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Supreme Court to examine plea on CJI's power

16 April 2018

Last week, former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan petitioned the Supreme Court asking that cases be allocated to benches by the collegium, made up of the CJI and the four other senior-most judges.

Justice Joseph suggested that a similar full court meeting be called to decide on setting up of a bench of the first seven judges to deal on the judicial side with the Centre sitting on the recommendation to appoint the Uttarakhand CJ and Malhotra as SC judges. "If you have any other suggestion, do let us know", it told senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Bhushan.

"We are not going to go into it". The petition will be examined by the Apex Court of India on April 27. In Justice Karnans case if it was a threat to the dignity of the court, the present one is a threat to the very life and existence of the institution.I am of the view that following the precedent in Justice Karnans case, we should take up the matter on the judicial side in a Bench of first seven or more as you please.

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Mr Bhushan's counsel raised the issue of allocation of cases in the top court and said that matter was listed contrary to the rules of the Supreme Court. For this we do not think a collegium of five judges is the solution.

Mr Dave argued that certain sensitive cases were allocated to Benches as per the special orders of the CJI.

"This court is the bedrock of the Constitution", he said, adding that the registry should follow the Supreme Court rules stipulating the procedure for listing of cases.

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Justice Sikri responded with a query: "So you have no objection on the power of the CJI as Master of Roster, but your point is about the manner in which the power has to be exercised?" "I am more anxious about the irreparable injury that is being caused by the wrong message sent to the judges down the line", Justice Joseph said. "We want to protect the institution; we means the people of India must protect this institution from the kind of gross interference by the government, and protected also from within".

The Senior Advocate then referred to what he said were past instances of allocation of cases.

The petition said the CJI's authority as the master of roster is "not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion". Justice Sikri continued that "all that we are saying is whether this is justiciable at all".

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Today we complete three months since we resolved to recommend Ms. Indu Malhotra, Senior Advocate and Justice KM Joseph for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court. "If it can not be done administratively or judicially, then this will be the only provision in the Constitution which can not be challenged", he said, adding "it is unacceptable". He answered in the affirmative when the court asked both him and the AG to assist it.

Supreme Court to examine plea on CJI's power