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The court dismissed a PIL filed by advocate Ashok Pande that asked that the CJI consult the two senior-most judges of the apex court to allocate work.
A bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said the CJI has been entrusted with the power to constitute benches and allocate them work, by virtue of being at the helm of affairs of the SC, as determined by the Constitution.
Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgment for the bench, said “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches”, reported PTI.
Since the CJI is a high constitutional functionary, there cannot be “any distrust about the responsibilities he discharges” to ensure that the SC carries out the work required under the Constitution, the order reportedly said.
The now-dismissed PIL was filed in the context of a press conference in January by four senior SC judges, who aired their grievances against CJI Dipak Misra, alleging irregularities within the apex court and hitting out at his assignment of cases.
Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph had raised five grievances, including the distribution of important cases, and selective assignments of important cases based on preference, instead of rationality.
Months before the press conference, the four judges wrote to the CJI, airing their grievances about selective assigning of important cases to judges who are junior to them. They also said they had issues with the assignment of the case to do with the mysterious death of Justice BH Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
“The convention of recognising that CJI is the master of roster and assigns cases to different benches is for disciplined and efficient transaction of court business and not a recognition of superior authority,” they had said in the letter.
“The CJI is only the first among equals nothing more and nothing less”, they added.
(With inputs from agencies)