Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud on Friday hailed Justice K M Joseph, who is set to retire as a judge of the Supreme Court on June 16, and said his expertise on matters ranging from commercial law to Constitutional law will be missed.
Heading a ceremonial bench to bid farewell to Justice Joseph on his last working day as the apex court closes for summer vacation from May 22, the CJI said it is an honour for him to preside over such a bench but it is also coupled with nostalgia and sadness.
“Nostalgia because Joseph and I are childhood friends. Joseph was the first person who became my friend when I shifted to Delhi in August 1972…and I will be speaking more of that in the afternoon when we have the formal SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) farewell,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Lauding Justice Joseph for the work done by him, the CJI said it has always been a pleasure to share the bench with Justice Joseph.
“I hear from young members of the Bar that they look forward to appearing before Justice Joseph because he is unfailingly patient with them,” he said.
“Brother Joseph’s expertise on matters ranging from commercial law to constitutional law will be missed. He will leave behind a great sense of continuity which he (Justice Joseph) inherited from his distinguished father, Justice K K Mathew (former apex court judge) and I know that you have left behind a huge collection of friends both on and off the bench,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The CJI also remembered that he and Justice Joseph had shared the bench during the COVID-19 pandemic, and “it was like we could read each other’s mind”.
“Today, when we were having tea while welcoming the new judges, one of my colleagues who would be next in line this morning for the farewell, asked us whether I was being partial to Justice Joseph in the collegium. To which Justice Joseph, straight forward and down to earth that he is, said on the collegium, he (CJI) was absolutely dispassionate,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“We thank you for all your work as a judge of the Supreme Court and this is just to tell you in terms of the large audience today, of how widely you have been appreciated by the Bar, something which the bench as well shares,” he said.
Justice Joseph expressed gratitude to the CJI as well as members of the Bar and said the Bar and the bench are the two sides of same coin.
“Because without the assistance of a Bar, which is sufficiently learned and experienced, this court … can’t render justice to the common man. Therefore, the assistance of the Bar is of great importance,” he said.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, several members of the bar, including senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, also wished Justice Joseph on his last working day.
“I can only say that we are having a huge asset loss today,” Singhvi said.
Justice Joseph became a high court judge on October 14, 2004 and he was elevated as a chief justice of high court on July 31, 2014.
His elevation to the apex court in August 2018 had put an end to a protracted stand-off between the government and the judiciary.
The name of Justice Joseph, who was then the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, was recommended for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court by the collegium headed by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on January 10, 2018.
In April 2018, the government had returned the recommendation for reconsideration on the grounds that he lacked seniority.
The collegium in May 2018 had in-principle reiterated the decision to recommend Justice Joseph’s name. On July 16, 2018, the recommendation was sent to the government in July 2018.
As the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, Justice Joseph had struck down the imposition of President’s rule in the state in 2016 after the dismissal of the Congress government led by Harish Rawat.
During his over four years and 10 months tenure as a judge of the apex court, Justice Joseph delivered several key judgements, including the one which ruled that appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and ECs will be done by the President on the recommendation of a committee comprising the prime minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the CJI, to maintain the “purity of election”.
In April this year, a bench headed by Justice Joseph had directed all states and union territories to register cases against those making hate speeches even without any complaint, terming these speeches as a “serious offence” capable of affecting the secular fabric of the country.
He was also part of a bench which in November 2019 had given a clean chit to the Modi government on the purchase of 36 fully loaded Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, rejecting the plea for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged commission of cognisable offence in the deal.
The top court had rejected the pleas seeking review of the December 14, 2018 verdict in which it had said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
In November last year, a bench headed by Justice Joseph had allowed activist Gautam Navlakha, who was then lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja prison in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, to be placed under house arrest owing to his deteriorating health.