New Delhi: The collegium comprising five of the seniormost judges in the land on Wednesday deferred a decision on the elevation of Uttarakhand high court chief justice K.M. Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court.

The collegium, made up of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra and four of its senior-most judges—J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph—met after the workings hours of the court, but took no decision.

On 26 April, the government rejected the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Joseph but accepted its recommendation to elevate senior advocate Indu Malhotra as a judge of the apex court. Malhotra took oath the next day.

It is up to the collegium now whether to accept the government line or to return its recommendation on Joseph.

Sending of recommended names back and forth marks a potential escalation of a brewing conflict between the executive and the judiciary over judicial appointments to the top court.

The government gave several reasons for its move to return the recommendation on Joseph, the judge who had quashed President’s rule in Uttarakhand in 2016.

“The proposed appointment of Justice K. M. Joseph as a judge of the Supreme Court at this stage does not appear to be appropriate. It would also not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving chief justices and senior puisne judges of various high courts," the government said.

On the all-India high court judges’ seniority list, it pointed out, Joseph was placed at number 42. The SC acknowledged that the government was “well within its rights to reject the recommendations" and said the collegium would now deal with it.

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