Supreme Court of India settled the controversy regarding the power of CJI in the allocation of cases on Wednesday by dismissing a petition which asked CJI to consult two senior-most judges of the apex court before distributing cases.
CJI Deepak Mishra, Justice AM Khanwilkar, and Justice Chandrachud
Asok Pande v. Supreme Court of India through its registrar and others
Uttar Pradesh based lawyer Ashok Pandey filed a petition in Supreme Court of India questioning the unilateral power of CJI to constitute benches randomly and allot cases. Petitioner was seeking a mandamus to the registrar of Supreme Court for constituting benches and allotment of cases in both High Court and Supreme Court. This petition was filed keeping in mind the press conference in January in which four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court after CJI put forward their grievance against the manner in which cases were being allotted in Supreme Court along with few other issues. They said that they had written letters to CJI highlighting this issues but no action was taken and added that “the CJI was only the first among equals nothing more and nothing less”.
The decision of the Case
The bench consisting of CJI Deepak Mishra, Justice AM Kurian, and Justice Chandrachud passed the order dismissing his petition. Judgment was delivered by Justice Chandrachud who said that “it is a well-settled principle of law that no mandamus can issue to direct a body or authority which is vested with the rule-making power to make rules or to make them in a particular manner. The Supreme Court has been authorized under Article 145 to frame rules of procedure. A mandamus of nature sought cannot be issued” and authority to constitute bench and assign case was exclusively in the domain of the prerogative powers of the Chief Justice. Furthermore, it was also mentioned in the judgment that CJI is an institution in himself and “Seniority in terms of appointment has no bearing on which cases a Judge should hear. It is a settled position that a judgment delivered by a Judge speaks for the court (except in the case of a concurring or dissenting opinion). Moreover, Court also ruled that submissions of petitioner regarding constitution of benches in High Court lacked merits.
Learning of the case
From this case, we learn that Chief Justice of India is the undisputed master of rolls and his decision is final in allotment of cases.