Top four judges of the Supreme Court today objected to the manner of framing of roster and allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India saying this power was meant for efficient functioning of court and not to exercise any superior authority over judges.
The four judges, at an unprecedented press conference, said the Chief Justice was "the master of the roster" but is "only the first amongst the equals - nothing more or nothing less."
The convention recognised "the privilege of the Chief Justice to form the roster and assign cases to different members/benches of the court" and it was also "well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the chief justice is only the first amongst the equals - nothing more or nothing less," the judges said.
"The roster shall be prepared by the Registrar (J-I) under the orders of the Chief Justice. It may contain general or special instructions regarding assignment/allocation of work to a Bench and includes allocation of work of a Bench, on account of non-availability, to another Bench," it says.
In order to meet contingencies, the Chief Justice may, from time to time, direct the Registrar (J-I) to prepare roster instructions or amendments for re-allocation of judicial work, the top court's latest Practice and Procedure said.
A Supreme Court lawyer and a constitutional expert, who refused to be named, said there were a catena of judgements which lay down the procedure for allotment of cases by the Chief Justice but there is no particular document on allocation of work to fellow judges by the CJI.
There are very detailed guidelines on allocation of cases as per the Supreme Court's Practice and Procedure and Office Procedure, 2017, but broadly writ petitions, criminal/civil appeals, Special Leave to Appeal, Public Interest Litigation, Review Petition and many other category of cases are listed in the apex court under the supervision of the CJI.
While admission hearing cases are listed on Mondays and Fridays, regular hearing cases are listed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, unless directed otherwie by the CJI.
Any party or advocate-on-record, who desires an out-of- turn listing or early hearing of an admission hearing case or application on the ground of urgency, can make oral mention before the Bench by way of a prescribed listing proforma, as per the apex court rules.