Only CJI can decide allocation of cases, AG tells SC

Only CJI can decide allocation of cases, AG tells SC

Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday told the Supreme Court that if a number of judges were involved in deciding the allocation of cases, it would lead to chaos and affect the administration of justice in the high courts as well as the top court.

So far as the deciding the roster and benches is concerned, it is the Chief Justice of India alone who has been authorised to exercise the power under the Constitution and the Supreme Court Rules, he submitted before a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.

He was responding to arguments made by senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Prashant Bhushan that the CJI should mean the Collegium of five judges in assigning the sensitive cases with far-reaching consequences to a particular bench. Their plea was made in a PIL filed by former law minister Shanti Bhushan, seeking a wider interpretation of the principle of the CJI as the master of roster. They contended the CJI cannot exercise “unbridled discretion” in allocating cases to particular benches.

In his submission, Venugopal said, “Actual allotment of cases is not an executive decision which can be taken by multiplicity of persons. Unlike the executive decision, this affects each of the persons (judges). Why only five judges? Why not the full court? This will be an unending exercise. It is essential that there has to be one person. Necessarily that person should be the CJI.”

The court reserved its judgement in the matter.

The issue of allocation of cases has created huge controversy after four senior SC judges addressed an unprecedented press conference on January 12, claiming that the Chief Justice was allocating important cases to select benches. Bhushan has cited a number of cases which were assigned to preferred benches.

Venugopal maintained that the CJI is the master of roster. He alone can assign the case to a bench. Otherwise, if all judges would decide these issues, it would lead to chaos and the judicial work would collapse. It is essential for maintaining the judicial discipline, he added, citing a number of previous decisions to substantiate his point.

To a court’s query as to why not a collective decision is taken in “sensitive matters”, he said it would lead to more chaos and conflict as judges would themselves not only seek a particular type of cases but would also express their opinion on a combination of the bench. “If every judge starts expressing his preference, who would finally take a decision,” he asked.