Supreme Court Current Affairs

Supreme Court once again upholds Chief Justice of India as Master of Roster

The Supreme Court in latest ruling once again has upheld Chief Justice of India (CJI) as ‘Master of Roster’. According to ruling given by SC bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, CJI is an individual judge and not the powerful collective of five senior-most judges of Supreme Court called the ‘Collegium’. CJI has exclusive authority to allocate cases to fellow judges and is spokesperson of the court.

Background

The judgment was based on petition filed by former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan for considering expression CJI should be read as meaning Collegium for the purpose of allocation of cases. The petition had mentioned that to have collegium of Supreme Court judges collectively to allocate cases rather than leave the entire power in the hands of CJI in his administrative capacity as the ‘Master of Roster’. This is the third time Supreme Court has declared its Chief Justice as the ‘Master of Roster’. Earlier the apex court in two separate judgments in November 2017 and April 2018 had upheld CJI ‘s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches.

Recent SC Ruling (on petition of Shanti Bhushan)

Court agreed with the submission of Attorney General K K Venugopal that if allocation of cases and constitution of benches is given in multiple hands, it will lead to differences and hurdles in smooth distribution of work.

Role of Chief Justice: Though, Constitution is silent on role of Chief Justice and  does not have there is no specific provision relating thereto either in Constitution or even in any other law, but judicial position in previous judgments of court on this topic was based on sound conventions and has developed healthy practice  over time.

As per these precedents and conventions, CJI is empowered to exercise leadership on the court, and in this role he is expected to be spokesperson and representative of judiciary in its dealings with executive, among others. CJI has authority and responsibility for administration of the apex court, which gives him ultimate authority for determining the distribution of judicial work load.

CJI being the first among equals: The phrase is generally relatable to judicial function designed to emphasise fact that voices of members of particular bench, which may include ‘Chief Justice’, are given equal weight and that in deciding cases. In such bench opinion of Chief Justice carries same weight and is no different from those of other members of the bench. Thus, in given case, there is possibility that Chief Justice’s view may be minority view and in that eventuality, outcome of case may be what majority decides. The word first in this this case signifies only fact that Chief Justice is the seniormost judge of the court.

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SC extends deadline for publication of final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens

Supreme Court has extended deadline for publication of final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) from earlier June 30, 2018 to July 31, 2018. This extension comes after Central Government and the state coordinator of NRC agreed to publish it within the new time limit.

Key Facts

The NRC is being prepared to identify illegal migrants in Assam. The major northeastern state had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since early 20th century. It is the only state having an NRC, which was first prepared in 1951. SC for giving extension to deadline had considered report of state NRC coordinator. The report had mentioned that it would be not be possible to release final draft of the NRC as scheduled on June 30, 2018 due to the floods in state.

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

NRC contains the names of bona fide Indian Citizens of Assam that distinguish them from the foreigners. It is updated periodically. However, in Assam the updation could not be carried on since 1951 due to various political tensions such as Assam Movement of 1980s, the language movement and other ethnic movements.

It was first updated in 1951 but since then it has been not updated due to various political tensions such as Assam Movement of 1980s, language movement and other ethnic movements. But now it is being updated in time bound manner after Supreme Court judgment (2014) to incorporate Assam Accord of 1985 in order to tackle the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

NRC is being updated as per provisions of Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It will include names of person or their descendants whose name appear in NRC 1951 or any of Electoral Rolls up to midnight of 24th March 1971.

The actual implementation of NRC is done by Statutory Authorities i.e. Local Registrars and District Magistrates appointed by State Government. A senior official of State Government functions as State Coordinator and coordinates with Registrar General of Citizen Registration (RGI) in regard to various activities.

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