NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reiterated that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has the constitutional authority to decide the allocation of cases and setting up of benches to hear them.
The ruling assumes significance in the backdrop of the January 12 unprecedented press conference of senior-most judges including Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph raising the issue of improper allocation of cases.
A three-judge bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra, justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, while dismissing a PIL filed by UP-based lawyer Ashok Pande that sought to regulate the CJI’s administrative powers to allocate cases, said that there “cannot be any mistrust in the functioning of a high constitutional office of the CJI”.
Authoring the verdict on behalf of the Bench, Justice D Y Chandrachud referred to constitutional schemes and said “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide the allocation of cases and setting up of benches”.
He called for the rejection of the misconception that certain categories of cases or certain courts must consist only of the senior-most in terms of appointment.
The court underlined that every judge appointed to court under Article 124 of the Constitution is invested with the equal duty of adjudicating cases, which are assigned by the CJI.
The Bench said, “Once appointed, every judge of the Court is entitled to and in fact, duty bound, to hear such cases as are assigned by the CJI. It is a settled position that a judgment delivered by a judge speaks for the court.”
This is the second time the court has declared the CJI as the ‘Master of Roster’. On both occasions, CJI Misra headed the Benches.