Why is establishing regional benches of the supreme court unconstitutional?
By swatee Shukla
Setting up regional benches of the supreme court may be unconstitutional on the following basis-
Threat to the superiority of the Supreme Court: Setting up regional benches of the Supreme Court would dilute its constitutional superiority and prestige. SC of India has been a sturdy institution, which remains incomparable in the service that it has rendered to the nation. Diving its function is basically restricting the wide jurisdiction of the Court, and sabotaging those powers which probably make the SC of India one of the most powerful Supreme Courts in the world.
2. Violates the Basic structure Doctrine: As stated by the Union Ministry of Law & Justice in 2014 – That establishing SC benches with Article 130 of the constitution of India would be tantamount to tampering with the basic constitutional framework of the constitution. Such an amendment would divest the SC of its extraordinary powers about hearing appeals. Any bifurcation of the Supreme Court would require an amendment to the constitution. Specifically, Article 136, which in turn would impact the Basic structure Doctrine. The Basic Structure Doctrine of the Indian Constitution is untouchable under the SC judgment on Keshavananda Bharati vs. The State of Kerala (1973)
3. Threat to the Single and Unified judicial system of India: This proposition is unconstitutional because fragmentation of the Supreme Court would lead to fragmented verdicts due to a clash of authorities and since, the SC is required to unify law across India, having multiple benches of the same would hinder its goal.
More on Article 136: Article 136. Allows Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court:
1. Notwithstanding anything in Article 132 - 134, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence, or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.
2. Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to any judgment, determination, and sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces. When we divide the SC into regional benches, it is implicit that matters under Article 136 from that area would go to those benches only. This can prevent issues of national importance raised in individual cases from reaching the attention of the whole country. At the same time, fragmenting the power of Article 136 can cause serious damage in the sense that too much power is in the hands of too many. Moreover, The Supreme Court of India currently, is a one-stop solution to all unique questions of law that arise in new issues. When we divide this power between benches, different solutions may be offered for the problems with the same facts, creating a confusion of authority. There will be no way to determine what solution must be binding on all courts of law. And to add to this conundrum we will have to amend Article 136 to be able to distribute it among the many benches and that would be unconstitutional under the Basic structure doctrine established in the Keshavananda Bharti vs. The State of Kerala case (Diluting the power and integrity of the SC is against the Basic Structure doctrine of the Indian constitution).
Everything kept aside, we cannot ignore the power of the Supreme Court that has been established through landmark judgments. In Ramakant Rai Vs. Madan Rai, (AIR 2004) the SC said that a private individual too, could bring a case against the States, dropped by the state after a judgment from lower courts or high courts to the attention of the SC. In such a scenario, taking up the cases to regional benches would again, dilute this authority. This is a matter of not one or two or a few landmark judgments. It is a matter of authority established in all of them
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