Towards a true Constitutional Court

Jun 11 2014, 02:04 IST
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SummaryNow it is for the new government to take a call on whether or not to make the Supreme Court the Constitutional Court of the country and set up four National Courts of Appeal.

The huge backlog of cases in courts and the delays in the administration of justice have made lawyers revive the demand for setting up of Constitutional and Cassation Courts as the step may ease the work of the Supreme Court. Cries for such parallel set-ups have become louder as lawyers feel that establishing Supreme Court benches in three different regions will facilitate quality legal services at the doorstep.

The Bombay Lawyers Association has written a letter to the Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad suggesting that the Constitution Bench of the apex court can remain in Delhi while the other three regional benches can be formed for dealing with appeals from high courts in their respective regions—west, east and south. This can save both time and money as the lawyers would not be forced to travel to Delhi for appeals in the apex court.

Restructuring of the Supreme Court has been long on the Law Commission’s agenda. The Law Commission in 2009, under the chairmanship of Justice AR Lakshmanan, had recommended that Supreme Court benches be set up in Chennai/Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai to enhance accessibility to litigants due to increasing number of appeals against lower court orders.

In its 2nd (2004), 6th (2005) and 15th (2006) reports, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice periodically suggested that the benches of the Supreme Court have to be established in the three regions in order to fulfil the vision of speedy justice for all. Even the panel in the 14th Lok Sabha, headed by Pranab Mukherjee, pointed out the necessity of setting up more benches to ameliorate hardship of litigants who travel long distances to reach the apex court.

However, such suggestions were rejected by the Supreme Court every time. Former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was against dividing the top institution’s unitary character. “I am not in favour of the disintegration of the Supreme Court. Personally I feel the Supreme Court cannot be in any other part of India. This is the highest court of the land. It is in the capital city of the land … It is a final court and we should maintain the integrity of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Recently, the apex court under former Chief Justice P Sathasivam entertained a PIL by Puducherry-based advocate V Vasantha Kumar on the issue. The top court has sought reply from the Centre and the law ministry on converting itself into the country’s

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