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On Row Over Allocation of Cases, SC Judge Recounts His Experience From HC Days

The remarks by Justice A K Sikri came after advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for the petitioner and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, referred to the submissions by Attorney General KK Venugopal about some judges' interest in hearing some cases.

PTI

Updated:April 27, 2018, 9:42 PM IST
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On Row Over Allocation of Cases, SC Judge Recounts His Experience From HC Days
File photo of Justice A K Sikri.
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New Delhi: The hearing in the Supreme Court on the plea against existing roster practice of allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on Friday saw Justice A K Sikri sharing his views on how in high courts, some judges express their "displeasure" when a particular matter is not given to them.

"We have been in the high courts also. Many judges go to the chief justice and say give me this jurisdiction and this matter. Many express their displeasure that 'why I (judge) was not given this matter'," Justice Sikri observed.

The remarks by Justice Sikri came after advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for the petitioner and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, referred to the submissions by Attorney General KK Venugopal about some judges' interest in hearing some cases.

Venugopal said the petitioner's demand to vest the power to allocate cases to the five-member Collegium of the apex court, instead of the CJI, might lead to "conflict" among the judges as to who would hear which matter.

He said if the Collegium was vested with this power, then the judges would express their views for themselves and might want to hear a particular matter.

Venugopal also referred to controversial former Calcutta High Court judge, Justice C S Karnan, who was held guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to jail for six months by a seven-judge constitution bench of the top court.

He said when Karnan was a judge in the high court, he used to tell the chief justice to give him bail matters.

The apex court, which reserved its order on the plea, said the petition would be decided as per constitutional provisions.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan told the court that there was no "practical difficulty" if the issue of allocation of cases was decided by the apex court Collegium or the full court, instead of the CJI alone.

He said as per Venugopal's arguments, if the judges could have interest in hearing a particular matter, then the CJI might also have the same interest. "It would be safer if the Collegium decides this," he said.

However, the bench observed that "practical difficulty is not an issue. We have to decide what the constitutional provisions say. Constitutional provisions will have to be looked into."

During the hearing, the Attorney General said that somebody has to take a decision on the composition of benches and allocation of matters and it has to be the CJI.

In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has 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.

The petition said the CJI's authority as the master of roster is "not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion".
| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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