In the backdrop of the four most senior judges holding an unprecedented presser earlier this year over the Chief Justice of India’s role as ‘master of the roster’, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea seeking transparent guidelines and framework for allocation of cases and setting up of benches. The bench hearing the PIL comprised CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. Here’s what the judgment says:
Constitution puts CJI at the helm of affairs of Supreme Court
The SC ruled: The Constitution puts a CJI at the helm of affairs of the top court… CJI is the head of institution, authority vested with him is to ensure smooth administrative and judicial functioning of the court,” it said.
Chief Justice of India is the “first among equals”
Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgment for the bench, referred to constitutional schemes and said “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches”.
CJI has the authority to decide allocation of cases
The bench refused to change rules and held that the CJI has been entrusted the power to constitute benches and allocate work.
There is no distrust about the responsibilities CJI discharges
The order stated that the CJI is a high constitutional functionary, there cannot be “any distrust about the responsibilities he discharges” to ensure that the Supreme Court to carries out the work required under the Constitution.
Responding to a question on the CJI’s role as master of the roster, Justice Chelameswar had earlier told the Inidan Express, “Undoubtedly, the CJI would have the power to constitute the benches. But under the Constitutional system, every power is coupled with certain responsibilities. The power is required to be exercised not really because the power exists, but for the purpose of achieving some public good. Don’t exercise the power merely because you have it, Supreme Court has been repeatedly saying in every case wherever such question arose that every power is trust. It has be exercised for benefit of the body politic.”
Senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan on Friday approached the Supreme Court challenging the power of the Chief Justice of India as the “master of roster” to allocate work to different benches of the court.
Since the petition has impleaded the CJI as one of the parties, a letter was also written praying that the matter not be listed before a bench comprising the CJI, but before three seniormost judges of the top court who would decide the bench that should hear it.