Dismissing a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for allocation of cases and constitution of benches, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Chief Justice of India is “first among equals” and has the constitutional authority to decide the same. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud dismissed a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for rational and transparent allocation of cases and constitution of benches to hear them.
Referring to constitutional schemes, Justice Chandrachud said, “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches”.
A week earlier, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan had filed the PIL in the Supreme Court for clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the ‘master of roster’ and seeking laying down of principles and procedures to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to benches.
He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan, who also wrote a letter to the apex court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes CJI Dipak Misra.
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The PIL said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in CJI alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion” and such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with senior judges.
This petition assumes significance as on January 12 four senior-most judges – J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – of the Supreme Court had called an unprecedented press conference and had said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things had taken place.
They had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before “junior judges” of the apex court.