The collegium meeting this week was an informal one, but we don’t know why.
The collegium members are reiterating their decision for the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court. At least two have done so in public comments, with Justice Jasti Chelameswar, who is due to retire on June 22, again stressing that the collegium must send Justice Joseph’s nomination to the government again, when it will be bound to accept the collegium’s recommendation. This has turned into a confrontation between the collegium, comprising the five seniormost judges, and a government bent on blocking the appointment on various grounds like seniority, judge’s state of origin, etc. The collegium meeting this week was an informal one, but we don’t know why. An issue was made of the segregation of names too, as the recommendations of Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph were in the same missive.
The need to clarify matters has become very important in the present atmosphere of misgivings over the way in which the top judiciary is administering the court. Instead of questioning the government over why the judge’s nomination was rejected, the Chief Justice, who said the government had the right to reject nominations, merely stayed silent. Such action can be seen as acquiescence or plain fear over having to confront the executive and assert the collegium’s right to nominate judges, that flows from the famous ruling in the cause celebre of collegium versus NJAC.
Having declared he is an outstanding judge, despite being junior to many among high court chief justices, the collegium finds the government playing ducks and drakes with its recommendation. Isn’t it time yet for a formal meeting of the collegium to take place and place the ball firmly back in the government court over Justice Joseph?