Born on 17-06-1958, Justice Kuttiyil Mathew Joseph studied Law at the Government Law College, Ernakulam, Kerala and got enrolled as a lawyer in 1982. He started his legal practice from the Delhi High Court in Civil and Writ matters. Later on, he shifted his practice to Kerala High Court in 1983 and became a permanent member of Kerala High Court Advocates Association. After practicing for about two decades Justice K.M. Joseph became Permanent Judge of the High Court of Kerala on 14-10-2004.[]
♦Did you know? Justice K.M. Joseph is the son of K. K. Mathew, former Supreme Court judge and Chairman of the 10th Law Commission.[]
He was sworn in as the Chief Justice of Uttranchal High Court on 31-07-2014. Carrying the legacy of his father Justice K.M. Joseph got elevated as the Judge of Supreme Court on 07-08-2018.
♦Did you know? Justice K.M. Joseph is among the longest tenures of a High Court Chief Justice for the Supreme Court judge.[]
Justice K.M. Joseph is due to retire on 16-06-2023.
Career as an Advocate
Justice K.M. Joseph had marked his presence in many remarkable cases as an advocate. Some of the significant cases represented by him are:
Shanti Lal Mehta v. Union of India, 1982 SCC OnLine Del 303
Anirudhan v. Government of Kerala, 1999 SCC OnLine Ker 293
State of Kerala v. T.V Anil, 2001 SCC OnLine Ker 328
Thomas v. Mathew N.M, 1995 SCC OnLine Ker 151
Mathew v. Union of India, 2003 SCC OnLine Ker 12′
♦Did you know? Justice K.M. Joseph had been appointed as Amicus Curiae in Mathew Varghese v. Rosamma Varghese, when the Kerala High Court was addressing the question: Whether a Christian father is under an obligation to maintain his minor child?[]
Notable Judgments at the High Court of Kerala (2004-2014)
The Division Bench of K.M. Joseph and K. Harilal, JJ. had ordered to demolish the Kapico Resorts at Panavally in Nediyathuruthu, which was constructed violating Coastal Regulation Zone Rules. The Bench stated, “we cannot ignore the fact that we have also held that the island would fall otherwise in CRZ III and therein the construction would be impermissible. We also notice that in the recommendation of the committee the CRZ on the bank of filtration ponds/pokali fields of Kerala needs to be in CRZ-III. No doubt here the petitioners have a case that constructions could be regularised as it were and also it is important that at any rate property of the island was properly classified for all times”. Admittedly, the company had not sought or got permission for the construction as required under the guidelines.
The Division Bench of K.M. Joseph and K. Harilal, JJ., addressed the controversy involving ediyathuruthu and Vettilathuruthu, once two sleepy islands which lay nestled in the Vembanad Lake which is the longest lake in India and a backwater in the State of Kerala. Is there violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notifications issued in the year 1991 and 2011, and is there encroachment on puramboke land and kayal, were the questions which substantially arise for consideration. The Bench held that the Notifications issued were intended to protect the coasts, the environment in general and to achieve the sustainable development, particularly of the fisher folk and other local population. The Notifications were meant to be enforced with full vigour. Circulars had been issued to the local bodies, however, only lip service had been paid if at all to the terms of the Notifications. The Bench remarked that by such callous indifference and consequent blatant violation of the Notifications, a law which was meant to address serious environmental issues which adversely affect the present and future generations, was being completely undermined.
K.V Balan v. Sivagiri Sree Narayana Dharma Sanghom Trust, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 504
The 3-judge Bench of J.B Koshy, K.M Joseph and K.R Udayabhanu, JJ., settled the questions of law referred to be decided by the Full Bench:
(i) Whether an appeal will lie against the order of a single Judge passed under Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure;
(ii) When such proceedings are under consideration can the learned single Judge pass interim orders; and
(iii) If interim orders are passed by the single Judge, whether appeals to the Division Bench can be filed from such interim orders.
The 3-judge Bench of Chelameswar, CJ., A.K Basheer and K.M Joseph, JJ. addressed the questions regarding contempt jurisdiction of the Court and relevant procedures to be followed for the same:
(i) Whether a contempt case such as the one sought to be presented before this Court, which is not either moved by the Advocate General or by a person after duly obtaining consent of the Advocate General can be placed before the High Court on the judicial side or should it be considered by the Chief Justice on the administrative side as opined by a Division Bench of this Court in its order dated 19.2.2007 in an unnumbered Cont. Case (Crl.) of 2007 = 2007 (1) KLT 897 (One Earth One Life v. Sindhu Joy);
(ii) Whether it is competent for the Chief Justice or a Judge nominated by him thereupon to take a decision whether a contempt case should be registered and placed before the appropriate Bench for preliminary hearing…
Self Financing Para Medical Managements Assn. v. State of Kerala, 2014 SCC OnLine Ker 28526
The Division Bench of K.M Joseph and A.K Jayasankaran Nambiar, JJ., declared that the State Government has no power to fix the fee structure in respect of the para-medical courses conducted by self financing institutions save to the limited extent of ensuring that they were not exploitative in nature and that no capitation fee was charged. It was further declared that any restriction, by the State Government, on the autonomy of the self-financing institutions in the matter of conduct of paramedical courses in the State, would be effected only through enacted law of the State legislature and not through executive orders.
♦Did you know? When the Collegium proposed Justice K.M. Joseph’s name for elevation to the Supreme Court the first time it was rejected by the Union government. It was only after the Collegium reiterated his name a second time that he got elevated to the Supreme Court.[]
As the Chief Justice of High Court of Uttaranchal (2014-2018)
One of the most significant judgment delivered by Justice K.M. Joseph as the CJ of Uttranchal High Court was in Harish Chandra Singh Rawat v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Utt 502, wherein he had quashed the imposition of President’s Rule in 2016 by the BJP led Union government in the state of Uttarakhand. His decision in this case was of far reaching political implication as it invalidated the President’s rule imposed by the Governor and restored the Harish Rawat led Congress Government in Uttarakhand. It was one of the rare instances where the Court had restored the previous government after striking down the Governor’s rule.[]
Remarkable Judgments as the Judge of Supreme Court
Gautam Navlakha v. National Investigation Agency, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 382
In a major verdict, the bench of UU Lalit and KM Joseph, JJ has held that it is open for Courts to order house arrest under Section 167 CrPC in appropriate cases. The order comes as a milestone for curbing the problem of overcrowded prisons and high cost for their maintenance.
Indicating the criteria for house arrest, the Court highlighted factors like like age, health condition and the antecedents of the accused, the nature of the crime, the need for other forms of custody, the ability to enforce the terms of the house arrest, etc.
Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 374
The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee and KM Joseph, JJ has issued notice in a plea seeking declaration of Section 124-A IPC to as unconstitutional and void.
The order came after Senior Advocate Colin Gonalves submitted before the Court that the decision of the Court in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, 1962 Supp. (2) SCR 769 requires reconsideration.
The notice is returnable on July 12, 2021.
Iffco Tokio General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Pearl Beverages, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 309
In an interesting case, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee and KM Joseph, JJ has held that while in case where there is a blood test or breath test, which indicates that there is no consumption at all, undoubtedly, it would not be open to the insurer to set up the case of exclusion, however, the absence of test may not disable the insurer from establishing a case for exclusion from liability on ground of drunk driving.
The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has, analysing various provisions under the Negotiable Instruments Act, the Court concluded that the proceedings under Section 138 are “quasi-criminal” in nature.
The Court held that
“a Section 138/141 proceeding against a corporate debtor is covered by Section 14(1)(a) of the IBC.”
In a 120-pages long verdict, the Supreme Court tackled the following issues to reach at the aforementioned conclusion:
Anglo American Metallurgical Coal Pty Ltd v. MMTC Ltd, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1030
While settling the dispute between Anglo American Metallurgical Coal (AAMC) and MMTC Ltd, the bench of RF Nariman and KM Joseph, JJ had the occasion to explain the concept of “patent” and “latent” ambiguity and held,
“… a “patent ambiguity” provision, as contained in section 94 of the Evidence Act, is only applicable when a document applies accurately to existing facts, which includes how a particular word is used in a particular sense.”
In the said case, the bench has set aside the decision of the division bench of Delhi High Court and has restored the Majority Award dated 12.05.2014 and the Single Judge’s judgment dated 10.07.2015 dismissing the application made under section 34 of the Arbitration Act by MMTC.
The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, KM Joseph and Anirudhha Bose, JJ has directed all the States and UTs to install CCTV cameras in all Police Stations and file compliance affidavits within 6 weeks.
The Court said that the directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and hence, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible.
In a 20-year-old case relating to rape of a 6-year-old, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has dismissed the special leave petition filed by the convict, thereby rejecting the contention that since the petitioner has only one hand, it would be physically impossible to have committed an act of rape. The Court said that there is no such impossibility.
The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has held that the right to default bail is not a mere statutory right under the first proviso to Section 167(2) CrPC, but is part of the procedure established by law under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which is, therefore, a fundamental right granted to an accused person to be released on bail once the conditions of the first proviso to Section 167(2) are fulfilled.
“An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services.”
The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph, JJ has stayed the further telecast in continuation of or similar to the episodes which were telecast on 11, 12, 13 and 14 September, 2020 by Sudarshan news either under the same or any other title or caption. The case deals with telecast of a programme titled ‘Bindaas Bol’ on Sudarshan News which allegedly vilifies the Muslim community by portraying it to be involved in an act of terror or, as it is labeled, “jehad” in infiltrating the civil services of the nation.
*Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
 2003 SCC OnLine Ker 218