J VENKATESH IN THE HINDU
The Full Court of the Supreme Court has rejected the Law Commission’s suggestion that the highest court in the land be split into a Constitution Bench in Delhi and Cassation Benches in the four regions. The Full Court, comprising 27 judges and headed by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, which met on Thursday to consider the demand for regional Benches, reiterated its stand that dividing the Supreme Court would affect the country’s unitary character.
A unanimous resolution said the Full Court, having independently considered the earlier requests and the latest letter from Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, was of the view that regional Benches could not be established. Thereby, it reiterated the four resolutions passed in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2006, according to informed sources. Following persistent demands from lawyers from the south, particularly from Tamil Nadu, for a Bench in Chennai, the Centre has been pleading with the Supreme Court for its approval of the proposal, mandatory under Article 130 of the Constitution. Similar demands are being made by lawyers from the other regions.
Successive parliamentary committees, which went into the issue, said setting up Benches outside Delhi “would neither impair unity and integrity nor undermine the importance of the Supreme Court.” Meanwhile, the Law Commission, in its report submitted to the government in August 2009, recommended that a Constitution Bench be set up in Delhi to deal with constitutional and allied issues, and four Cassation Benches in Delhi (north), Chennai/Hyderabad (south), Kolkata (east) and Mumbai (west) to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts.
Onus on Parliament
The Commission said: “If Article 130 is liberally interpreted, no constitutional amendment may be required for setting up Cassation Benches in four regions and a Constitution Bench at Delhi. If it is found that Article 130 cannot be stretched to make it possible to implement the recommendations, Parliament should enact suitable legislation/constitutional amendment for this purpose.” It was in this context that the Minister urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.