SC Has ‘Consistently Not Agreed’ With Proposals To Set up Regional Benches: Centre

Responding to question on pendency in courts, law minister Kiren Rijiju said that nearly 70,000 cases are pending before the apex court.

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New Delhi: Responding to a question on pendency of cases in courts, the Union government told the Rajya Sabha that the Supreme Cout has consistently not agreed to set up benches outside Delhi.

Responding to a question by Telugu Desam Party MP K. Ravindra Kumar, law minister Kiren Rijiju said that though there have been demands from time to time to set up benches of the Supreme Court in different parts of the country, the top court has not been in favour of this move.

He said that Article 130 of the constitution says, “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 Supreme Court has consistently not agreed for setting up benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi. The above recommendation of setting up of Benches was referred to the Chief Justice of India for consideration. The Chief Justice of India, in his letter dated 12th August, 2007, informed that after consideration of the matter, the full Court, in its meeting held on 7th August 2007, found no justification for deviating from its earlier resolution on the subject and unanimously resolved that the recommendation made by the Committee cannot be accepted,” Rijiju said.

He added that the Law Commission, in its 229th Report, had also suggested that a constitutional bench be set up at Delhi and four cassation benches be set up in the Northern region at Delhi, the Southern region at Chennai/Hyderabad, the Eastern region at Kolkata and the Western region at Mumbai. However, the Chief Justice of India informed that after the full court considered the matter in its meeting held on February 18, 2010 “found no justification for setting of Benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi”.

“There is a Writ Petition No. 36 of 2016 filed in the Supreme Court of India on the subject of establishment of National Court of Appeal and the matter is sub-judice in the court,” Rijiju informed.

When it comes to high courts, benches are established in accordance with the recommendations made by the Jaswant Singh Commission and the judgment pronounced by the apex court in Federation of Bar Associations in Karnataka and after due consideration of a complete proposal from the state government. Rijiju said that though requests for establishment of high court benches in places other than the principal seat of high courts have been received from various organisations, at present there is no complete proposal pending before the Union government.

Responding to another question about the “alarming” pendency of cases before the Supreme Court and high courts, the law minister said that just under 70,000 cases are pending before the apex court, while more than 5.6 million cases are pending before various high courts.

Writing for The Wire earlier this year, retired Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur said he believed “there is no way this number [of pending cases] can be substantially reduced”. He added:

“Data shows that over the last 15 years, there has been an astounding increase of about 14.2 million cases pending in high courts and district courts – an increase of almost one million per year.”