Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice: In the 144th Report on Action taken on 133rd Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the subject “Judicial Processes and their Reforms”, the Ministry accepted the recommendation for setting up regional benches of the Supreme Court of India.
The 133rd Report related to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Law and Justice was presented before the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on 7-08-2023. The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions furnished the Action Taken by Ministry of Law & Justice on the same on 8-11-2023. The Committee considered draft 144th Report and adopted the same on 6-02-2024.
The Committee made 22 recommendations/observations regarding feasibility of regional benches of Supreme Court; preparation and publication of annual reports by the Supreme Court and High Courts; possibilities of increasing retirement age of Judges of Higher Courts; reconsidering vacations in the Higher Courts; social diversity in appointment of Higher Court judges; and mandatory declaration of assets by the Judges of Higher Courts.
Considering the demand for regional benches of the Supreme Court of India, the Committee regarded the same about ‘access to justice’ being a fundamental right as per the Constitution of India. It was a long-standing demand for having regional benches of Supreme Court for taking justice to the common citizen’s doorsteps, also aimed at resolving the overflowing caseload of the judiciary and reducing cost of litigation for the common man.
It was specifically highlighted that the “Delhi-centric Supreme Court causes a big hurdle for those litigants who are coming from far-flung areas of the country” pointing towards the language barrier, challenge of finding lawyers, cost of litigation, travel, stay in Delhi, etc. raising the cost of justice. Thus, the Committee had been recommending Supreme Court to invoke Article 130 of the Constitution for establishment of regional benches at 4-5 locations across the country.
In the Action Taken Report, the previous views in denial of regional benches of Supreme Court by the Attorneys General for India – G.E. Vahanvati and Mukul Rohatgi. It further clarified that the matter was sub-judice before the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, and that the Supreme Court had been consistently rejecting the proposal for setting up Supreme Court Benches outside Delhi.