JURISDICTION OF THE BENCH:

41. The court is ‘not to yield to spasmodic sentiments to vague and unregulated benevolence’. The court ‘is to exercise discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system’. This Court in State of Rajasthan v. Prakash Chand and Ors., AIR 1998 SC 1344 observed as under:

Judicial authoritarianism is what the proceedings in the instant case smack of. It cannot be permitted under any guise. Judges must be circumspect and self-disciplined in the discharge of their judicial functions”It needs no emphasis to say that all actions of a Judge must be judicious in character. Erosion of credibility of the judiciary, in the public mind, for whatever reasons, is the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary. Eternal vigilance by the Judges to guard against any such latent internal danger is, therefore, necessary, lest we ‘suffer from self-inflicted mortal wounds’. We must remember that the Constitution does not give unlimited powers to anyone including the Judge of all levels. The societal perception of Judges as being detached and impartial referees is the greatest strength of the judiciary and every member of the judiciary must ensure that this perception does not receive a setback consciously or unconsciously. Authenticity of the judicial process rests on public confidence and public confidence rests on legitimacy of judicial process. Sources of legitimacy are in the impersonal application by the Judge of recognised objective principles which owe their existence to a system as distinguished from subjective moods, predilections, emotions and prejudices. It is most unfortunate that the order under appeal founders on this touchstone and is wholly unsustainable.

42. This Court in State of U.P. and Ors. v. Neeraj Chaubey and Ors., (2010) 10 SCC 320, had taken note of various judgments of this Court including State of Maharashtra v. Narayan Shamrao Puranik, AIR 1982 SC 1198; Inder Mani v. Matheshwari Prasad, (1996) 6 SCC 587; Prakash Chand (Supra); R. Rathinam v. State (2002) 2 SCC 391; and Jasbir Singh v. State of Punjab, (2006) 8 SCC 294, and came to the conclusion that the Chief Justice is the master of roster. The Chief Justice has full power, authority and jurisdiction in the matter of allocation of business of the High Court which flows not only from the provisions contained in Sub-section (3) of Section 51 of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, but inheres in him in the very nature of things. The Chief Justice enjoys a special status and he alone can assign work to a Judge sitting alone and to the Judges sitting in Division Bench or Full Bench. He has jurisdiction to decide which case will be heard by which Bench. The Court held that a Judge or a Bench of Judges can assume jurisdiction in a case pending in the High Court only if the case is allotted to him or them by the Chief Justice. Strict adherence of this procedure is essential for maintaining judicial discipline and proper functioning of the Court. No departure from this procedure is permissible.

In Prakash Chand (Supra), this Court dealt with a case wherein the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court had withdrawn a part-heard matter from one Bench and directed it to be listed before another Bench. However, the earlier Bench still made certain observations. While dealing with the issue, this Court held that it was the exclusive prerogative of the Chief Justice to withdraw even a partheard matter from one Bench and to assign it to any other Bench. Therefore, the observations made by the Bench subsequent to withdrawal of the case from that Bench and disposal of the same by another Bench were not only unjustified and unwarranted but also without jurisdiction and made the Judge coram non-judice.

It is a settled legal proposition that no Judge or a Bench of Judges assumes jurisdiction unless the case is allotted to him or them under the orders of the Chief Justice.

It has rightly been pointed out by the Full Bench of Allahabad High Court in Sanjay Kumar Srivastava v. Acting Chief Justice 1996 AWC 644, that if the Judges were free to choose their jurisdiction or any choice was given to them to do whatever case they would like to hear and decide, the machinery of the court could have collapsed and judicial functioning of the court could have ceased by generation of internal strife on account of hankering for a particular jurisdiction or a particular case.

43. In view of the above, the legal regime, in this respect emerges to the effect that the Bench gets jurisdiction from the assignment made by the Chief Justice and the Judge cannot choose as which matter he should entertain and he cannot entertain a petition in respect of which jurisdiction has not been assigned to him by the Chief Justice as the order passed by the court may be without jurisdiction and made the Judge coram non-judice.


SOURCE: State of Punjab Versus Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar and Others