NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was the Master of Roster and first among equals, having authority to assign cases to different benches.
“CJI has role of first among equals and is empowered to exercise leadership in administration of the court, which includes assignment of cases. There is no dispute that Chief Justice is the Master of Roster,” a Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said.
The ruling asserted for the third time in eight months that the CJI is the Master of Roster, and observed that though the Constitution was silent on this, conventions and judgments over time established that the CJI was the first among equals.
The judgment also listed the qualities a CJI should possess as the Master of Roster, including balance, fortitude, moral courage and independence of mind and as the court’s spokesperson.
It is the CJI’s duty to usher in and administer reform as a continuous process.
“Erosion of credibility of judiciary is the greatest threat and what is required of judges is changing. Judges walk the tightrope of independence,” said Justice Sikri.
Justice Bhushan said the rich conventions and practices of the apex court were time-tested and should not be tinkered with.
The controversy over the issue had started early this year when the four most senior judges in the SC called a Press conference in which they criticised CJI Dipak Misra over the way sensitive cases were being assigned.
The verdict came on a plea by former union law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging allocation of cases by the CJI.
Meanwhile, the CJI has reconstituted the Constitution Bench to hear a batch of pleas challenging Section 377, dealing with unnatural sex, to include Justices RF Nariman and Indu Malhotra, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and himself. The bench will hear the case from July 10.