Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran and K M Joseph on Tuesday took oath as judges of the Supreme Court in order of seniority as notified by the Centre. The Registrar General read out the President’s warrant appointing the three judges.
This comes after a long stand-off between the government and the judiciary regarding Justice Joseph’s elevation as the apex court judge. The central government recently decided to lower down Joseph’s seniority, following which some judges of the apex court on Monday met Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to express their “anguish”.
Hours after, Attorney General of India K K Venugopal met Misra to “clarify” the seniority issue. “He explained the legal precedents on this matter to the CJI,” said a source aware of the AG’s meeting with the CJI.
According to the official sources, the government may have gone by a “transparent” principle, “backed by precedent” that gives primacy to the all-India seniority of High Court Judges.
According to this, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Vineet Saran — the two other judges cleared for elevation — are placed at fourth and fifth positions in the all-India seniority of High Court Judges respectively while Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph is at the 39th position. This despite the fact that it was Justice Joseph’s recommendation that was sent the earliest by the Collegium, way back on January 10; the names of the other two were approved and sent on July 16. Moreover, the collegium had vowed to reiterate Justice K M Joseph’s name through another resolution on May 11.
However, the government had returned Justice Joseph’s name for reconsideration and gone ahead with the appointment of Justice Indu Malhotra, triggering sharp criticism from a group senior lawyers and judges as well as the opposition parties.
With the appointment of the three judges, the total strength of the judges in the apex court has gone up to 25 against the sanctioned strength of 31. While Justice Banerjee, was the chief justice of Madras High Court, justices Saran and Joseph were chief justices of Orissa and Uttarakhand high courts respectively. Justice Joseph is also the longest-serving Chief Justice of any high court in India and will have a tenure until June 16, 2023.
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