PUBLIC ROSTER FOR THE APEX COURT
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Written By: Shajeeda Tajdeen
The senior-most judge of the topmost court of the country on Thursday introduced a new roster system of the Apex Court. Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra announced that the new roster which is to become effective from 5th February 2018, will be in public domain. As per new roster system, the allocation of the cases shall be made as per their subjects. This move of the CJI came just fourteen days after the four senior-most judges of the Apex Court questioned the independence of the Judiciary. It was on 12th January 2018, that it was for the first time in the history of the judicial system that four sitting Judges of the Top most court addressed a live media conference to voice their concerns over the happenings in the judiciary. J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed the media, wherein they highlighted their sense of concern for upholding the dignity and impartial nature of the judicial system of the country. While addressing the media, Justice Chelameswar justified his stand by stating that, their act of calling for a press conference was driven by the fear that if they fail to communicate their concern democracy would not survive and it is the need of the hour to preserve the judiciary so that the essence of democracy remains unharmed. They also alleged that the Chief Justice of India has failed to follow the established precedents while allocating cases or matters to Judges. They expressed their anguish that there were many politically sensitive cases which were allocated, assigned or transferred to junior colleagues. They also alleged that the behavior of the CJI was arbitrary in nature, by citing an example of Justice Loya’s controversial death case in 2014, which was abruptly transferred from Justice Arun Mishra’s bench to the bench headed by CJI. The judges also suggested that a separate committee of the prospective Chief Justices should be constituted with a motive of framing an institutional mechanism which would mark the cases as per the Roster that would be notified by the Supreme Court Registry. During their press conference, the judges had also questioned the unnecessary delay in finalizing the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP). MOP is a detailed document which decides the procedure of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, it basically deals with an elevation of the Judges. MOP is finalized by the Union Government and then it is shared with the Apex Court.
The announcement of the new roster system was made by the CJI on the official website of the Supreme Court, the announcement was made through a 13 page, notification, the notification which has been published includes the details of the bifurcation of matters before the 12 senior-most judges of the Apex Court. As per the notification, Chief Justice of India, shall preside over the roster as its master and he shall entertain all the fresh Public Interest Litigation, the Letter Petitions, Election Matters, Social Justice Matters, Contempt of Court Matters and other matters which are related to the appointment of Constitutional functionaries and law officers and other matters which are related to the Commissions of Enquiry. Justice Chelameswar’s has been assigned to Labour, Compensation, Land Acquisition and Consumer Protection matters etc. Whereas, all personal law matters along with matters related to trading of liquor and state excise matters are to be placed before Justice Gogoi. Matters pertaining to the establishment and recognition of educational institutions, inclusive of medical and engineering colleges shall be looked into by Justices Arun Mishra and Rohinton Nariman. Justice Joseph along with the other assignments shall also specifically handle Family and Service Law matters. Last but not the least, Justice Lokur assignments include Environmental, Social Justice, and matters connected to the Armed Forces etc.
The move of making the Roster public comes to an amicable settlement step, through which the CJI aims to amend his ways with the other four Judges of the Supreme Court. This decision shall have its own far-reaching effects and it is a step towards bringing more transparency in the system of allocating cases because the ultimate aim of the Judicial system is to meet the ends of justice. The system of allocating the cases publicly would to a great extent end the guesswork and suspicion related to allocation.