Judicial Pendency

What is a Constitution Bench?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Constitution Bench

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea: A new Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud is scheduled to start hearing a list of some cases from July 12.

What is a Constitution Bench?

  • The constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.

Constitution benches are set up when the following circumstances exist:

  1. Interpretation of the Constitution: Article 145(3) provides for the constitution of at least five judges of the court which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India.
  2. President of India seeking SC’s opinion: When the President has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on a question of fact or law under Article 143 of the Constitution. Article 143 of the Constitution provides for Advisory jurisdiction to the SC. As per the provision, the President has the power to address questions to the apex Court, which he deems important for public welfare.
  3. Conflicting Judgments: When two or more three-judge benches of the Supreme Court have delivered conflicting judgments on the same point of law, necessitating a definite understanding and interpretation of the law by a larger bench.
  • The Constitution benches are set up on ad hoc basis as and when the above-mentioned conditions exist.
  • Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as:
  1. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (Preventive detention)
  2. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (Basic structure doctrine) and
  3. Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.


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