CJI is "master of the roster":SC

Team SoOLEGAL 12 Apr 2018 12:06pm

CJI is

New Delhi: Ending the controversy raised in a Press Conference by four senior judges of the Supreme Court, on who has the authority to allocate cases to fellow judges in Supreme Court, a SC bench comprising of  Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud ruled that  the Chief Justice of India was the "master of the roster" who alone had the power to decide on allocation of cases.

The ruling came when the SC bench dismissed a plea filed by an Allahabad-based lawyer Ashok Pande, for framing of guidelines for allocation of cases in SC. In a sixteen page order the bench held there is no room for any “presumption of mistrust” against the high constitutional functionary, who helms the country's most powerful court.

"From an institutional perspective, the Chief Justice is placed at the helm of the Supreme Court. In the allocation of cases and the constitution of benches, the Chief Justice has an exclusive prerogative. As a repository of constitutional trust, the Chief Justice is an institution in himself,"  the bench said.

"The entrustment of functions to the Chief Justice as the head of the institution is with the purpose of securing the position of the Supreme Court as an independent safeguard for the preservation of personal liberty. There cannot be a presumption of mistrust," Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the judgment, said.

At an unprecedented press conference held  on January 12, four judges of the SC — Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph — held that the CJI selectively allocates cases to “preferred Benches". They had also said "senior-most judges" were ignored while cases were allocated.

Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan has also filed a public interest petition, pleading that only the five-member collegium (the CJI and four senior-most judges) determine the roster collectively. The PIL is yet to come up for hearing but it is unlikely that SC will change its stand on the issue.

The bench said the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, had been notified with the President's approval and that alone would be the guiding light for the court on allocation of cases and benches. Any tinkering with the CJI's authority as the master of the roster, the court added, "would intrude into the exclusive duty and authority of the Chief Justice to constitute benches and to allocate cases to them".

The bench said every judge appointed to the top court under Article 124 of the Constitution is invested with the equal duty of adjudicating cases assigned by the Chief Justice.

Tagged: SC   Chief Justice of India   Constitution  
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