Senior lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan on Friday moved the Supreme Court, urging that a collegium of five senior judges should exercise the power to allocate cases, and not only the chief justice of India.
“The petition is being filed to clarify the administrative authority of the Honourable Chief Justice of India 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,” Bhushan reasoned in his petition. “The petitioner humbly submits that ‘master of roster’ cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the Honourable Chief Justice of India by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.”
This, he argued, would result in a subversion of democracy and the rule of law. Bhushan also wrote to the secretary general of the Supreme Court, saying that Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra should neither hear this case nor decide which judges would hear it since he is the respondent in the case. “It would hence be appropriate that this matter be placed before the three senior most judges of the Supreme Court to obtain their instructions on how this petition is to be listed,” the petitioner said.
“…The Hon’ble Chief Justice and the other Respondents herein appear to be clearly interfering with listing of matters particularly politically sensitive matters as some of the examples set out hereinabove clearly show,” Bhushan’s petition said.
In a press conference in January, four senior judges of the Supreme Court raised questions, among other things, about Misra’s role as the “master of roster”. They questioned the chief justice for bypassing established traditions of the court in assigning cases to benches.