CJI publishes subject-wise roster for the first time in history; keeps PILs to himself
The order of the CJI was made public on the official website of the apex court.
After an unprecedented press conference by four senior most Supreme Court judges on January 12 over “selective” allocation and amidst subsequent parleys to resolve the rift, Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Thursday published a new subject-wise roster for allocation of cases to various Supreme Court Benches to be implemented from February 5.
The publication of the judges' roster of case allocation is for the first time in the history of the Supreme Court.
The move follows a decision of a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Misra declaring the Chief Justice of India’s dominance as the master of the roster in order to protect the Supreme Court from “anarchy”. The five-judge Bench, on November 10 last year, proclaimed it was the Chief Justice’s sole prerogative to decide what case has to be heard by which judge.
It had effectively nullified a judicial order passed by the apex court’s number two judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, a day ago to constitute a Bench of the five senior most Supreme Court judges to hear a PIL for SIT probe into the Lucknow medical college scam involving an alleged conspiracy to bribe Supreme Court judges for a favourable order. A Bench led by Chief Justice Misra had heard the medical college case.
The new roster now shows that CJI has kept the PIL jurisdiction entirely to the Bench he is presiding over. None of the four senior most and Collegium judges - Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph – have PILs assigned in their rosters. As a fall-out of the “extraordinary” press meet, the Supreme Court Bar Association had moved a resolution that PIL cases should be heard by the CJI and the first four judges.
Cases on medical and engineering college admissions/transfer cases, allocation of 15% All India quota in medical admissions/transfers and establishment and recognition of educational institutions would be heard by Justice Arun Mishra’s Bench. The allocation of the Loya PILs to Justice Mishra was taken up by the four judges during their press meet. Later, Justice Mishra's Bench recused from the Loya cases. They are being presently heard by the CJI Bench. Also, PILs for an SIT probe into the Lucknow medical college scam was referred to a three-judge Bench of which Justice Mishra was a member. That Bench had imposed Rs. 25 lakh costs on one of the PIL petitioners.
Justice S.A. Bobde, the seventh senior most judge and in line to be the Chief Justice of India, gets a share of cases on medical/engineering admissions and transfer. Justice Bobde’s Bench would also be allocated academic matters and cases dealing admissions to educational institutions other than medical and engineering.
Justice Rohinton Nariman's Bench has also been given cases of establishment and recognition of education institutions.
The Chief Justice’s Bench roster includes PILs, letter petitions, social justice cases, election matters, habeas corpus cases, appointments of constitutional functionaries, matters regarding Commissions of Enquiry, disputes on statutory appointments and law officers along with criminal cases.
The rosters of the senior most four judges who called the joint press conference on January 12 largely remain the same.
Justice Chelameswar includes labour, matters pertaining to judicial officers, simple money and mortgage cases, land acquisition, consumer protection, criminal cases, among others. Justice Gogoi has been allocated labour cases, company law, contempt of court, personal law, criminal matters, among others.
Justice Lokur would continue to hear ecological matters and social justice cases along with disputes regarding personal law, religious and charitable endowments, mining and agriculture related matters, consumer protection cases and those dealing with the Armed Forces.
Justice Kurian’s roster has cases on family law, personal law, disputes about religious and charitable endowments, land laws and agriculture.
The four judges had, in a letter circulated to the media, a letter in which they had highlighted how, recently, Chief Justices of India selectively allocate cases of “far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution” to “preferred Benches”.
The letter, which they had addressed to Chief Justice Misra, had said that a Chief Justice's authority as the master of the roster did not make him a “superior authority”. “The Chief Justice is only the first amongst equals – nothing more or nothing less,” they had said in the letter.
Meanwhile, there have been no meetings between Chief Justice Misra and the four judges this week so far. The talks have remained inconclusive with no resolution in sight. Justice Chelameswar is on leave for the past two days (January 31 and February 1).