Are our liberties tied to retirement dates? Why the SC roster is key to justice

Source– The post is based on the article “Are our liberties tied to retirement dates? Why the SC roster is key to justice” published in The Indian Express on 22th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Judiciary

Relevance– Indian judicial practices

News– The article explains the need to reform the current practice of the Chief justice as master of the roster.

What is the issue with the current system?

There is a fundamental question about the judiciary that has not been much discussed. It is a question of picking the judge for the case.

Despite having one body of law and the same set of facts, judges make different decisions. Part of this problem is due to the personal ideology and philosophy of judges.

What is the case of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar?

He uphold the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which gave vast unchecked powers to ED.

He dismissed Zakia Ahsan Zafri plea against a suspect SIT closure of Gujarat riots of 2002. He virtually sanctioned police action against Teesta Setalvad, the civil liberties activist. This was without notice to Setalvad. It was a departure from basic judicial norms.

Justice Khanwilkar and Pradhiwal imposed a fine of 5 lakh rupees on the petitioners who had come to the Court seeking a CBI investigation into the death of 22 tribals.

In the Zahoor Watali case, he set aside the Delhi HC judgement to provide him bail under UAPA. He told Delhi HC that it should have taken the documents submitted by the police “as it is” and not analyse them too much.

What needs to be done?

It is the sole discretion of the Chief Justice to decide the allotment of a case to particular bench and constitution of such bench.

The system of Chief Justice as master of roster needs reform.

Collegium can be preferred over Chief Justice in selecting judges to hear the most important cases.

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