Backing Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the Master of the Roster, Venugopal said that the role of CJI involves not only allocating the cases but also requires the decision on several aspects.
Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday said that the exercise of roster and allocation of cases was different from that to the process of selecting the judges for the higher judiciary by the apex court collegium. Backing Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the Master of the Roster, Venugopal said that the role of CJI involves not only allocating the cases but also requires the decision on several aspects. This is not something that five (the Collegium) or all of them (judges) can sit and thrash it out, the Attorney General added.
This came in the wake of the differences among Supreme Court judges over the allocation of cases that had surfaced at the January 12 presser by four senior-most judges. The judges had raised the issue which entered the courtroom with the filing of former law minister Shanti Bhushan’s plea challenging the CJI’s power as the ‘master of the roster’.
Venugopal opposed the plea of Bhushan to strip the CJI of the exclusive power to allocate cases. He told the Supreme Court that any attempt to delegate the authority of deciding case allocation to other judges would lead to “chaos”. He stressed the need for “unity” among the judges of the top court. Further opposing Bhushan’s plea to vest the power to allocate cases to the five-member Collegium might lead to “conflict” among judges on who would hear which matter and multiplicity of authorities.
Venugopal said the suggestion that all judges sit together and decide the allocation of cases is not practical. According to him, this will be an “unending exercise”. He said that it will be a mistake to proceed on the basis that the Master of Roster business is only about allocating cases to benches.
In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be an “unguided and unbridled” discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges. The petition assumes significance in light of the January 12 press conference where four senior-most judges of the top court – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – had said that situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.