A controversy has erupted on the elevation of Uttarakhand chief justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court. While his elevation comes after initial government objections, the fresh row is about fixing his seniority below justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran. This is a redux of the controversy between retired Justice Jasti Chelameshwar and current SC Chief Justice Dipak Misra. This also means that Justice Joseph would be sworn in last among the three.

Here is why Justice Joseph cannot be senior to the rest two?

  1. Justice Joseph is two-and-half years junior to justices Banerjee and Saran in the All India Seniority of High Court Judges.
  2. Justice Banerjee was appointed as High Court judge on February 5, 2002. Justice Saran was appointed as High Court judge on February 14, 2002. Justice Joseph was appointed as High Court Judge on October 14, 2004. Hence, both the judges are senior to Justice KM Joseph in All India Seniority of High Court Judges.
  3. In the All India Seniority of High Court Judges, Justice Banerjee is at the 4th place while Justice Saran is at the 5th position. Justice Joseph is placed at 39.
  4. None of these three judges will become the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as there are other SC judges who have been elevated to the apex court earlier, and they will also retire later.
  5. Justice Joseph will retire on June 16, 2023. Justice Chandrachud who is senior to all the three judges will continue till November, 2024. Therefore, allegations that the government is trying to kill the prospects of Justice Joseph’s elevation as CJI are baseless.
  6. Justice Dipak Misra had become High Court judge on January 17, 1996. Justice Chelameswar had become High Court Judge on the June 23, 1997. On August 10, 2011 government received the proposal for appointment of Justice Misra and Justice Chelameswar as High Court Judges from the CJI. President of India approved their appointment September 29, 2011. Though Justice Chelameswar became the Chief Justice of a High Court on May 3, 2007 and Justice Misra became the Chief Justice of a High Court on December 23, 2009, since the appointment as Chief Justice of a High Court does not alter the seniority of High Court judges in the All India Seniority, Justice Misra took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before Justice Chelameswar on the same day and remained senior to him based on the seniority according to seniority list of High Court Judges.
  7. Even in the case of appointment as High Court Judges, if some peoples’ names are notified on a later date from the same list of recommendations, then the persons whose names are notified later after reiteration get seniority of later date.

The Opposition is accusing the government of scuttling the seniority of Justice Joseph as he was the one to have quashed President's Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016 that restored the then Congress government.