SC to hear plea on CJI's roster power

Nellie Chapman
April 14, 2018

Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had sought for the assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Dave said the petition raises substantial questions about the interpretation of the Constitution based on the principle that the law is above all.

"I request you, in the interest of this great institution and independence of judiciary for which all of us have fought so vigorously and tirelessly, to have an apporpriate bench.otherwise I feel, history will not pardon us", he said in a strongly worded letter, circulated in the media.

'We want to protect the institution from the kind of interference from the government, ' said Kapil Sibal.

Speaking a day after Justice Kurian Joseph tried to shake up CJI Misra through a letter conveying that the "very life and existence" of the Supreme Court is under threat, Sibal expressed concern over the issue of the independence of the judiciary and termed the matter as "very serious".

This is not a workable option, said justice Sikri, "It will not be feasible to interpret that the "chief justice of India" could mean the entire collegium (five senior judges)". Shortage of judges, as well as frequent and contentious deliberations between government and collegium on appointments, can be minimised by allowing SC as well as high court judges to serve until 70.

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"When Justice Karnan challenged the dignity of the court, you may kindly recall that we met in Full Court and resolved to take the issue suo motu on judicial side". You may recall as has been the practice, it was out decision to send the names in a phased manner so that there may not be any administrative or other difficulty. "You can come out with suggestions", Justice Sikri observed.

The observation by the bench came after Dave said, "Four of your colleagues have publicly took note of the failure of the system". The three judge bench, in its 11 April ruling, reiterated that as "master of the roster", the CJI has the last word in assigning cases to other benches in the court.

"Govt owes a duty to take a call on the recommendation as soon as it sent from the Collegium", Justice Kurian wrote.

The plea contended that the master of roster "cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the ..." The four rebelling judges had specifically raised the CJI assigning "sensitive" cases to "select benches" headed by "junior judges". "The Chief Justice of India is the highest authority, and he can't be distrusted", said the judges. "The authority is entrusted to the chief justice because such an entrustment of functions is necessary for the efficient transaction of the administrative and judicial work of the court".

Dave, however, said that matters must be allocated automatically according to the roster but that was "not happening" and the registry should be asked to explain this.

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