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Published On: Thu, Apr 12th, 2018

Justice Chelameswar Refuses To List Ex.Law Minister’s Plea Against CJI

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Supreme-Court-judges-historic-press-conference-1NEW  DELHI : A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Jasti Chelameswar on Thursday turned down an urgent mentioning to list for hearing a petition filed by former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan to declare that the authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as ‘master of roster’ should not be reduced to an absolute, singular and arbitrary power.
“With two months left, I don’t want to hear that I am trying to grab some office. I do not want another reversal of my order in 24 hours. Let the nation decide its own course,” Justice Chelameswar said.
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It was then up to Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul — the puisne judge sitting with Justice Chelameswar — to indicate to advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had made the mentioning, that retirement is looming for his senior brother judge and Justice Chelameswar should be spared from being dragged into controversy.
Mr. Prashant Bhushan had written a letter to the Supreme Court Registry to not place the petition before a Bench led by CJI Dipak Misra as the plea directly concerns his powers as CJI.
Mr. Prashant Bhushan made the mentioning before Justice Chelameswar’s Bench, saying that he was worried about the fate of the petition following a judgment delivered by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s Bench on April 11, reiterating the Chief Justice’s absolute dominance as ‘master of roster’ to set up Benches and allocate cases to judges.
Instead of the CJI allocating the petition to a Bench, Mr. Shanti Bhushan wanted the plea to be placed before the three seniormost judges to decide who should hear the PIL petition.
The petition said term ‘Chief Justice of India’ in this context should be interpreted as the collegium of senior judges. The decision of allocation of cases should be done, not unilaterally by the CJI, but collectively by the collegium.
In his petition, Mr. Shanti Bhushan asked the Supreme Court to “clarify the administrative authority of the Chief Justice as the master of roster and for the laying down of the procedure and principles to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases.”
“Master of roster cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the Chief Justice of India by hand-picking benches of select Judges or by assigning cases to particular judges,” the petition said.It said “the collective opinion of a collegium of senior judges is much safer than the opinion of the Chief Justice alone.”
Mr. Shanti Bhushan’s plea opens the lid on a recent chapter in the Supreme Court’s history when a five-judge Constitution Bench presided by Chief Justice Misra was convened on short notice to declare the CJI as ‘master of roster.’ The Constitution Bench had at that time effectively nullified an order passed by a Bench led by Justice Chelameswar only the previous day.(With Agency Inputs ).

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