“With the press conference of the four senior-most judges of the supreme court, the matter of preparation of the set rules governing the powers of the chief justice with respect to formation of benches and vesting of jurisdiction came in public domain and hence this petition is in national/public interest”, says the petition
At a time when the row over assignment of cases in the apex court and role of Chief Justice Dipak Misra still rages following the press conference by four senior-most SC judges, a petition has been filed in the supreme court seeking a mandamus to the Registrar of the Supreme Court to evolve a procedure for constituting benches and allotment of jurisdiction to different benches.
Significantly, admitting the petition, Chief Justice Dipak Misra who heads a bench also comprising of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A M Khanwilkar said after hearing brief arguments from petitioner Ashok Pande, a Lucknow-based lawyer: “OK. We will pass orders”.
“The petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus to the first respondent (Registrar of the Supreme Court) to evolve a set procedure for constituting benches and allotment of jurisdiction to different benches in Supreme Court”,says advocate Pande’s petition:
The petition also seeks a mandamus to the Supreme Court Registrar to have a specific rule in the supreme court rules that the three judges bench in chief justice shall consist of the chief justice and two senior most judges and the constitution bench shall consist of five senior-most judges or three most senior and two junior most judges.
That the high court should also be directed to adopt the similar practice where;
“With the press conference of the four senior-most judges of the supreme court the matter of preparation of the set rules governing the powers of the chief justice with respect to the formation of benches and vesting of jurisdiction came in public domain and hence this petition is in national/public interest”, it said.
The four senior-most judges Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B Lokur had in the historic press conference on January 12 this year questioned the manner in which CJI allocated cases “selectively” to “benches of his preferences”.
In a letter to the CJI divulged at the press meet, they also alleged: “cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and institution had been assigned by CJI selectively to the benches of his preferences”.
They had contended “things are not in order” and “many undesirable things are happening”.
They had said CJI, though a master of the roster (one who decides which bench will hear which case) was exercising the power arbitrarily.
Though the master of roster, he is only ‘first among equals’ and not a superior authority. But he behaved like one, they alleged.
“Members of any multi-membered judicial body including this court would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches”, the judges had said.
“Any departures would not only lead to unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution”, they had said.
Last week Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the master of the roster and for laying down the principles and procedure to be followed in preparing it for allocation of cases.
Read the Petition & Order Here