New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra today put in place a roster system for allocation of cases in the Supreme Court in what could be a move to address the grievances by four-senior most judges over assigning matters that sparked an unprecedented judicial crisis. Justice Misra has kept to himself the public interest litigation (PIL) cases under the roster system that will come into effect from February 5. Previously, the cases in the apex court were assigned by the CJI in his capacity as master of the roster.
The CJI also allocated to the bench headed by him the petitions based on letters, election cases and matters pertaining to contempt of court and constitutional functionaries. The order of Justice Misra was made public on the official website of the apex court. The 13-page notification said a roster of the work for fresh cases notified under the order of the CJI will come into effect from February 5 till further orders.
The decision to make public the roster system assumes\ significance as the four seniormost judges — justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — in their January 12 press conference had questioned the allocation of sensitive PILs and important cases to judges junior in seniority and sought transparency. The notification has given the category of matters that would be allocated to the benches headed by the CJI and 11 other judges — justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur, Joseph, A K Sikri, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra, A K Goel and R F Nariman.
As per the roster, the bench headed by Justice Chelameswar would deal with matters like labour, indirect tax, land acquisition and requisition, compensation, criminal matters, etc. Justice Gogoi, who during the press conference, had answered in affirmative the concern over the allocation of the PILs relating to special CBI Judge B H Loya to a bench headed by a partricular judge, has been allocated matters relating to labour, indirect tax, company law, MRTP, TRAI, SEBI, RBI, criminal matters, contempt of court, personal law, religious and charitable endowments, mercantile laws, commercial transactions including banking etc.
Similarly, a bench headed by Justice Lokur has been allocated matters including service, social justice, personal laws, land acquisition, consumer protection etc. Justice Jospeh’s bench has been assigned to deal with matters including labour, rent Act, family law, contempt of court, personal law etc. In the unprecedented January 12 press conference at Justice Chelameswar’s residence, the four seniormost judges had raised a litany of problems, including assigning of cases in the apex court, and said there were certain issues
afflicting the country’s highest court.
They had also made public a letter written by them to the CJI two months ago expressing their grievances, which, they claimed, were not addressed by the CJI. “There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution have been assigned by the chief justices of this court selectively to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs,” the letter said.
After the press conference, there were hectic parleys involving judges of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Bar Council of India (BCI) to defuse the crisis. The SCBA, headed by its president Vikas Singh, had come out with a resolution that the apex court should follow a roster system for the allocation of matters to the judges as was prevalent in the Delhi High Court. According to sources, some of the judges had also suggested to the CJI to examine the roster system prevalent in the Bombay High Court. Sources close to the CJI said that he examined suggestions from stakeholders to bring transparency in allocation of cases.