Judicial Reforms

Cabinet approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Against the backdrop of rising cases in the Supreme Court, the Union Cabinet has approved increasing the number of judges in the top court from the present 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India.

Judges in Supreme Court

  • At present, the Supreme Court is working with its full sanctioned strength of 31.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges’ strength from 25 to 30 (excluding the CJI).
  • The decision of the Cabinet came days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wrote to PM Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

Why need more Judges?

  • Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law was not being formed.
  • This rise also aims to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.

What are Constitution Benches?

  • Constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the SC which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India or “for the purpose of hearing any reference” made by the President of India under Article 143.
  • It consist of at least five judges of the court.
  • This provision has been mandated by Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India.
  • The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.
  • Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (basic structure doctrine) and Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.

Timeline: Number of Judges

  • The original Constitution of 1950 had envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and seven puisne judges, leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI).
  • This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.
  • The working strength of the Supreme court was, however, restricted to 15 judges by the Cabinet (excluding the chief Justice of India) till the end of 1979.
  • But the restriction was withdrawn at the request of the Chief Justice of India.
  • In 1986, the strength of the top court was increased to 25, excluding the CJI.
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further augmented the strength of the court from 25 to 30.

Back2Basics

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution who has been

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India
  • is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the supreme court
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