If the Supreme Court is inaccessible to a large segment of society because of cost barriers, then doesn’t it amount to total denial of justice? The apex court is the last resort for justice, and in my estimate 9 out of 10 cases of failure of justice are not brought to its notice because people simply cannot afford the cost. The misery is compounded by the declining standards prevailing in the lower judiciary. The framers of the Constitution fell into grievous error when in 1950 they did not provide for setting up of benches of the Supreme Court at other major centres—because they ought to have appreciated the fact that India’s population at the time was about 40 crore and its territories extended from Kanyakumari to Ladakh and from Kutch to Calcutta, and that the overwhelming majority of the population were poor or middle-class.
Article 136 of the Constitution creates a right to appeal by Special Leave to the Supreme Court from any judgement, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India. How then can the Supreme Court sit only in Delhi? Even so, the Constitution makers did envisage that at some time in the future benches of the Supreme Court at other places would be necessary and, therefore, empowered the Chief Justice of India to set them up from time to time, with the approval of the president. But here too, conferring this power on one authority was again a grave error. The power should have been vested in a body of persons representing all stakeholders.
Unfortunately, the power has not been exercised even after a lapse of 63 years despite the Law Commission of India headed by former CJI A.R. Lakshmanan recommending setting up of benches at four other places in India in its 229th report. The proposal was rejected by the Chief Justice of India on the wholly untenable ground that it would affect the court’s unitary character.
Such an argument was not contemplated by Article 130, which places no impediments on the CJI if he wishes to create SC benches elsewhere. So the decision in the circumstances we see now, in my view, amounts to abdication of power and failure to perform a duty. I agitated this matter by addressing letters dated 27/4/2012 and 11/7/2012 to the then CJI S.H. Kapadia pointing out the gravity of the situation and urging him to set the ball rolling. I did not even receive an acknowledgment. I then addressed a letter to just retired CJI Justice Altamas Kabir, complaining that the SC had shown complete lack of transparency and accountability by ignoring my letters. I received a cryptic reply dated 23/1/2013 from the assistant registrar that the proposal of the Law Commission, which was forwarded by the central government for implementation, had been rejected and therefore no action could be taken on my representations. The learned chief justice surprisingly did not state as to why the issue could not be revisited in the light of recent research done by renowned academicians, which showed that cost was a barrier to approaching the Supreme Court.
The author is a former Additional Solicitor General of India; E-mail your columnist: letters AT outlookindia.com
The biggest litigator in the Supreme Court is the government (People’s Verdict, Sep 9). Ban the state from filing appeals in the SC and the problem will go away.
The judicial system is SLOW, corrupt, anti-male, communal, casteist and inefficient
Let us talk about THAT, first.
The entier system sucks.How many courts should the case go through?At least 3 to 5 courts!That too only if the case is not refrred back.In India justice is at a premium.Poor can hardly fight.Most of the lower courts are corrupt and the judges can be bought.When people elect thugs in elections after elections how can one expect the malady to disappear in the legal system.India has a great tradtion of injustice and let us admit.
The biggest litigator in the SC is the govt. Ban the govt from filing appeals to the SC and the problem will go away.
The Supreme court is a bottomless pit. No matter how much judges are appointed it will always be overwhelmed by case backlogs. Because they never tire to take mandane cases that should have been resolved by lower courts. In no other country the Supreme court takes the role of traffic management and decide tint colour of the car windows. It is lawyers paradise but shame to the nation.
Unless this court see constitutional issue in every traffic regulation, and make Rosa Park in each issue.
People don't want to appear in court, because it seems people view court proceedings like the 'savages' view summary executions in a 'Banana Republic', whatever a 'savage', and a Banana Republic mean. What happens in courts, are in the interests of the public, and the people who are involved in lawsuit, are the interests of people who will either help or harm them, in the larger interests of democracy and society, over and above the court deliberations, and judgments.
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