Highest judiciary stands firm

By remaining firm in its original decision to recommend the name of Justice K. M. Joseph, now Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, for elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court, the Collegium of the apex court has asserted its independence. At the same time, by deciding that its recommendation about Justice Joseph should not be forwarded to the Centre right now, but should be sent along with the names of Chief Justices of other High Courts for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court, the Collegium has saved an immediate embarrassment to the Centre, especially to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.  The members of the Collegium are scheduled to meet again on May 16 to finalize the list of other CJs of High Courts eligible for elevation to the apex court.
The Centre’s demurring to the elevation of Justice Joseph was on flimsy grounds. The Collegium, while recommending Justice Joseph’s name, pointed out that it had taken into consideration Justice Joseph’s position in the all-India seniority list as well as his merit. In public perception, however, the Centre’s unwillingness to the elevation of Justice Joseph was due to his striking down the Centre’s decision to dismiss the Congress Government of Uttarakhand and imposing President’s rule in the State. Smarting under Justice Joseph’s order reinstating the Congress Government, the Centre decided to block his elevation to the Supreme Court. Given the present Government’s known attitude of dominating every sphere of life and every institution of the State, the public perception was justified and plausible. By not deviating from its original decision, the apex court has asserted the independence of the judiciary against any insidious move of the executive to encroach on the exclusive domain of the judiciary.
The country is now going through a critical period. The values enshrined in the Constitution are being sought to be subverted by the powers that be. Those who have taken office swearing by the Constitution and pledging to protect and uphold it, are now openly talking of changing the Constitution in a way that will destroy its ‘basic structure’. The assault on the democratic and secular polity of the nation is coming in devious ways and in different forms. At the present juncture, the last resort and refuge of the citizenry against the arbitrary acts of the Executive is the Judiciary. As long as the judiciary remains independent, it will be possible to overcome the crisis.

Friday, 18 May, 2018