In a massive embarrassment to the lobby, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the PIL filed by former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the existing roster practice of allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra. While disposing off the PIL, the Supreme Court said:
“There’s no dispute that Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster. The CJI has the power to allocate benches. The CJI enjoys the role of first amongst equals.”
The Supreme Court also said that if judges were allowed to choose their cases, the machinery of the court will collapse.
While dismissing the argument of the petitioner, the apex court said that it is “difficult to accept that CJI should be the same as the collegium. Collegium is the top 5 judges. The CJI is in the leadership role.”
“Constitution is silent on the role of the CJI. He, therefore, is empowered to exercise a leadership role,” said the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court also said that independence of judiciary is of prime importance as the faith of the people is the bedrock of the functioning of the judiciary.
“Judiciary is walking a tightrope of independence today. The role of the CJI as the master of the roaster assumes great significance,” said the apex court.
Earlier, Attorney General KK Venugopal had opposed Bhushan’s PIL before a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan and said the exercise of allocation of cases has to be done by one person and that has to be the CJI.
In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan stated that the “master of roster” cannot be an “unguided and unbridled” discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.