Four sitting judges of the Supreme Court, who held a press conference on Friday to raise concerns regarding the functioning of the apex court, had, in a letter to Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra a couple of months back, taken up matters pertaining to allocation of cases to the various benches and noted that cases were being assigned selectively to the benches “of their preference”.
“There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this court selectively to the benches 'of their preference' without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs,” the letter signed by justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph said.
The judges said in the letter that they wanted to highlight certain judicial orders passed by the Supreme Court which had adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the High Courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Chief Justice of India.
It was noted in the letter that the CJI is the master of roster, with a privilege to determine the roster. “In the matter of the determination of the roster there are well settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the chief justice, be the conventions dealing with the strength of the bench which is required to deal with a particular case or the composition thereof. Also, the judges could not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches.
“We are sorry to say that off late the twin rules mentioned above have not been strictly adhered to,” the letter stated. The judges also said that such departures have already damaged the image of the institution of judiciary to some extent.
As an example, they cited the case R.P. Luthra vs Union of India, in which the court said there should be no further delay in finalising the memorandum of procedure in the larger public interest. They said when the MoP was the subject matter of a decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, it is difficult to understand as to how any other bench could have dealt with the matter.
The four judges said their efforts to elicit action from the CJI on the above issues have failed, and their meeting with Misra this morning to discuss the same issues also yielded no result, forcing them to speak before the media.