NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India on Friday upheld the role of Chief Justice of India as the Master of Roster. The apex court said that the CJI cannot be interpreted to mean Collegium of five senior-most judges in the matter of allocation of cases as it will make the day to day functioning difficult.
The Supreme Court order comes in response to a plea filed by former law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the existing roster practice of allocation of cases in the apex court by the Chief Justice of India. Hearing the petition, the SC said there is no dispute in the matter that CJI is the Master of Roster.
Shanti Bhushan had alleged that "master of roster" cannot be an "unguided and unbridled" discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking the benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges. He had, however, stated that the plea and its prayer was to strengthen the court and was not directed against any individual.
During the arguments earlier, Venugopal had stressed the need for "unity" among the judges of the top court and said that Bhushan's petition to vest the power to allocate cases to the five-member collegium might lead to "conflict" among judges on who would hear which matter, besides multiplicity of authorities. "It is essential that there should be one person doing this and if it has to be one person, then it has to be the CJI," the Attorney General had told the bench.
Senior counsel Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had appeared for Shanti Bhushan, had questioned the manner in which some "sensitive cases" were allocated to particular benches in the court in contravention of the rules. Dave had referred to constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court Rules and said that there was "ambiguity" in the rules as to whether the CJI possessed the power to frame the roster.