The Rajya Sabha on 7th August 2019 passed the Supreme Court (Number of Judges), Amendment Bill, 2019. The apical bench will now have 3 more presiding judges, thus increasing the body by 10%.
The Judiciary System of India
The Supreme Court of India replaced the Federal Court of India and the Privy council of British India on 28th January 1950. It is the most powerful court in India. It conducts judicial reviews and additional powers in the form of original, appellate, and advisory jurisdictions. Any law declared by the Supreme Court of India is applicable all over the country.
If appealed, the institution normally reviews verdicts delivered by the High Courts of India. It is an advisory court and mainly concerns itself with reviewing judgments, unlike the lower courts which are fact collecting courts. Although all infringements against the fundamental rights are directly filed in the Supreme Court.
The constitution guarantees the independence of the Supreme Court. The court has the inherent jurisdiction to give any orders which are in the interest of being just.
Article 50 of Directive Principles of State Policy guarantees the independence of the judiciary and supremacy of the constitution. Courts also have the authority to file cases suo moto i.e. a situation when the court files a case on its own in case of a relevant matter, in the interest of the general public, for which no plea has been filed. The judge is appointed by the president of India who confers his authority from clause (2) article 124 of the Constitution of India.
The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019
This bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications, Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology. The bill intends to amend the original 1956 act.
It will increase the strength from 30 to 33 excluding the Chief Justice of India. As per Article 124(1) the parliament’s consent is necessary for increasing the capacity of the number of judges on the bench.
The original act included 1956, allowed only 10 judges, this was in increased to 16 and later 17 in 1960 and 1977 respectively. In 1979, the strength was restricted to 15 but was later withdrawn on the then Chief Justice of India’s appeal. In 1986 the strength further increased to 25, excluding the Chief Justice. The penultimate amendment the strength was increased to 30.
As of June 2019, there were 58,669 cases pending in the Supreme Court, a staggering increase of about 36% from 2006 and an inadequate number of judges happened to be one of the primary reasons.
The then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi requested Prime Minister Modi to “augment the judge strength in the SC appropriately” to enable the apex court un more efficiently. He explained that the insufficiency of judges often causes a hindrance setting up five-judge Constitution benches when cases involving substantial questions of law or the interpretation of the Constitution. He has also requested to amend the retirement age to 65 from the initial 62.
The amendment will take place in Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 where the word “thirty” will be substituted for “thirty-three”. The increase in the capacity will allow the Supreme Court to function more efficiently and effectively towards the ultimate goal of delivering justice to the litigants.
The meeting was presided by M Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice president of India an ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He asked if the bill was a money bill to which the Law minister answered that it would be up for discussion on the judiciary in November
Ghulam Nabi Azad who is the leader of opposition said, “We have no objection to it…but members of Parliament want to discuss it as we normally do not discuss judiciary…We get a chance once in a decade or six months…We would also want to know about the judiciary.”
BSP leader Satish Chandra requested that the government also include provisions for the representation of Schedule casts in the court.
Considering the soaring number of backlog cases in courts all over India, the bill should speed up the process of obtaining justice for citizens. The Supreme Court of India is one of the most prestigious bodies in the world it is a celebration of the democratic philosophy of the country. If issues such as these are not resolved quickly, the body will eventually lose the prestige and influence it once had. The population will eventually lose faith in it and may resort to unethical measures and lead to anarchy. Many people are hesitant to even file cases in courts due to its tediousness
On September four new Chief Justice’s from the High Courts of Himachal Pradesh, Krishna Murari from Punjab, and Haryana High Court were elevated to constitute the newly formed 33 judges of the Supreme Court.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the total strength of the judges in the Supreme Court?
33+ the Chief justice of India
How many cases are pending in the Supreme Court?
As of June 2019, there are 58,669 cases pending in the Supreme court
What role or authority does the Supreme Court have?
The Supreme Court mainly plays an advisory role; it reviews judgments given by the lower courts although in case of infringement of a fundamental right one has to directly file to the Supreme court.
Whom does the judiciary have to consult with before increasing its strength/ limit?
The judiciary has to get the assent of the parliament before increasing its strength as per Article 124 (1).