SC reserves order on plea questioning CJI’s powers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday reserved judgment on a plea challenging the administrative powers of the chief justice of India regarding allocation of cases.

“This is a very important issue, one that requires judicial intervention. Is this so sacrosanct that it cannot be examined by the court?’, Dushyant Dave, counsel for the petitioner said.

He questioned the discretionary power of the chief justice and said, “Is this discretion so wide and unfettered that cases can be allotted anywhere?” The registry will have to respond on how matters were placed before certain benches, he added.

This was opposed by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who told the court that the exercise of bench formation and allocation of cases is best left to one person, and since it’s one person, that person necessarily has to be the CJI.

“Multiplicity of judges to decide on which bench should hear which case will be an unending exercise,” Venugopal said.

He also rejected the idea of a weekly meeting of the members of the collegium (comprising the chief justice and four senior judges) to decide on the allocation of cases to different benches.

The plea filed by Shanti Bhushan, a senior advocate and former law minister, and his son, Prashant Bhushan, called for the authority to allocate important and sensitive cases to be extended to include the Supreme Court’s four senior-most judges, apart from the chief justice.

On 11 April, a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had dismissed a similar plea challenging the CJI’s prerogative to allot cases and decide the composition of the benches of the apex court.

The chief justice is at the “helm of the institution” and is conferred with authority under the Constitution to take decisions on allotment of cases, justice D.Y. Chandrachud said. “There should not be a presumption of mistrust in the discharge of duties by the chief justice,” he added.

Reiterating that the chief justice was the “master of the roster” and the sole authority to decide on allotment of cases, the court went on to say, “As a repository of constitutional trust, the chief justice is an institution in himself. The authority is entrusted to the chief justice because such an entrustment of functions is necessary for the efficient transaction of the administrative and judicial work of the court.”livemint