The SC today reserved its order on a PIL filed by former law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the existing roster practice of allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Attorney General KK Venugopal opposed Bhushan’s PIL before a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan and said the exercise of allocation of cases has to be done by one person and that has to be the CJI. “This is not an exercise that can be taken by multiplicity of persons,” Venugopal, who was earlier asked by the top court to assist in the matter, said.

The AG also told the bench that if a number of judges are involved in deciding on the roster and allocation of cases, there might be a “chaos” over which cases should be heard by whom.

The bench also heard the submissions of senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Shanti Bhushan, on the issue. Dave told the bench that process of deciding on the roster and allocation of matters to benches in the apex court should be decided by either the Collegium or the full court. The bench had earlier said it has already held that the CJI is the ‘master of roster’.

The petition filed by Bhushan names the CJI as one of the respondents along with the registrar of the Supreme Court.

In his PIL, Shanti Bhushan has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be an “unguided and unbridled” discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.

The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the Chief Justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion”. It said such an authority should be exercised by the CJI in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncements of the court.

The petition assumes significance in light of the January 12 press conference where four senior most judges of the top court said the situation in the court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.