Former judges pen open letter to CJI Dipak Misra, say they agree with four judges

Coming out in support of the four senior Supreme Court judges who recently held a press conference stating that the democracy is at stake, former Judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice P.B. Sawant (Retd.) and former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A.P. Shah (Retd.), along with two other former judges of High Courts have penned a letter to Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

“We agree with the four Judges that though the Chief Justice of India is the master of roster and can designate benches for allocation of work, this does not mean that it can be done in an arbitrary manner such that, sensitive and important cases are sent to hand-picked benches of junior judges by the Chief Justice. This issue needs to be resolved and clear rules and norms must be laid down for allocation of benches and distribution of cases, which are rational, fair and transparent,” the judges wrote in the open letter addressed to the CJI.

Renowned lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter and opined that the letter is ‘important’ and a ‘must read.’

“Must read: Important letter to CJI by former judges, about the pressing need for a fair, rational & transparent method for allocating cases to benches, to avoid bench fixing by CJI. Pending that, all sensitive cases must be before bench of 5 senior judges (sic),” Bhushan tweeted.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Chief Justice,

The four senior puisne Judges of the Supreme Court have brought to light a serious issue regarding the manner of allocation of cases, particularly sensitive cases, to various benches of the Supreme Court. They have expressed a grave concern that cases are not being allocated in a proper manner and are being allocated arbitrarily to particular designated benches, often headed by junior judges, in an arbitrary manner. This is having a very deleterious effect on the administration of justice and the rule of law.

We agree with the four Judges that though the Chief Justice of India is the master of roster and can designate benches for allocation of work, this does not mean that it can be done in an arbitrary manner such that, sensitive and important cases are sent to hand picked benches of junior judges by the Chief Justice. This issue needs to be resolved and clear rules and norms must be laid down for allocation of benches and distribution of cases, which are rational, fair and transparent. This must be done immediately to restore public confidence in the judiciary and in the Supreme Court. However till that is done, it is important that all sensitive and important cases including pending ones, be dealt with by a Constitution Bench of the 5 senior most Judges of this Court. Only such measures would assure the people that the Supreme Court is functioning in a fair and transparent manner and that the power of the Chief Justice as master of roster is not being misused to achieve a particular result in important and sensitive cases. We therefore urge you to take immediate steps in this regard.

Signed by:

Justice P.B. Sawant, (Retd.) former Judge, Supreme Court of India

Justice A.P. Shah, (Retd.) former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court

Justice K. Chandru, (Retd.) former Judge, Madras High Court

Justice H. Suresh, (Retd.) former Judge, Bombay High Court

Four SC judges – Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph – held an unprecedented press conference on January 12, where they raised issue of assignment of cases, and said there were certain issues afflicting the country’s highest court.

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