediate steps are not taken to appoint the judges from High Courts which are no represented now.
Highly placed sources said that apart from Justice Joseph, others being considered for elevation to the Supreme Court are the Chief Justices of Madras, Gujarat, Karnataka and few other High Courts.
On April 26, the Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad had announced that the government had cleared the elevation of advocate Indu Malhotra and put on hold the elevation of Justice Joseph, though both the proposals were sent on the same time on January 10 this year.
Malhotra was sworn in as a judge of the apex court on April 27.
While seeking reconsideration of Justice Joseph’s elevation, Prasad wanted adequate representation for minorities and other High Courts, which are not represented.
Under the existing Memorandum of Procedure on the appointment of Judges, once the proposal is returned for reconsideration, and if the collegium reiterates the appointment, the government is bound to accept the same but there is no time limit on such appointment.