Master of Roster; Chief Justice of India

Supreme Court

Context: Supreme Court while underlining the importance of the roster has said that Judges have to follow discipline and ought not to take up any case unless it is specifically assigned by the Chief Justice.

Chief Justice of India as Master of Roster   

Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the master of roster, and in this role he alone has the power to allocate cases.   

  • Registrar General of Supreme Court prepares the roster as per the orders of CJI and CJI alone has the prerogative to constitute Benches.
  • Roster contains general or specific instructions regarding assignment or allocation of case to a particular Bench, allocation of work of a Bench, on account of non-availability of Judges.
  • CJI may instruct the Registrar to re-allocate judicial work to some other Bench in case of emergency.
  • Forming Constitution Bench by CJI as per Article 145(3) to adjudicate matters involving substantial question of law or for interpretation of the Constitution or under Article 143 pertaining to Presidential reference.  
  • Supreme Court Rules, 2013 framed under Article 145 with the approval of the President to regulate general practice and procedure of Supreme Court.
  • In Shanti Bhushan vs Supreme Court of India through its Registrar and another case (Master of Roster case) Supreme Court clarify the administrative authority of CJI as the Master of Roster and laid down the procedure and principles preparing the Roster.

Chief Justice of High Courts as Master of Roster

In State of Rajasthan vs. Prakash Raj (1998), the Supreme Court concluded:

  • That the administrative control of the High Court vests in the Chief Justice alone. On the judicial side, however, he is only the first amongst the equals.
  • That the Chief Justice is the master of the roster in this role he alone has the prerogative to constitute benches of the court and allocated cases to the benches so constituted.
  • That the puisne Judges can only do that work as is allotted to them by the Chief Justice or under his directions.
  • That the puisne Judges cannot “pick and choose” any case pending in the High Court and assign the same to himself or themselves for disposal without appropriate orders of the Chief Justice.
  • That no Judge or Judges can give directions to the Registry for listing any case before him or them which runs counter to the directions given by the Chief Justice.

Forum Shopping

When litigants or lawyers attempt to deliberately move their case to a particular judge or Court where they think the judgment could be more favourable, they are said to be “forum shopping.”

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