New Delhi: The Supreme Court, being the highest constitutional court in the country, strives towards being efficient. It has brought about changes in its system of working from time to time to be able to meet the growing bulk of cases and dispose them speedily.
One recent example is the setting up of five-judge benches to hear matters requiring interpretation of the Constitution, every Monday and Friday, to accelerate their disposal.
In a bid to assist the apex court, which is burdened by pending cases, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, an independent legal policy and advisory group, in its report titled, ‘Towards an Efficient and Effective Supreme Court’, has sought to address the backlog and other issues by assimilating and analyzing data of around 49,000 cases in 2014.
One of the main reasons for the rising pendency in the SC is that it is the first court of appeal from the orders of various tribunals. These consist of tribunals established under the Electricity Act, 2003, Competition Act, 2002, Telecom Regulation Authority Of India, 1997, among others. In addition, the SC also grants special permission to be heard against an order or decree of any court if there is a substantial question of law to be addressed.
Since this provision of special appeal leads to indiscriminate increase in the number of cases, the report suggests that greater restraint and judicial discipline be exercised by the court in selecting the cases it admits under this provision.
An interesting finding of the report was that the number of cases pending in the apex court at the end of each calendar year has increased from 58,931 to 81,583 in a span of 10 years, from 2004 to 2014. It also noted that appointing a senior advocate to argue a matter nearly doubles the chances of a notice being issued as opposed to instances where no senior advocate appears.
A cue was also taken from Supreme Court’s experiment of constituting a two-judge bench to deal with taxation cases. The bench heard more than 1,000 cases between March and December 2015.
In this regard, a suggestion to reduce backlog was to constitute specialized rosters and benches according to different classes of cases such as land, service, taxation and criminal matters, and engaging judges according to their areas of expertise, past work experience and personal inclinations.
The report also noted that the SC had become a regular court of appeals and in order to deal with this problem, laying down timelines for adjudication, expanding e-court facilities such as video conferencing could be looked into.