Roster Management in Judiciary

March 09, 2018
11 months

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court has recently made public its Judges Roster, by posting it on its official website.
  • Moreover, the CJI will hear all PILs and cases related to elections, criminal cases, social justice and the appointment of constitutional functionaries.

What is the significance of the roster?

  • Roster lists out the allocation of case categories to different judges.
  • A fine-tuned roster will prevent two different benches from hearing the same kind of case.
  • It thus prevents taking divergent views at the same time.
  • Conflicting interpretations by different benches have earlier forced the SC to set up larger benches to resolve.
  • Secondly, roster will allow for effective case management.
  • Judges in India are not specialists in any specific areas of the law.
  • But they will be in a better position to dispose of cases, the more they handle the same kind of cases.
  • E.g. the SC has constituted a dedicated tax bench.

Why is the SC's move important?

  • The ongoing crisis in the higher judiciary came to light with 4 senior-most judges of the SC. Click here to know more
  • Their unprecedented press conference indicated their loss of faith in the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • It related precisely to the manner of allocation of cases.
  • In this backdrop, making public the Supreme Court’s roster is a welcome step towards greater transparency.
  • Four large high courts — those of Allahabad, Bombay, Delhi and Karnataka — also make their rosters available on their websites.
  • It is unfortunate that not all high courts have followed this lead.
  • The SC’s move could help encourage the other high courts to do so.

What are the concerns?

  • How far will making roster public address the ongoing crisis of credibility in the Supreme Court is highly doubtful.
  • Mechanism - The roster existed even prior to the one made public and was largely being followed.
  • But the issue here is the absence of any norms or transparency in the mechanism.
  • The CJI exercising the discretionary power to go beyond the roster and allocating specific cases to specific benches is the concern.
  • This continues to be a bone of contention, despite the roster being made public.
  • Roster management - The SC’s roster allocation is far less detailed when compared to those of the 4 high courts mentioned.
  • E.g. In the Delhi High Court, cases are divided between benches on the basis of not just the subject matter but also by date.
  • In the Allahabad High Court, writ petitions are divided among the benches based on which local law they are concerned with.
  • The SC’s roster, on the other hand, is just a list of case categories allocated to certain judges.
  • No classification or division has been made between the benches.
  • It is quite clear that roster management is a bit better in the high courts than in the SC.

What is the concern with PILs?

  • The fact that the CJI’s court will be the only one to hear Public Interest Litigations is also problematic.
  • To be fair, PILs constitute a very small number of the total cases in the SC.
  • No more than 1% of cases in the SC are PILs.
  • This is even after including appeals from judgements of high courts in PIL cases and PILs filed in the SC itself.
  • Nevertheless, PILs also, than most other case types, raise important issues.
  • Given this and questions over CJI's integrity and independence, only the CJI hearing PILs is unlikely to inspire much confidence.

What should be done?

  • The continuing concern calls for laying down clear and specific norms to guide the CJI’s exercise of discretion.
  • This is also the demand that the four senior-most judges made.
  • They have asked for a panel, instead of the roster being determined by the CJI alone.
  • Proper procedures and norms for the preparation of the roster should be put in place.
  • An internal mechanism, instead of just the individual CJI, can also ensure some level of continuity and consistency.


Source: The Indian Express

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