From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 130, Circuit Court
Mains level : Judicial accessibility
TN Chief Minister yet again reiterated the State’s request for establishing a Regional Bench of the Supreme Court in Chennai and allowing Tamil to be used in the Madras High Court as one of its official languages.
Why in news?
- Outgoing Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu suggested bifurcation of the Supreme Court into four regional benches for speedy disposal of cases.
- However, the Supreme Court has maintained on previous occasions that there is no need for such benches outside Delhi.
Why the Supreme Court is located in New Delhi?
- Article 130 of the Constitution of India reads- The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.
- The law thus provides scope for setting up the Supreme Court in multiple places, subject to the concurrence of the CJI and the President.
Who can establish the SC benches outside New Delhi?
- The Supreme Court in Union of India v. S.P. Anand Verdict (2009), held that the Article vests exclusive discretionary powers on the matter with the Chief Justice of India.
- It is an enabling provision and if the Chief Justice (after taking relevant factors into account) feels that the Court should sit elsewhere, s/he can seek the President’s approval for it.
- No authority can compel the Chief Justice of India to act in a particular way under the Article.
Voices for circuit benches
- The Law Commission in its 229th Report had suggested setting up a Constitution Bench of the Court in New Delhi and four other benches in different regions i.e., Northern region in Delhi, Southern region in Chennai/Hyderabad, Easter region in Kolkata and Western region in Mumbai.
- However, this idea did not find favour with the Judges of the Supreme Court.
Reasons for having Regional/Circuit Benches
- Access to Justice: Many litigants are discouraged to travel to Delhi from far away locations like south or northeast India.
- Geographical Constraints: A disproportionately high number of cases filed in the Supreme Court originated in High Courts closer to Delhi. Hence coming up with regional benches will remove this constraint.
- Huge pendency of cases: Increased workload on the Supreme Court and at present more than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.
- Reducing Cost of Justice: It is observed that besides travelling to New Delhi, engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.
Advantages of having circuit courts
- Promotes Article 39A: It has been pointed out that Article 39A says that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity.
- Remove Geographical Constraints: It is high time we had more benches because in a country as vast as India the litigants have to travel long distances and spend a huge amount of money and energy.
- Upholding the spirit of the constitution: Setting up Benches outside Delhi would neither impair unity and integrity nor undermine the importance of the Supreme Court.