The major rulings by the Supreme Court and High Courts of India in recent past and the developments and changes in the legal arena impacting the Indian citizens.
The Supreme Court on July 6, 2018 in the landmark case of Shanti Bhushan v Supreme Court of India through its Registrar and another in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 789 of 2018 (Arising out of Diary No. 12405 of 2018) refused pointblank to declare that the function of allocating cases and assigning benches should be exercised by the collegium of five senior Judges instead of the Chief Justice of India. This was what the petitioner wanted but which he failed to get. The petition which was filed by Shanti Bhushan who is an eminent and senior advocate of Supreme Court and also is the former Union Law Minister seeking such relief in his PIL were not acted upon by the Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan.
In the writ petition Shanti Bhushan seeks the Supreme Court to clarify the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the Master of Roster and for laying down the procedure and principles to be followed in preparing the Roster for allocation of cases as mentioned in para 2 of the judgment. Shanti Bhushan had strongly contended that concentration of unbridled powers on a single person was an anathema to democracy. He, therefore, sought an end to this.
Though the petition conceded that the CJI was the master of the roster as settled by convention, it sought reforms by vesting the power of determination of roster to the collegium instead of CJI alone.
At the outset, the Apex Court Bench comprising of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan expressed its welcome tone regarding the issues that were raised in the petition. The Bench stated that “matter had not been treated as adversarial in nature”. Besides, the Apex Court made it clear that it did not doubt the bona fides of the petitioner and affirmed his respectability.
Going forward, the petitioner argued that the role of CJI as the ‘master of roster’ was not based on any constitutional provision. Justice AK Sikri expressly acknowledged that the Constitution is silent on the role of the Chief Justice as the ‘Master of the Roster’. However, it was added that this role was “based upon healthy practice and sound conventions which have been developed over a period of time and that stands engrafted in the Supreme Court Rules.
CJI is the Master of Roaster.■