- CJI as the Master of Roster
- What are the current challenges with respect to judiciary?
- Suggestions by the author
Restate the independence of the Supreme Court
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- The Supreme Court’s independence of the judiciary is frequently questioned in politically sensitive matters.
- The single-most important reason for this is the power of the CJI to constitute benches and allocate cases as the master of the roster. This has led to erosion of the Supreme Court’s standing with respect to stakeholders.
- In July, a petition was also filled to have a collegium of Supreme Court judges collectively allocate cases rather than leave the entire power in the hands of the CJI.
CJI as the Master of Roster
- The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms v. Union of India (2017), held that the Chief Justice is the Master of the Roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute Benches and allocate cases.
- This has resulted in a problem of exercising absolute power by the CJI. This exclusive power overshadowed the outstanding the work done by other judges.
- Moreover, the decisions in the Birla Sahara case, CBI director’s case and Rafale amongst others has resulted in a new but questionable jurisprudence being developed.
What are the current challenges with respect to judiciary?
As mentioned by to the author,
- An independent and strong judiciary is a basic feature of the Constitution. Yet, the Court has allowed itself to be weakened.
- The independence of judiciary is judged in the way it handles and gives decisions on politically-sensitive matters.
- The Court has virtually deferred to the executive.
- SC has stopped becoming the protector of the fundamental and other constitutional rights and has failed to act as a guard of the rule of law.
- A new trend has emerging with respect to administrative actions like sealed and covered hearings instead of affidavits by governments, bias and recusal amongst others.
- Moreover, Lawyers and litigants are helpless and the Bar Association is complicit are in preventing or correcting this situation.
Suggestions by the author [ some mentioned implicitly]
- During the Constituent Assembly debates, member after member yearned for an independent judiciary. Seeing the current condition of supreme court, the demand of this debates were perhaps not unjustified.
- A judge should practice a degree of aloofness consistent with the dignity of his office. A trend to re-instate the independence of the Supreme Court is needed.
- Behavior and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must re-affirm people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary.