The Supreme Court on July 5, 2018, ruled that the Chief Justice of India is the ‘Master of Roster’ who has the authority to decide on the allocation of cases. The ruling was given by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
The Bench heard the petition despite two separate judgments by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and April 2018, upholding the CJI’s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches. Both these judgments were pronounced by Benches led by CJI Dipak Misra.
1. The ‘Chief Justice of India’ is an individual judge and not the powerful collective of five senior-most judges (Collegium) of the Supreme Court.
2. It is the exclusive authority of the CJI to allocate cases to fellow judges as the ‘Master of Roster’.
3. The bench said the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, had been notified with the President’s approval and they alone would be the guiding light for the court on the allocation of cases and benches.
4. The bench also noted that the relief which the petitioner seeks is misconceived. The petitioner does not have the right to seek a direction that benches should be constituted in a particular manner or there should be separate divisions of this court.
5. CJI is only ‘first among equals’ in his judicial functions on the Bench. The opinion of the CJI on the Bench carries the same weight as any other member of the Bench.
6. There is no constitutional foundation on the basis of which such a suggestion can be accepted.
7. Interference in the CJI’s authority as the master of the roster would pose interrupt the duty and authority of the Chief Justice to constitute benches and to allocate cases to them.
8. Every judge appointed to the top court under Article 124 of the Constitution is invested with the equal duty of adjudicating cases assigned by the Chief Justice.