Arbitrarily letting junior judges head benches in the Supreme Court will harm the rule of law, four retired judges wrote to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Sunday, throwing their weight behind four rebel judges in the apex court who have complained against the country's top judge.
"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," read the letter by the four former judges.
They are Justice PB. Sawant, a former Supreme Court judge, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice K Chandru, a former judge of the Madras High Court, and Justice H Suresh, a former judge of the Bombay High Court.
They said they agreed with the view of the rebel judges that the Chief Justice despite being the master of roster cannot assign cases "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."
They said this "must be done immediately" to restore public confidence in the judiciary and in the Supreme Court.
"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 five 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."
The four judges -- Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- who are the senior most after Justice Misra in that order on Friday rebelled against the Chief Justice over allocation of cases, saying the administration of the top court was "not in order".
The four judges also released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was "not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues".