Supreme Court lawyer and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Dushyant Dave has said “the Supreme Court will be much poorer in terms of intellectualism, courage and integrity without Justice K.M. Joseph”. Justice Joseph is due to retire on June 16. His last day in the Supreme Court was May 19, the day before the court began its summer vacation.
In an interview to The Wire, Dave described Justice Joseph as “a great judge, there is no doubt about it”. Dave said Justice Joseph has “all the qualities a judge should possess”. Elaborating, he added, “He has phenomenal judicial temperament which comprises of many things – patience, open-mindedness, courtesy, tact, courage, punctuality, firmness, understanding, passion, humility and common sense”.
“Justice Joseph was a truly courageous judge,” Dave said. He particularly emphasised Justice Joseph’s integrity, adding he was “a distinguished judge, away from all the others”.
In particular, Dave praised Justice Joseph for having the courage to go one step beyond being what he called “an intellectual giant”. Dave said Justice Joseph also had the courage and wisdom to order relief, examples of which are his decision that election commissioners will hereafter be chosen by a panel and not by the prime minister alone as well as the direction to all states and union territories that they must take suo moto action regarding hate speech and not wait for a formal complaint.
However, Dave did question Justice Joseph for not insisting that he would complete the hearing of the Bilkis Bano case before retiring. Dave said Justice Joseph should have insisted on this rather than “nobly” accept the deliberate attempts by lawyers of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case to delay the case.
Dave was also critical of both the Attorney General and Solicitor General for failing to properly bid farewell to Justice Joseph on May 19. According to Dhananjay Mahapatra of the Times of India, although the Attorney General and Solicitor General spoke effusively about Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice V. Ramasubramanian, who’s last day was also May 19, the Attorney General barely spent one minute twenty seconds bidding farewell to Justice Joseph whilst the Solicitor General only spent ten seconds.