Impasse ends

Now, a fresh memorandum of procedure for judicial appointments must be agreed upon Good sense seems to have prevailed at last. The Centre has cleared the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, seven months after the five-member collegium first recommended his appointment. The Centre had no option but to elevate the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice once the collegium reiterated its original recommendation after the Law Ministry returned his name. The collegium had combined its reiteration of his name with two other names so that three Chief Justices could be elevated in one go. The Centre’s objections to Justice Joseph’s candidature were unconvincing from the very beginning. It made an issue of his relative lack of seniority among the Chief Justices of the various high courts, adding somewhat curiously that his elevation would give excessive representation to Kerala. It also spoke of an imbalance in regional representation.

The other issue is delay — there is no justification for sitting on files without taking a decision one way or another, particularly given the backlog in the Supreme Court. The current controversy may have come to a close, but the possibility of other flashpoints cannot be ruled out. If the judiciary and the government want to dispel the impression of a prolonged conflict, a fresh memorandum of procedure for appointments has to be agreed upon: it is unclear what exactly is holding it up.

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