SC makes public roster for allocation of cases to judges

Following the recent public ''rebellion'' by four of the senior-most Supreme Court judges against the manner of allocation of cases by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the court on Thursday announced a roster system for the allocation of matters to judges with effect from 5 February.

For the first time, the Supreme Court has made public its Judges Roster - a list that shows which judge hears what matter by subject. The roster was posted on the Supreme Court's official website weeks after Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph went public with concerns over the conduct of the CJI, especially in the allocation of cases.

This means that it has been decided, which bench will hear a particular category of case like PILs, civil, criminal, service, election, arbitration, habeas corpus, criminal, contempt of court, etc and this is available to the public.

Significantly, Chief Justice Misra has decided to retain for himself all cases related to Public Interest Litigations.

The website also posted the Collegium's unanimous decision on 10 January to recommend the elevation of senior advocate Indu Malhotra and Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph as Supreme Court judges.

The order of the CJI which has been uploaded on the SC website has given the description of matters that would be allocated to the headed by the CJI, justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur, Joseph, A K Sikri, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, N Ramana, Arun Mishra, A K Goel and R F Nariman. The names of these 12 judges are in the order of their seniority.

The four rebelling judges had alleged "cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and institution had been assigned by CJI selectively to the benches of his preferences".

Not enough?
According to The Indian Express, sources close to the four most senior judges described Thursday's move to make the roster public as an acknowledgement that ''something was amiss'' and a ''moral victory'' for their stance. However, they said the substance of the solution proposed has done little to assuage the concerns of the judges.

The 13-page roster states it will be applicable only to fresh cases and will take effect from 5 February ''till further orders''.

Justice Chelameswar gets criminal matters and cases related to judicial officers, among others, while environmental issues will be dealt with by Justice Madan B Lokur. Cases pertaining to admission and transfer to medical and engineering colleges will go to separate benches headed by Justices S A Bobde and Arun Mishra respectively. The bench headed by Justice Bobde will also handle cases on admissions to colleges other than medical and engineering institutions, and other academic matters.

On Wednesday the four senior judges had suggested the formation of a committee comprising those who would be CJIs in future, to suggest an institutional mechanism for marking cases. The allocation according to the new roster, does not address that suggestion.

Sources close to the judges said the central principle of challenging all power being focussed in one person - or the Chief Justice - is what had led to the proposal to involve all possible successors to the top position in a panel on case allocation.

On Wednesday, a scheduled meeting of the four judges and the CJI did not materialise with Justice Chelameswar on leave.

According to rules, the CJI has the final say over the roster and decides the constitution of the benches. The 'Handbook on Practise and Procedure and Office Procedure' states that the roster ''shall be prepared by the Registrar (Judicial-I) under the orders of the Chief Justice. It may contain general or special instructions regarding assignment/allocation of work to a Bench and includes allocation of work of a Bench, on account of non-availability, to another Bench''.