Establishing circuit benches can help reduce the burden
So far as the SC is concerned, we need to introspect whether ordinary citizens are really able to approach the apex court, given the geographical distance from different corners of the country, the problem of finding accommodation and the arduous process of engaging a good lawyer in Delhi. Ordinary citizens cannot dream of approaching the SC.
Recently, the prime minister said speedy justice should be provided to ordinary citizens at an affordable cost. But the situation today is such that only the rich, corporate or ‘some people with sponsors’ can approach the apex court. I have the highest respect for the SC. But, to my mind, to provide real justice to ordinary people at the apex court, it is essential to set up circuit benches in different parts of the country. The usual argument against it was that it will bifurcate/trifurcate the SC itself and diminish its authority and status. Such an argument must be rejected. Question can never be of all learned judges sitting at the same place but, dispersing justice to the litigants, including ordinary citizens, in an appropriate manner.
I was asked whether it was necessary to curtail the SC’s jurisdiction to only very important issues and not burden it with ordinary litigation, including appeals. I feel 2-3 SC judges could constitute the circuit benches and dispose of the appeals at different centres in their capacity as SC judges, making their judgements final. The Chief Justice of India will remain in Delhi with other learned judges who would decide on issues of constitutional importance or of great national importance — those cases that may be so designated by the bench in Delhi or other circuit benches.
I am not suggesting this is the only method that can be applied. But at least serious thought be given and action taken to ensure speedy and efficient justice for common man at reasonable cost. Also, identifying maladies and then expecting changes will happen on their own will not do. I had the privilege of seeing the first bench of SC functioning at Parliament building. They had the most difficult judicial work to do in the formative years after Independence and the constitution of the SC. Yet, they have delivered judgements that have endured forever.
The problems that have cropped up today are not due to the increase in the number of litigation with population growth. But one needs to examine what types of litigation before the SC that have multiplied and what innovation has been introduced. Also, we need to consider whether enlargement of the scope of litigation in different high courts and Supreme Court have caused proliferation of litigation.