- The CJI is the master of the roster and had the sole discretion of deciding the composition of benches and assigning cases, the SC reiterated
- The apex court said thathere was no concept of “senior” or “junior” SC judges as all were equally competent to decide any case allotted to them by the CJI
About the declaration:
- SC declared that the CJI is the ‘first among equals’ with ‘exclusive prerogative’ to allocate cases and constitute benches.
- ‘There cannot be a presumption of mistrust’ about the discharge of the CJI’s constitutional responsibilities.
- The three-judge Bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud dismissed a petition by lawyer Ashok Pande that asked that the CJI consult the two senior-most judges of the apex court for allocation of work.
- The Bench said that the CJI has been entrusted with the power to constitute benches and allocate them work, by virtue of being at the helm of affairs of the SC, as determined by the Constitution.
- Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgement for the bench, said that the CJI is first among equals and has the authority to decide the allocation of cases and setting up of benches.
- This is the second time that the Supreme Court has, within six months, reiterated the Chief Justice of India’s ‘exclusive duty and authority’ as ‘master of roster’ to constitute Benches and allocate cases.
- In 2017, a Constitution Bench led by CJI Mishra had declared the Chief Justice of India as ‘master of roster’.
- On January 12, four top judges — J. Chelames-war, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph held a conference and alleged that there was no transparency in the allocation of cases and cited the Judge Loya case in this regard.
- Subsequently, the CJI made the roster system public and portfolios were published on the Supreme Court website.
- 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. The purpose behind the entrustment of authority to the Chief Justice is to ensure that the Supreme Court is able to fulfil and discharge the constitutional obligations which govern and provide the rationale for its existence. There cannot be a presumption of mistrust.