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Supreme Court Junks Shanti Bhushan's PIL, Reiterates That CJI Alone is 'Master of Roster'

In his petition, senior lawyer Shanti Bhushan had sought, inter alia, that the power to list matters be shared with the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.

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Updated:July 6, 2018, 3:13 PM IST
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Chief Justice of India alone is the ‘Master of Roster', junking a PIL filed by senior lawyer Shanti Bhushan to regulate the CJI’s administrative powers.

A bench comprising justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan in their separate concurring verdicts said the CJI occupies the role of "first among equals and is empowered to exercise leadership in administration of court" which includes assignment of cases.

“Not doubting the bona fides of petitioner, not treating the petition as an adverserial litigation,” the bench said.

A five-judge constitution bench and a three-judge bench have already held that the CJI is the master of the roster.

In his verdict on Friday, Justice Sikri said, "As far as the role of CJI as master of the roster is concerned, there is no dispute that he is the master of roster and has authority to allocate cases to different benches of the Supreme Court."

Concurring with Justice Sikri's opinion, Justice Bhushan said the CJI has the prerogative to allocate cases and nominate benches to hear them.

Justice Bhushan also said that there are rich conventions and practices of SC which are time-tested and should not be tinkered with.

Justice Sikri said that it would be difficult to accept the submission of the petitioner that the term Chief Justice of India under the Supreme Court Rules should be read as the collegium comprising five senior-most judges for allocating cases.

"The erosion of judiciary in the minds of people is greatest threat to judicial system," he said, adding that CJI, being the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is the "spokesperson and leader of judiciary".

The bench said that no system is foolproof and there is always scope for improvement in functioning of judiciary.

Justice Bhushan, who penned a separate concurring judgment, said the “rich conventions and practices of the Supreme Court which are time-tested” should not be tinkered with.

Justice Sikri said the erosion of judiciary in the minds of people is the “greatest threat” to judicial system and added that the CJI, being the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, is the spokesperson and leader of judiciary.

In his petition, Shanti Bhushan had sought, inter alia, that the power to list matters be shared with the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, contending that the Master of Roster power “cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”.

It was also claimed by him that the manner in which politically sensitive matters were being listed before select judges was a violation of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and Handbook of Practice and Procedure, 2017.

(With PTI inputs)

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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