New Delhi, May 11: At the meeting of Collegium - the topmost decision-making body of the Supreme Court - the five senior-most judges, including Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, unanimously agreed to reiterate Justice KM Joseph's name to Centre for elevation as apex court judge.
Justice Joseph is currently deputed as the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court. His name, along with veteran SC advocate Indira Malhotra, was earlier recommended by the Collegium for elevation as top court judges.
While Malhotra's appointment was approved last month, the government sent back the name of Justice Joseph, citing seniority and regional representation as its concerns.
The move was considered to be unprecedented as no erstwhile governments had refrained from accepting the recommendations sent by the Collegium.
Reacting to the Centre's response, CJI Misra had said the government is "within its rights" to send back a name for reconsideration. The CJI's statement drew flak from the Opposition.
The Congress accused the government of deliberately "rejecting" Justice Joseph's elevation as he had headed the bench which overturned the President's rule imposed in Uttarakhand in 2016.
Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second-most senior judge in the Supreme Court, had written a letter to the CJI on Thursday, seeking the reiteration of Justice Joseph's name for elevation.
Justice Kurian Joseph, the fourth-most senior judge in the apex court and part of the Collegium, said "some of our worst fears are coming true" with the government selectively approving the recommendations made for elevation.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attempted to allay the apprehensions, saying the government is not averse towards any judge. "We have simply asked for reconsideration," he said, adding that the Centre's response is not linked to Justice Joseph being part of the Uttarakhand HC bench in 2016 which ruled against the government.
"Had it been the case, why would had we approved Justice JS Khehar's name for elevation as CJI last year," he said, recalling that Justice Khehar was part of the bench which rejected the government's controversial National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill.