Government removes the cap on the number of jurists and lawyers who can be appointed to the Supreme Court as judges. (Source: Supreme Court of India website)

Chief Justice Sets Up Five-Judge Constitution Bench To Hear Major Issues

Amid a virtual rift between the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four senior-most judges over assignment of important cases, the Supreme Court today announced the composition of a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by the CJI.

As per official information, the five-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, will commence the hearing on a range of crucial matters from Jan. 17.

None of the four senior judges who spoke publicly on Friday -- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- feature in the list of members of the five-judge Constitution Bench.

Supreme Court Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur, and Kurian Joseph during a press conference in New Delhi on January 12, 2018. (Photographer: Ravi Choudhary/PTI)
Supreme Court Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur, and Kurian Joseph during a press conference in New Delhi on January 12, 2018. (Photographer: Ravi Choudhary/PTI)

Court sources told PTI that it was not confirmed whether the CJI met the four judges who had hurled accusations against him at their controversial press conference on Jan. 12.

As per the list of business for tomorrow, the five-judge bench will hear major cases such as those challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and its 2013 judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults.

Last year, the same combination of judges had heard various matters ranging from the power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government over administrative jurisdiction and a matter relating to passive euthanasia.

This bench would also hear the contentious issue of the ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala's Sabarimala temple and resume hearing a legal query on whether a Parsi woman would lose her religious identity if she marries outside the community.

Another disputed matter is the challenge to the validity of a penal law on adultery, which only punishes a married man for having an extra-marital sexual relationship with another married woman.

Other issues to be dealt with by the constitution bench include the pleas, which have raised a question as to when will a lawmaker facing criminal trial stand disqualified. All these matters were earlier referred to larger benches for adjudication by different benches of the apex court.

The daily list of business for Tuesday includes a public litigation seeking a probe into Justice Loya's death. The matter is listed before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, against whom aspersions were cast by a senior advocate publicly.

In their unprecedented press conference on Friday, the four senior judges of the apex court mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI, listing a litany of problems, including the assignment of cases. They also raised questions over listing of PILs concerning Loya's death.

An office bearer of the Supreme Court Bar Association said a copy of their resolution was submitted by its president Vikas Singh to the CJI yesterday, but they have not heard anything from the top court as yet.

Singh had expressed hope that all judges of the apex court would consider the SCBA resolution seeking a full court discussion to defuse the crisis plaguing the higher judiciary.

The SCBA, at an emergency meeting on Sunday, passed the resolution expressing grave concern over the differences of four senior-most judges with the CJI. It said that all public interest litigation matters, including the pending PILs, should be either taken up by the CJI or be assigned for adjudication to four senior judges who are part of the apex court collegium.