PIL seeks allocation of cases to SC benches in consultation

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday was moved by senior counsel Shanti Bhushan seeking direction that the exercise of authority as a master of roster by the Chief Justice of India in allocating the cases to different benches should be done in consultation with senior judges who are part of top court collegium.

In his PIL, he said that the authority of Chief Justice of India as a master of roster is not an “absolute, arbitrary, singular power” which may be exercised in his “sole discretion” and the CJI “must” exercise his authority in consultation with other senior judges who are also part of collegiums.

Underlying principle of the collegium is that the collective opinion of a collegium of senior judges is much safer than the opinion of the Chief Justice alone, the PIL says.

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Bhushan has contended that the 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”.

Any such power or its exercise, the PIL says “would result in a subversion of democracy and the rule of law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution”.

Pointing to “extremely disturbing trend” of listing matters “subjectively and selectively” only before certain benches, the PIL says that trend reflects “serious erosion of independence of the judiciary” by resorting to the method of “favoured listings”.

“As a result, justice appears to be skewed and in many cases justice may even stand denied,” it said.

It has said that the powers being exercised by the Chief Justice and the concerned Registry officials clearly reflect a “pattern of favouritism, nepotism and forum shopping”.

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Recounting the cases that came up before certain benches of the top court in recent months, the PIL has said that the “pattern also suggests that certain matters which are politically sensitive and involve either Ruling Party Leaders and/or Opposition Party Leaders are assigned only to certain Benches”.

Though the listing of politically sensitive matters appears to be “routine”, they seem designed in a particular direction to exclude other benches from hearing them, it said.

Describing such selective listing as “unwarranted and unjustified”, the PIL says that “such listings and/or allocations are not happening on account of computer allocation but appears due to human interference in the system”.

Prashant Bhushan who has filed the PIL on behalf of Shanti Bhushan has also written a letter to the Secretary General of the top court asking him that the PIL be placed before three senior most judges of the court after the CJI to obtain their instruction on the listing of the PIL.

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