Kurian Joseph

Kurian Joseph

Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India

Assumed Office8th Mar, 2013

Retired On29th Nov, 2018


Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court2010-2013

Judge of the Kerala High Court2000-2010


Age: 68

Tracked Cases: 1


L.L.B.Kerala Law Academy


Notable Judgments

Justice Kurian Joseph has authored 1110 judgments (according to Manupatra) in the Supreme Court which is the 10th highest among all Supreme Court Justices. Below is an overview of his most significant judgments:


In 2014, Justice Joseph, writing the judgement for a 3-Judge Bench including Chief Justice Lodha and Justice Nariman, held that electronic evidence must be admissible as evidence only after its authenticity is verified. It thus stated that the position taken by the Court in the 2005 Parliament Attack case (also known as the case of Afzal Guru) was legally incorrect.


Justice Joseph wrote a separate concurring opinion in Manoj Narula v UOI, 2014 wherein the petitioner wanted the Court to issue guidelines against appointment of such Ministers to Cabinet against whom criminal charges were framed. While rejecting the petition in a separate concurring opinion, Justice Joseph observed that the Chief Minister or Prime Minister should act on propriety and refrain from appointing Ministers against whom criminal charges have been framed by the Court.


In 2015, Justice Joseph wrote a separate concurring opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v UOI, which invalidated the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC).  In his opinion, he was critical of the collegium system which he stated “require[s] a ‘glasnost‘ and ‘perestroika‘ “. In a 4:1 verdict, the Court struck down the 99th Constitutional Amendment, thus holding NJAC as unconstitutional.


He initially heard Yakub Memon’s appeal to the Supreme Court along with Justice Dave in 2015. However, due to conflicting opinions, the matter was referred to a Constitution Bench.


In 2017, he authored a concurring opinion in Shayara Bano v UOI which invalidated the practice of triple talaq. Declaring that the practice is not integral to Islam, the Court in a 3:2 ratio struck down the practice. The minority judgement by then Chief Justice J. Khehar declared that the Parliament had to draft a law on the matter.


In 2018, he was part of the five-Judge Bench which decided to not review Nagaraj. In Nagaraj the Court upheld reservation in promotion for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, while laying down conditions which made it more difficult for the Government to issue such reservations. Interestingly, in its 2018 judgment, the SC extended the creamy layer exclusion principle to SCs and STs  benefitting from reservation in promotion.


A day ahead of retirement, Justice Joseph headed the 3-Judge Bench which commuted death penalty of a man convicted of murder in Channu Lal Verma v the State of Chattisgarh. While commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment, Justice Joesph observed that “the High Court has erroneously confirmed death penalty without correctly applying the law laid down in Bachan SinghMacchi SinghSantosh Bariyar and Shankar Kisanrao Khade. The decision to impose the highest punishment of death sentence in the case does not fulfil the test of “rarest of rare case where the alternative action is unquestionably foreclosed”.


Drawing support from the 2015 Law Commission Report which recommended abolition of death penalty for all crimes other than terrorism related violence and waging war, he questioned the need for death penalty as a punishment. In para 23 of the judgment, he observed that “having regard to the said Report of Law Commission that the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh has failed to prevent death sentences from being “arbitrarily and freakishly” imposed and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, we are of the view that the time has come where we view the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.”


It is noteworthy that though other Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta concurred with Justice Joseph on commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment, they dissented on the question of abolishing the death penalty entirely.