Supreme Court to hear plea on allocation of sensitive cases

Justice J Chelameswar

However, while hearing the petition filed by Senior Advocate Shanti Bhushan, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that the demand for the Chief Justice to consult other members of the Collegium while allocating cases was "not feasible" and that some internal mechanism would be more suitable.

Dave said the petition raises substantial questions about the interpretation of the Constitution based on the principle that the law is above all. "We are not concerned with it", the Bench said.

At this juncture, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said he had come to court with a "heavy heart" and added that he didn't want to make any personal charges as that would harm the institution.

Irked over the government's delay in clearing the collegium's recommendation to elevate a judge and a senior woman advocate to the apex court, Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph has written a letter to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra contending that the "very life and existence" of the institution was "under threat" and a "surgical intervention" is required.

To this, Justice Sikri said, "We will retire, but you are a permanent fixture".

Justice Sikri responded with a query: "So you have no objection on the power of the CJI as Master of Roster, but your point is about the manner in which the power has to be exercised?"

It said that such an authority should be exercised by the CJI in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncements of the court. Therefore, I request you, in the interest of this great institution and independence of judiciary for which all of us have fought so vigorously and tirelessly to have an appropriate Bench in the lines of the precedent set by Justice Karnan's case constituted forthwith before the child dies, otherwise I feel, history will not pardon us.

Bhushan wants the CJI to be interpreted as the entire collegium comprising top five judges, as is done in appointment of SC judges and transfer of HCjudges.

"Failure to discharge their duty by sitting on the recommendations of the collegium, in administrative law, is abuse of power".

The bench also referred to its very recent verdicts, saying it has already held that the Chief Justice is the "master of roster".

The plea contended that the master of roster "cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the ... Is this not a threat to the independence of the judiciary" Justice Kurian asked the CJI in his letter on April 9. "The Chief Justice of India is the highest authority, and he can't be distrusted", said the judges. But before Bhushan's plea could come up in court, a CJI-led bench agreed to hear a similar plea and ruled on it within a day.

Though the listing of politically sensitive matters appears to be "routine", they seem designed in a particular direction to exclude other benches from hearing them, it said.

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