Four former judges have written an open letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, urging him to ensure that all sensitive and important matters are heard by a bench of the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court.
Justice PB Sawant, Justice AP Shah, Justice K Chandru and Justice H Suresh signed the open letter, which states that though it is well established that the CJI is the master of the roster, assigning important matters to select benches headed by junior judges could not be done in an arbitrary manner.
“We agree with the four Judges that though the Chief Justice of India is the master of roster and can designate benches for allocation of work, this does not mean that it can be done in an arbitrary manner such that, sensitive and important cases are sent to handpicked benches of junior judges by the Chief Justice.”
The letter also states that the way cases are currently being assigned is having a deleterious effect on the administration of justice and the rule of law. The four former judges have also urged the CJI to establish rational, fair and transparent rules for the allocation of benches.
“…clear rules and norms must be laid down for allocation of benches and distribution of cases, which are rational, fair and transparent. This must be done immediately to restore public confidence in the judiciary and in the Supreme Court.”
It was also stated that until such a mechanism was put in place, the only way to restore public confidence in the judiciary would be to ensure that all important matters are heard by a Constitution Bench comprising the five most senior judges.
“However till that is done, it is important that all sensitive and important cases including pending ones, be dealt with by a Constitution Bench of the 5 senior most Judges of this Court. Only such measures would assure the people that the Supreme Court is functioning in a fair and transparent manner and that the power of the Chief Justice as master of roster is not being misused to achieve a particular result in important and sensitive cases. We therefore urge you to take immediate steps in this regard.”
Justice Sawant is a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Shah is a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and Justices Chandru and Suresh are retired judges of the Madras and Bombay High Courts respectively.
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