Major cases and the collegium: a study

Justice Pattanaik was CJI only for just a little over a month, during which 24 judgments with benches of three or more judges were delivered. At the other end of the spectrum, former CJIs H.L. Dattu (68%), R.M. Lodha (67.5%), K.G. Balakrishnan (55.1%) and A.S. Anand (63.5%) used other collegium members most in cases involving three judges or more, going by the judgment percentages. In Justice Misra’s case, the involvement of other collegium judges increased after the January 12 press conference; overall, as of July 31, it went up to 33.9%. A comparative assessment of Chief Justices in terms of involvement of other collegium members in judgments involving bench sizes of three or more is presented in the accompanying table. There were over 2,400 such judgments between January 1999 and July 2018, of which 224 were delivered by Constitution Benches — those with five judges or more. The average representation for collegium judges (barring the CJI) in major cases was 52.1% for this period. In nearly two-thirds of the cases referred to various benches (of three judges and above), Chief Justice Misra did not appoint a single Collegium judge other than himself. In the five judgments delivered by Constitution Benches before Justice Chelameshwar’s retirement, no fellow member of the collegium was involved. His retirement saw the inclusion in the collegium of Justice A.K. Sikri, who was a part of the Constitution Bench that delivered the judgment in the Govt. of Delhi vs. Lt. Governor case. Case allocation in the Supreme Court is based on a number of factors, largely related to the expertise of various judges. But senior judges have generally been represented in higher numbers in benches numbering three and above. The four collegium judges who complained about case allocation had felt that cases were allocated to junior hand-picked judges against the conventions of the court. The data here records how cases involving three judges or more were allocated by different CJIs since January 1999.

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