Hierarchy of courts
The Indian judicial system has divided its court into three levels. The apex court in the system is the Supreme Court of India, followed by High courts for respective states and union territories and then the lower courts at the district level. The Supreme Court is the highest and the leading court to serve justice. Besides the cases filed in this court, Supreme Court also accounts for the cases of grass root level. It is the last custodian of establishing justice in the country. It makes evident the burden of the number of cases the apex court has, upon it. As a solution, the concept of regional supreme court benches has aired into discussion several times.
In July, a Rajya Sabha member and eminent senior lawyer P Wilson introduced Private Member Bill named as Constitution Amendment Bill. The bill demands the establishment of permanent regional benches of the Supreme court in cities. The name of the cities included Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai from all the corners of the country. The bill in particular attempts to amend Article 130 of the holy Constitution which reads as,
“Seat of Supreme Court 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”
Law commissions and reports
95th report of Law Commission in 1986 highlighted the idea of the division of Supreme Court into constitutional and legal division.
125th report of Law Commission in 1988 notably exacerbated the idea proposed in the 95th report with some major recommendations. It was notified that the division of the Supreme Court will ensure speedy justice and curtail litigation costs.
The Eighteenth Law Commission in 2009 propagandised the idea. The four benches were suggested in different regions. Precisely, for northern zone-Delhi bench, southern zone- Chennai/Hyderabad, eastern zone- Kolkata, western zone- Mumbai.
Dr B.R. Ambedkar long visioned the problem decades back. He had mentioned the regional division of the Supreme Court to ensure the right to a fair justice system.
In 2019 Mr Venkaiah Naidu manifested the bifurcation of the Supreme Court in the book release event of Parameswara to PP. Along with boosting the appointment system of the judiciary, the regional benches of the Supreme Court was said as the foremost solution.
This idea has been put parallel to the idea of establishing tribunals for comparison. The main problem for which these are deemed as solutions is the backlogging of cases and their pendency.
Various legal pundits expressed the same. Both the ideas serve their purpose. The tribunals can resolve cases of similar nature like cases of family laws which are in plenty. The regional Supreme Courts will be the court of assistance for high courts in their regions.
The need for the regional bench was most strongly expressed by the southern states. Recently bar councils of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala jointly pleaded for the southern regional bench of the Supreme court. They claimed that the people due to lack of reach and non-affordable travelling expenses could not access the apex court of the country. A committee was formed vowed to fight this need. Mr A Narsimha Reddy, the chairman of Telangana Bar council headed the same as convenor.
Observations and implications
Some statistical data helped in decoding the issue. It was observed that the states like Punjab and Haryana could reach the Supreme Court. The north-eastern states barely could reach the highest court even at the times of the utmost need. The observation was alike for the southern region to that of the north-eastern region.
This brought the legal experts to the realization that the establishment of regional supreme courts is the solution to two big problems. Firstly this will reduce the burden of the apex court along with clearing of pending cases. Secondly, the distant states from Delhi could also approach the Supreme court. Reduction in litigation cost, speedy trials and more convenient resolve of disputes were seen as some indirect advantages.
Issues in hand
Every remedy comes with its problems. The same is the case with the idea of the regional benches of the supreme court. There will be some problems that will be detrimental to achieve the objectives behind
Non-Uniformity in the judgements
The Supreme Court needs to be just and uniform with its judgements and rulings. With different benches in action in different locations, this will be difficult to achieve. It is seen that High Courts differ with their rulings on the same issue. This regional variation is found in support of some regional beliefs and practices. The Supreme court should find the curb of the issue. If not so, this solution in no time will become another major problem of non-uniform and different interpretations of law within the courts itself.
Insufficient legal staff
Irregular appointments and an insufficient legal workforce is already an issue. With an increase in the benches of the Supreme court demands for judges, legal clerks are in place. The vacancies need to be superseded with the efficient staff in place. Without this, the regional bench of the Supreme Court will merely be an imaginable dream.
Finally, a probable solution is standing in front of us. It has the potential to fight several legal problems. No wonder the Indian Justice system will be better ten times if the idea is brought to reality along with addressing related issues. The right of fair and accessible justice to everyone will finally be looking realizable.