By Ujjal Dosanjh
The apparent standoff between the Collegium that recommends appointments to the senior judiciary and the Modi government on the question of Justice Joseph's appointment to the Supreme Court of India is disquieting if not downright disruptive. As the law stands the Collegium proposes and the government appoints unless it has any legitimate concerns.
In this case the government is presumed to be arguing that Chief Justice Joseph of the Uttarakhand High Court is much junior to several other State Chief Justices. Blindly following seniority breeds mediocrity. Seniority can't be the yardstick in appointing those who make decisions that often irrevocably impact the country's life.
It is also feared that the Modi regime is opposed to Justice Joseph's appointment to the Supreme Court of India because it is ticked off at his temerity--read independence-- in quashing the Centre's orders regarding Presidential rule in the state in April, 2016. If there is even the remotest truth to this and the government is balking at Justice Joseph's appointment for that very reason, it should be ashamed of its reticence. A truly democratic government worth its name would never allow any political considerations to come in the way of judicial appointments. Excellence in jurisprudence, ethical probity and robust independence are the only yardsticks that ought to be applied to the appointment of judges.
I have been known to disagree with the Collegium when it is wrong. But in this standoff all fair minded Indians must stand with the Collegium. The Modi government should do the right thing and appoint Chief Justice Joseph to the Supreme Court Bench. Not doing so would undermine the court's judicial independence. That is the last thing India needs.
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