Supreme Court agrees to examine petition seeking who is "master of the roster"

April 13, 2018

The Apex Court today agreed to examine the petition seeking to regulate the Chief Justice of India's administrative discretionary power to constitute benches and allocate essential cases.

The petition was filed by well-renowned advocate Shanti Bhushan.

The bench comprising of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said it is prima facie not possible to entrust the responsibility of allocating cases to the group headed by the Chief Justice, but it is open to devising a mechanism for making it more transparent and fair.
Appearing for Bhushan, senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan said instances of arbitrary allocation of cases by CJI Dipak Misra has forced them to come with a heavy heart to the court to seek a course correction in the way cases are allocated to various benches.
Earlier this week, on Wednesday, the top court ruled on Wednesday that there was no concept of “senior” or “junior” SC judges as all were equally competent to decide any case allotted to them by the Chief Justice of India, who alone had the power to constitute benches and assign cases.
Dismissing a PIL filed by advocate Ashok Pande demanding that the CJI-headed three-judge bench must have the two other most senior judges on it, a bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said it was unimpeachably ruled earlier by a five-judge bench that the CJI was the master of the roster and had the sole discretion of deciding the composition of benches and assigning cases.
At an unprecedented press conference on January 12, four senior judges led by Justice J Chelameswar had specifically complained against the allocation of a petition relating to judicial officer B H Loya’s death to a bench headed by a “junior” judge while questioning the CJI’s alleged arbitrary allocation of important cases to benches headed by “select junior” judges.

Writing the unanimous judgment that appeared to be a point-by-point rebuttal to the judges’ grievances aired in the press conference and Justice Chelameswar’s subsequent interaction with the media, Justice Chandrachud said the Chief Justice of India was the first among equals (judges) and had “exclusive prerogative in the allocation of cases and the constitution of benches”. He added, “As a repository of constitutional trust, the CJI is an institution in himself.” 


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