What is Master of Roster? Supreme Court Upholds Chief Justice of India as ‘MOR’ (Important) (Download PDF)

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Supreme Court ruled that Chief Justice of India is ‘Master of Roster’ who has authority to decide on allocation of cases. Bench heard petition despite 2 separate judgments by Supreme Court in November 2017 & April 2018, upholding CJI’s complete administrative authority to allocate cases & constitute Benches.

Supreme Court Upholds Chief Justice of India as ''

Supreme Court Upholds Chief Justice of India as ”

Image of Supreme Court Upholds Chief Justice of India as ‘Master of Roster’

Meaning of ‘Master of Roster’

  • ‘Master of Roster’ refers to privilege of Chief Justice of India to constitute & allocate benches to hear cases. CJI has absolute discretion in matter of distribution of judicial work among judges of his court.

  • This privilege was emphasized in November 2017, when Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, declared that “Chief Justice is master of roster & he alone has prerogative to constitute Benches of Court & allocate cases to Benches so constituted. “

Ruling

  • ‘Chief Justice of India’ is individual judge & not powerful collective of 5 senior-most judges (Collegium) of Supreme Court.

  • It is exclusive authority of CJI to allocate cases to fellow judges as ‘Master of Roster’.

  • Bench ruled that “In allocation of cases & constitution of benches, Chief Justice has exclusive prerogative. As repository of constitutional trust, Chief Justice is institution in himself. “

  • CJI is only ‘1st among equals’ in his judicial functions on Bench. Opinion of CJI on Bench carries same weight as any other member of Bench.

  • Bench said Supreme Court Rules, 2013, was notified w/President’s approval & they alone would be guiding light for court on allocation of cases & benches.

  • Bench noted that relief which petitioner seeks is misconceived. Petitioner does not have right to seek direction that benches should be constituted in particular manner or there should be separate divisions of this court.

  • There is no constitutional foundation on basis of which such suggestion can be accepted.

  • Interference in CJI’s authority as master of roster would pose interrupt duty & authority of Chief Justice to constitute benches & to allocate cases to them.

  • Every judge appointed to top court under Article 124 of Constitution is invested w/equal duty of adjudicating cases assigned by Chief Justice.

Background

  • This ruling sets aside controversy raised by senior-most judges. At unprecedented media conference on 12th January, 2018,4 judges had complained about selective allocation of cases to preferred benches by CJI. They had claimed that “senior-most judges” were ignored when cases were allocated.

  • Ruling came on plea seeking direction for separate division of court

  • It petitioned pleading to have collegium of Supreme Court judges collectively allocating cases rather than leaving entire power in hands of CJI in his administrative capacity as ‘Master of Roster’.

  • It was contended that conferring absolute authority on CJI to allocate cases was unconstitutional & was against democratic principles referring to several recent allocations where this power of CJI was abused w/legal malice such as listing of CJAR petition seeking investigation in medical college bribery case, petition questioning appointment of CBI Special Director, petition of Jay Amit Shah against ‘The Wire’, etc.

  • CJAR petition raised bribery allegations against medical college bribery case that was considered by bench headed by CJI. So matter was mentioned before bench headed by then next senior judge.

  • Bench of Justice Chelameswar ordered listing of matter before bench of 5 senior judges, excluding CJI, as allegations concerned CJI. This order was set aside on very next day itself by constitution bench headed by CJI, declaring that Chief Justice is master of roster.

- Published/Last Modified on: September 11, 2018

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