Form panel to assign important cases, 4 SC judges tell CJI Dipak Misra
The four senior judges of Supreme Court who criticised Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra for his administration of the court, including allocation of cases to judges, have recommended the creation of a committee of senior judges that will assign sensitive and important cases, according to people familiar with the matter.
The proposal is being discussed not just by them and the CJI but also, in terms of seniority, judges who stand a chance to be a future CJI, the people familiar with the matter added.
However, the talks remained inconclusive, they said, because the CJI was reluctant to concede to the demands as it would lead to the dilution of the chief’s power as the master of the roster.
The four judges, the senior most in the Supreme Court after the CJI – justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurien Joseph – met the CJI for the second time this week and put forth their proposal for a just and transparent system to allocate cases.
Three judges, who, in order of seniority, stand a chance of becoming the CJI were asked by Justice Misra to be present during the talks because the issue raised by the four judges relates to the administrative function of the office of the CJI, the people explained.
Currently, cases are marked as per the roster notified by the Supreme Court registry. This is done once the CJI approves it. Though the marking is computer-generated, the CJI has a say when the registry informs him about a sensitive matter in advance. As the administrative head the CJI can either retain the matter, let it be heard by the bench as per the roster or send it to another bench .
It is this discretionary power which the four judges have attacked; their claim is that senior judges were being overlooked when it came to hearing sensitive cases.
Thursday’s meeting between the judges lasted for around 20 minutes, from 10 to 10:20 am after which the judges dispersed to their respective courts.
The people familiar with the matter said the CJI expressed his inability to accept the proposal because it would compromise the Chief Justice’s power, a matter on which a five-judge constitution bench recently ruled. Justice Misra headed the bench that gave the verdict on November 10, 2017.
Justice Misra is also understood to have cited another SC judgement that in 1997 declared chief justice as the master of the roster. The impasse is likely to continue as Justice Chelameswar left the city on a private visit and ie expected back on Sunday night.
If the talks between the senior judges fail then the CJI may have to convene a full court meeting to end the stalemate, one of the people familiar with the matter said.