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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

CJI is First Among Equals, There Can't be Presumption of Mistrust


CJI is First Among Equals, There Can't be Presumption of Mistrust

New Delhi: Amid questions being raised by no less than other judges in the same Court, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 11th April 2018, ruled that Chief Justice of India has the "exclusive prerogative" to constitute benches and he is placed at the helm of the institution by virtue of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench, incidentally headed by incumbent CJI Dipak Misra, held that Constitutional provisions have put the CJI at the helm and his authority is derived from the Constitution to make sure the Supreme Court can effectively discharge its duties.

"There cannot be a presumption of mistrust (against the CJI). Let this issue be put to rest now," said Justice DY Chandrachud, who authored the judgment for the bench.
The Court further maintained that the office of the CJI is an independent safeguard under the constitutional scheme and that entrustment of powers with the CJI is to enable the top court carry out its functions.
It said that while CJI is first among equals in terms of judicial powers, CJI occupies a distinctive position in matters of administrative affairs.

The Court passed its verdict while dismissing a PIL that had questioned the sole prerogative of the CJI to allocate cases and set up benches in the apex court.
The PIL filed by by advocate Ashok Pande had urged the bench to issue orders so that CJI sits with other senior judges and set up Constitution Benches including such senior judges. The bench rejected all these prayers.

In January, the four most senior judges held an unprecedented press conference raising questions over the manner in which CJI Misra was allocating politically sensitive cases to certain select benches.

It had come days after CJI Misra, heading a five-judge Constitution Bench, had declared through a ruling that CJI is "the master of the roster".

Around a month later, the CJI also placed the roster of allocation of cases in the top court in the public domain. In the roster, the CJI kept all fresh PILs before his court.

Justice J Chelameswar, one of the four judges in that press conference, reiterated last week during a public talk that not everything is well in the Supreme Court as far as allocation of sensitive cases to benches are concerned.

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