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SC to hear plea on CJI's roster power

SC to hear plea on CJI's roster power

Calling for a fresh examination of the issue, a Supreme Court bench of justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan Friday sought the assistance of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal in a case seeking to "regulate the administrative powers of the chief justice".

"The CJI could not have heard this case himself quite apart from exercising his power as master of roster in allocating a bench to hear this case and constituting a Constitution Bench that finally pronounced the order declaring the Chief Justice of India as master of roster".

After four senior judges in the 12 January press conference expressed concern regarding case allocation by CJI Misra, an official roster was put up on the court's website.

We are not going into it.

It would help greatly if the process of allocation of benches is seen to be entirely transparent, and to be fair to CJI Misra he has rolled out two key measures in this direction: the twin publications of collegium recommendations on judicial appointments and a subject-wise roster for allocation of fresh cases.

But Justice Ashok Bhushan said, "It will be very hard to decide what is sensitive and what is not..." The four rebelling judges had specifically raised the CJI assigning "sensitive" cases to "select benches" headed by "junior judges". "Some cases may appear sensitive to you, others may feel something else is sensitive".

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In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has stated that the "master of roster" can not be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges. Dave said there are 14 instances when the CJI's discretionary power has been exercised arbitrarily, citing the matter of appointment of CBI special director RK Asthana.

"Prima facie, I do not think that the collegium should be entrusted with the task of allocating cases. Don't say all this", the judges said. Finally, speaking up on Congress' take on the Impeachment motion, former law minister Kapil Sibal said, "all options are open" on the issue.

The Centre's failure to act on the recommendations made by the collegium for appointment of two judges to the Supreme Court is an abuse of power and a "threat to the independence of the judiciary", said Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court. Justice Sikri continued that "all that we are saying is whether this is justiciable at all". "We are not attributing any motives to anyone", he said, adding, "it is very painful for us having practiced in this institution for 40-45 years".

Justice Sikri said the bar was an equal partner in upholding the rule of law.

"As far as CJI being the master of roster is concerned, there is no dispute". "If it can not be done administratively or judicially, then this will be the only provision in the Constitution which can not be challenged", he said, adding "it is unacceptable". He answered in the affirmative when the court asked both him and the AG to assist it.

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