New Delhi: Justice K M Joseph, who as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court had set aside the NDA government’s decision to impose President’s Rule in the state in 2016, was today sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court.
Justice Joseph, 60, took oath amid a row with the Centre over his seniority being lowered on his elevation. He was sworn in as the apex court judge in the order of seniority as notified by the Centre, in which his name was placed at number three after justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran.
The issue of elevation of Justice Joseph to the top court had been a bone of contention between the Centre and the Supreme Court collegium, which had recommended his name for elevation way back on January 10 along with senior woman advocate Indu Malhotra.
The Centre had returned the recommendation back to the apex court collegium for reconsideration on various grounds, including that he ranked 45th in the overall seniority list of high court judges and there will be over representation of relatively smaller Kerala High Court in the Supreme Court.
It cleared the name of Malhotra, who was sworn as the apex court judge on April 27. The collegium on May 16 in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph’s name for elevation to the apex court. The recommendation was sent to the government in July and it was accepted.
A fresh row over alleged lowering of seniority of Justice Joseph came to fore when a few Supreme Court judges decided to take up the issue with the CJI in an informal meeting over tea yesterday. However, highly-placed sources told PTI that nothing much could be done at this stage and the concerns raised by a few apex court judges would be discussed after the three judges are sworn in as per the notification.
Apex court judges including Justice J Chelameswar (since retired), Justice Kurian Joseph and M B Lokur had taken exception in past to Centre’s stand to first delay the appointment and then sending it back for reconsideration. Justice Joseph became a high court judge on October 14, 2004, and he was elevated as a chief justice of a high court on July 31, 2014. He will retire on June 16, 2023 as an apex court judge.
Justice Joseph did his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya in Kochi and New Delhi. He later attended Loyola College in Chennai and Government Law College, Ernakulam. He enrolled as a lawyer in 1982 in Delhi and started practice, but later in 1983 shifted his practice to Kerala High Court. Justice Joseph is the son of former Supreme Court judge Justice K K Mathew. Justice Mathew had served in the apex court from 1971 to 1976.