Whether establishment of regional benches of supreme court constitutional?
By swatee shukla
The Constitution of India talks about justice for all people regardless of economic or other disabilities in its Article 39A. Hence, establishing of Supreme Court will mobilise the cause of this provision. According to P.N. Bhagwati the SC is supposed to look into constitutional matters but as it is, the SC is entangled in appeal issues hence not being able to deliver its former role. Moreover, from the opinion advanced by the Law Commission a liberal reading of Article 130 clearly allows that setting up of SC cassation benches is completely constitutional.
Under 39A Setting up of regional benches of Supreme Court is constitutional because article 39A talks about equal opportunities to obtain justice for all. Statistics show that the Supreme Court cases are almost always highly dominated by people of North India with 90% of cases from Delhi, Allahabad, Punjab & Haryana HCs. Due to the lesser distance, the cost of reaching the SC is lesser for the people of North India and more for the people of southern states hence, the principle of equal opportunity is failed. By setting up regional benches of SC, it will become easier for people of southern India to reach the highest court of appeal and hence, the constitutional value of equality will be upheld.
Views of Justice P.N. Bhagwati: If we take into account what Justice P.N. Bhagwati has said “Supreme court was meant to be a constitutional Court and not merely another court of appeal”, we find that the situation of the court does not align with his words. The court is currently overburdened with the matters of appeal, which sometimes take up more time than a constitutional matter. There has been an average of only ten - Five judge constitutional benches constituted per year, in comparison to a hundred per year during the 1960s. As per article 145(3) these benches are required in all cases of important constitutional matters, but courts being overburdened by appeal cases, important constitutional matters are being side-lined. Hence, in the light of 145(3) setting up of regional benches is an important constitutional matter.
Under Article 130: Article 130 of constitution of India states that the SC shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the chief justice may, with the approval of president, from time to time appoint. Hence, SC can sit not only in Delhi but also in any other place or places.
The many law commission reports: The 229th Law Commission report says that if article 130 is liberally interpreted, no constitutional amendment may be required for purpose of setting up cassation benches in multiple regions and a constitutional bench at Deli.
Action by CJI with president’s approval is enough, it may also be noted that as CJI acts as a designated persona for the SC there is no requirement to consult any other authority/person, only the presidential assent should be enough. Establishment of the cassation benches of Supreme Court will help the judiciary of India meet the ends of justice by clearing this backlog.