A day after a Constitution Bench declared that the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster who alone could decide what case goes to which judge in the Supreme Court, the registry on Saturday published a circular notifying lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided by the Chief Justice of India.
The circular, however, does not provide for a contingency where the CJI is either on leave or is unable to come to court for any other reason.
The circular issued by the Registry of the Supreme Court on Saturday has, in effect, put a stop to the practice of lawyers or litigants mentioning their cases before Justice J. Chelameswar’s court. He is the number two judge in the Supreme Court.
The notification asks lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided over by the Chief Justice of India.
Recently, the CJI has been having back-to-back Constitution Bench hearings from Tuesdays to Thursdays. So, all oral mentionings were made before a two-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar. ‘Mentioning’ of fresh and urgent cases is done by lawyers and litigants for an early listing and, if possible, an out-of-turn hearing.
The circular is significant as it was an oral mention before Justice Chelameswar’s Bench on November 9 that led to a series of events culminating in an almost impromptu hearing by a five-judge Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice of India on November 10.
On November 9, a Thursday, advocate Kamini Jaiswal had made an urgent oral mention of a petition before this two-judge Bench. The petition wanted the investigation into the medical college corruption case to be transferred from the CBI to a SIT supervised by a retired CJI.
The petition said the FIR alleged that a conspiracy was hatched to bribe Supreme Court judges. The two-judge Bench immediately listed the case for hearing on the same afternoon and ordered a Constitution Bench of the “first five judges in the order of seniority” to be set up on November 13 to hear Ms. Jaiswal's petition. The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Misra virtually pre-empted the scheduled hearing on November 13 by laying down the law that no two-judge Bench can command the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches to hear cases in the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster and will have complete administrative prerogative over which judge should hear which case in the apex court. The Constitution Bench, in effect, nullified the two-judge Bench's order of November 9.
Saturday’s circular further fortifies the CJI’s role as the administrative captain of the Supreme Court and his absolute mastery over the roster. It has clearly stated that any oral mentioning should now be made only before the Chief Justice's court at 10.30 a.m.
Ms. Jaiswal’s petition has been listed for a hearing before a Bench of Justices R.K. Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A.M. Khanwilkar for November 13.