Le­gal Ea­gle

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.

Alive - - News - SC Fi­nally De­cides Mas­ter of Ros­ter Case by San­jeev Sirohi

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.■

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