Master of Roster PIL: Who is Asok Pande?

Who is Asok Pande? The name might not sound familiar but his petition in Supreme Court seeking rules to regulate constitution of benches had hogged the limelight a few weeks ago.

Pande in his petition had described himself as a lawyer practicing in Allahabad High Court. As per his petition, he had moved the Supreme Court pursuant to the press conference by the four Supreme Court judges.

He had prayed that Rules be framed for constituting benches and allotting jurisdiction to different Benches in the Supreme Court and High Courts. Further, it was also prayed by him that Constitution Benches constituted by Supreme Court should be composed of five senior-most judges.

The Bench headed by CJI heard Pande for less than five minutes before reserving verdict in the matter without issuing notice to the respondent, i.e. the Supreme Court. And two days later, the Court delivered a 16-page verdict in which asserted the power of the Chief Justice of India to oversee listing of matters, while stating that in the allocation of cases and the constitution of benches, the Chief Justice has an exclusive prerogative.

The manner in which the matter was listed, heard and reserved for judgment had raised a lot of questions regarding the bona fides of the petitioner.

And yesterday Pande made a curious appearance during the hearing of the PIL filed by Shanti Bhushan seeking to regulate the power of Chief Justice of India as the master of roster.

During the hearing, Pande who was standing on the respondents side (opposing Bhushan’s petition) pointed out that the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict affirming CJI as master of roster.

It is indeed curious that a petitioner who had prayed that rules be framed for constituting Benches and had had his prayer turned down would now attempt to bring his failed attempt to the Court’s notice in a case (to which he is not a party) seeking a check on CJI’s power.

The question remains – who is Asok Pande?

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