The Supreme Court registry has released a new work roster, according to which the five most senior judges of the court will be assigned public interest litigation cases. This reverses a year-old rule under which such cases were dealt with only by the chief justice’s court.
Jurisdiction over letter petitions and petitions have now been given to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, and Rohinton Fali Nariman.
Election matters that used to be handled only by the bench headed by the chief justice will be shared with the bench headed by justice Bobde, according to the new roster, Live Law reported. It also announced that Justices MM Shantanagoudar and Abdul Nazeer would start heading benches.
The subject-wise roster was introduced by former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra after four senior judges of the top court, in January 2018, accused him of assigning cases to benches of preferences while ignoring seniority of judges. Three of the four judges who raised the matter – J Chelameswar, Madan Lokur and KM Joseph – have since retired.
Ranjan Gogoi, who will retire in October, is said to have relatively maintained much of the protocol laid down by Misra. Slight changes were made to the procedure as he said that litigation matters were to be assigned to the court of the most senior judge after him, the Hindustan Times reported.
“Traditionally, in the Supreme Court and high courts, PILs are heard by the courts of the chief justices,” the newspaper quoted former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishanan as saying. “This was so because the number of PILs filed were small in numbers. But with time, the number of PILs in the apex court increased and chief justices decided how to deal with them. Some gave PIL matters to other judges while some held it in the court of the CJI. There were no clear criteria governing PILs.”