Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal argued on the front-foot in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, on Constitution Day, for the revival of a 11-year-old proposal to set up National Courts of Appeal in four regions of the country.
He said four ‘Courts of Appeal’ with 15 judges each could act as intermediate appellate courts between the State High Courts and the Supreme Court. They would absorb matrimonial disputes, rent control cases and such like which clog the Supreme Court, adding to pendency. The judgments of these courts of appeal would be final, he said.
“These courts would also mean we are adding 60 judges who would be taking over these cases. Pendency would be cut down to a very great extent. Cases could be disposed of in three or four years’ time,” Mr. Venugopal explained on Friday.
This would unburden the Supreme Court, which could focus on interpreting constitutional questions of law, references, death sentence cases. Supreme Court judges could hear cases leisurely, read and write better judgments with time on their hands, Mr. Venugopal argued at an event organised by the Supreme Court to celebrate the Constitution Day.
In fact, the Supreme Court would not need 34 judges. Just 15 would be ample. These judges of the Supreme Court could sit in three Constitution Benches.
“There has to be rethinking of the entire structure of the Supreme Court as it exists today. No point brushing it under the carpet. Are we aware of the suffering litigants undergo? We have inherited a system that is extremely cumbersome. Government and judiciary have to put their heads together. We have included access to justice as a fundamental right, but we are probably violating the fundamental right by continuing with this system,” the country’s top law officer said.
Starting his speech with the question “Is the Supreme Court truly a constitutional court?’, Mr. Venugopal said it would need a “very, very bold person” to start a litigation.
He said cases remain pending in the Supreme Court for 10 years. It would have reached the Supreme Court after spending a decade each at the trial and high court levels.
“A person does not even know when his case would conclude and whether he would be alive to see the fruits of the litigation he had started,” Mr. Venugopal said.