Supreme Court of India just restructured the manner in which a case is assigned to a judge. Chief Justice of India after introducing a subject wise roster earlier this year in February has now modified it. The new roster will be followed in the Supreme Court from 2nd July 2018 when it reopens after summer vacations. The modified roster is still a subject wise roster only difference is the change in judge looking after a particular type of case. According to the new roster Public Interest Litigations, arbitration cases, election matters, habeas corpus matters appointment of constitutional functionaries, social justice matter will be heard by the Chief Justice of India. Mortgage and money matters have been handed over to Justice Kurian, which under the earlier roster were looked after by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice A.K Sikri. Justice Ranjan Gogoi will now look after ordinary civil matters, labour matters, indirect taxes matter, contempt of court matter among others. Justice M.B. Lokur will now handle land acquisition and requisition matters, service matters, land laws, consumer matters, protection of wildlife, felling of trees matters. Justice A.K Sikri who is the newest member of the collegium will be dealing with direct tax cases, election matters, criminal matters. Justice S.A Bobde will be responsible for academic matters, compensation matters, admission matter, maritime matters and cases related to leases and government contracts. Justice A.K Goel will be managing direct tax matters, company law, MRTP, TRAI, SEBI, IDRAI and RBI matter, mercantile laws and banking cases. Similarly, the remaining judges have also been allotted cases subject-wise.
Supreme Court roster has been changed or modified due to the retirement of the second senior most judge of the Supreme Court i.e Justice J. Chelameswar. Justice Chelameswar served in Supreme Court for approximately seven years and retired on 22nd June.
Master of the roster controversy
Recently an issue was stirred by four senior-most judges of Supreme Court Justice Chelameswar, Justice Gogoi, Justice Lokur, Justice Joseph who held a press conference in which they revealed that administration of the Apex Court is not in order and that many things less than desirable have been happening in the last few months. They wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India wherein they underlined the fact that Chief Justice of India has not been strictly following well-settled conventions guiding his role as master of the roster. They further said in that letter that “There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and institution had been assigned by the Chief Justice of this Court selectively to the benches of their preference without any rational basis for such assignment.” Grievances mentioned in the letter were soon supported and acknowledged by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms which went on to say that certain cases were being allotted to selected judges so that decision could be obtained in a manner favourable to the government. Moreover, it listed numerous instances where gross abuse of power of the master of roster took place. Some of them were the dismissal of a petition demanding an independent probe into the allegation of corruption in medical college bribery case, a petition challenging the appointment of Special Director of CBI, Petition seeking independent probe in death of Special CBI Judge B.H Loya. Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan filed a petition seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the CJI and praying for a declaration that listing of matter must strictly adhere to the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and Handbook on Practice and Procedure and Office Procedure. All the court proceedings have been completed in this case and Judgment has been reserved.