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SC to pronounce verdict on plea challenging roster practice of case allocation today

By Pti

New Delhi, July 5: The Supreme Court would on Friday pronounce its judgment on a plea of former law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the existing roster practice of allocation of cases in the apex court by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Supreme Court of India

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had on April 27 reserved its verdict on the petition, which was opposed by Attorney General K K Venugopal, who had said that any attempt to delegate the power of allocation of cases to other judges would lead to "chaos".

In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has alleged that "master of roster" cannot be an "unguided and unbridled" discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking the 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 (since retd), Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph - had said the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place.

During the arguments, Venugopal had stressed the need for "unity" among the judges of the top court and said that Bhushan's petition to vest the power to allocate cases to the five-member collegium might lead to "conflict" among judges on who would hear which matter, besides multiplicity of authorities.

"It is essential that there should be one person doing this and if it has to be one person, then it has to be the CJI," the Attorney General had told the bench. Senior counsel Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had appeared for Shanti Bhushan, had questioned the manner in which some "sensitive cases" were allocated to particular benches in the court in contravention of the rules.

Dave had referred to constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court Rules and said that there was "ambiguity" in the rules as to whether the CJI possessed the power to frame the roster. The petitioner had also made it clear that the plea and its prayer was to strengthen the court and was not directed against any individual.


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