'Democratize the position of CJI and High Court Chief Justices', says Justice AP Shah

A.P. Shah

A.P. Shah   | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe

Role played by the CJI as master of the roster should be a more consultative process than it is today, says the former chairman of the Law Commission of India

Former chairman of the Law Commission of India Justice Ajit Prakash Shah on Friday called for efforts to “democratize” the position of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and High Court Chief Justices saying they enjoy “immense powers” while deciding the roster of cases.

Justice Shah termed as “strange and something to be questioned” the decision of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to keep out all four of the top five judges of the Supreme Court, other than himself, of all constitutional matters.

“The present Chief Justice’s actions may have been exercised in individual capacity, but are indicative of a deeper malaise affecting the Indian judiciary,” the former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court said.


The role played by the CJI as master of the roster should be a more consultative process than it is today, Justice Shah said at the B.G. Verghese Memorial Lecture on the crisis in the judiciary which was organised by the Media Foundation in the capital.

“The judiciary needs immediate reform on multiple fronts,” Justice Shah said, adding that the current system of appointing judges under the collegium system needed a “relook”. He termed it as an “opaque system that the judges have constructed for themselves”.

Justice Shah also supported the four senior Supreme Court judges, who had on January 12 in a press conference publicly accused the Chief Justice of India of selectively assigning cases to judges of his choice without any rational basis.

“Rather than being in breach of their code of conduct, they were perhaps displaying allegiance to the oath of office they took upon entering office,” Justice Shah said adding that all four judges “risked something or the other in being a part of this public conference”.

“Justice Gogoi has placed on the line his chances of succeeding CJI Dipak Misra as the Chief Justice of India (CJI), for, as per, convention, the incoming CJI is appointed on the recommendation of the outgoing CJI,” he said adding the other three too risked criticism from their peers, and perhaps also getting isolated from the bar and bench after they retire.

He questioned why the issue of applicability of the transparency law, under the Right to Information (RTI), to the CJI still pending for the last 10 years.

Justice Shah said the Indian judiciary should take a cue from better judicial practices around the world including the principles of neutral case assignment - a system designed to prevent the risk of judicial panels being packed.

At the event, Uma Sudhir, Executive Editor at NDTV was awarded the Chameli Devi Jain Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist for her coverage on the issue of rights of children and elderly, farmers’ suicide and other public interest issues.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 8:54:47 PM |

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