With CJI Dipak Misra to Hear All Sensitive Cases, Could the New SC Roster Add Fuel to the Fire?

The new 'subject-wise' roster shows what type of cases will be listed before benches headed by the 12 seniormost judges of the apex court.

Less than a month after four Supreme Court judges aired their grievances about how cases are allocated ‘arbitrarily’ during an unprecedented press conference, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, as ‘master of the roster’ has adopted a new system, one in which all politically-sensitive cases and PIL matters fall to him.

The new system will come into effect from February 5.

The roster, which has been made public on the Supreme Court’s website, puts all fresh PILs, letter petitions, election matters, social justice matters, contempt of court cases and matters related to commissions of enquiry in Misra’s court.

Considering how the main complaint of the four judges on January 12 was how they were not being allocated sensitive cases despite their seniority, the new roster may serve to only add fuel to the fire.

Here’s how the cases have been divided:

Justice Chelameswar, who ranks second in the court, will hear matters related to crime, labour, taxation, land disputes, general cases involving financial transactions, and water laws.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is expected to be the next chief justice, will handle cases related to religious disputes, government tenders, personal laws, banking, and other cases.

Justice Madan Lokur has been handed matters related to land disputes, forests and environment conservation, paramilitary forces and other civil cases.

Justice Kurian Joseph will hear matters related to labour laws, rent acts, family laws, personal laws and other religious matters.

Benches headed by justices Arun Mishra and Rohinton Nariman will hear matters related to the establishment and recognition of educational institutions, including medical and engineering colleges, Bar and Bench reported.

The move has already been met with criticism, particularly as cases that could have a national impact – such as the bloated Aadhaar case and the mysterious death of CBI judge B.H. Loya – will all be heard by the CJI. More so, there could be a backlash, particularly as various opposite parties, including the Congress and CPI(M), are considering moving an impeachment motion against the CJI.

“As far as impeachment is concerned, the matter is serious. Leaders of the Left parties have spoken to us. We are also talking to others. Such decisions cannot be taken in a hurry,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

Also read: Loya Case the Tipping Point, Four SC Judges Say Democracy Is in Danger

Sibal’s remarks came at a press conference held at the Congress headquarters with Nagpur-based lawyer Satish Uke, where the Congress demanded an independent probe into judge Loya’s death, citing the doubts raised by the deceased judge’s sister and other family members.

Loya officially died of cardiac arrest on December 1, 2014 in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend a wedding. Sibal also alleged that Loya’s post-mortem report was “manipulated”, citing media reports on the same doctor doing three post-mortems on the same day.

The Congress also raised questions about what it said were the unexplained deaths of lawyer activist Shrikant Khandalkar and retired judge Prakash Thombre. Loya had confided in Khandalkar and Thombre about the pressure he was facing to exonerate the accused in the Sohrabuddin murder case and sought their help, a note circulated during the meeting said. Both men subsequently died mysterious deaths, the Congress alleged.

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter to point out how Misra has ensured that the other judges only hear “mundane cases”.