Referred to Larger Bench X: Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

My Lord, Is the huge pendency of cases in the Supreme Court, caused by the Court not restricting its consideration, as in the case of the Apex Courts of other countries, to constitutional issues, questions of national importance, differences of opinion between different High Courts, death sentence cases and matters entrusted to the Supreme Court by express provisions of the Constitution?

Maybe.

Relying upon a report prepared by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy… Mr. Venugopal argued that the statistics quoted by Vidhi and the analysis thereof… clearly established that the Supreme Court had strayed from its original character as a Constitutional Court and gradually converted itself into a mere Court of Appeal to correct every error it found in the decisions of the 24 High Courts and numerous Tribunals subordinate to it… It is not in dispute that the Supreme Court was never meant to be a regular Court of Appeal. It was meant to exercise its powers under Article 136 of the Constitution only in cases which raised important questions involving interpretation of the Constitution or questions of general public importance or questions of constitutionality of State or Central legislations or those raising important issues touching Centre-State relationship etc. The jurisdiction may also have been available to the Court where it found gross miscarriage of justice or an error so outrageous as no reasonable person would countenance. The power to interfere was not meant to be exercisable just because prolonged argument would eventually reveal some error or irregularity or a possible alternative view on a subject that did not cause any miscarriage of justice of a kind that would shock the conscience of the Court on the subject…

The fact, however remains that the filing of cases in the Supreme Court over the past six decades has grown so sharply that the Judge strength in the Supreme Court is proving inadequate to deal with the same… dismissal of an overwhelming number of cases has not and does not discourage the litigants or the member of the Bar from filing cases. That is why the number of cases filed is on the rise every year… pronouncement of this Court sounding notes of caution against liberal grant of special leave to appeal or exercise of restraint in the matter of entertaining cases have lead to no meaningful improvement in the situation.

What then is the way forward? 

Keeping in view the importance of the above question and the need for reforms which have been long felt, we deem it proper to refer the same to a Constitutional Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.”

Hon’ble CJI T.S. Thakur, V. Vasanthakumar v. H.C. Bhatia, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 36 of 2016].

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