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Don’t bring up issues of rebel judges’ press conference, says SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court took umbrage when an attempt was made to raise before it the issue relating to the unprecedented January 12 press conference by the four senior-most judges, who had accused the Chief Justice of India (CJI) of arbitrarily allocating cases.

While hearing a PIL challenging the existing roster system and powers of the CJI to allocate cases, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan made it clear that it was not concerned with the issue of the presser for “many reasons and obvious reasons”.

“We are not going to go into it. We are not concerned with it for many reasons and obvious reasons. Do not say all this. Do not bring it here,” the bench told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who was representing Bhushan.

The observation by the bench came after Dave said, “Four of your colleagues have publicly taken note of the failure of the system.”

When the bench referred to the top court verdicts which held that the CJI is the “master of roster”, Dave said a judgement passed earlier this week was in his favour.

Bhushan’s counsel raised the issue of allocation of cases in the top court and said that matter was listed contrary to the rules of the Supreme Court.

“This court is the bedrock of the Constitution,” he said, adding that the registry should follow the Supreme Court rules stipulating the procedure for listing of cases.

Dave claimed that a top court judge, who had served as a CJI for two weeks, had listed several business matters before himself and gave reliefs.

He said that after his retirement, the top court had to reverse many of his orders.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said they were concerned about the institution and they were not permanent fixtures in Delhi.

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

In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.

The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion”.

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.