SC to examine plea for court of appeal with regional benches

New Delhi, March 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it will examine the plea for setting up of the National Court of Appeal with regional benches at Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata to hear appeals against high court verdicts even as the central government said that it was neither feasible nor desirable.

“We can’t establish the court of appeal. We will examine it. We will pronounce on the legal point,” said a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit asking senior counsel and amicus curiae K.K.Venugopal to formulate the question for reference to the three judges’ bench which after considering them would refer it to a larger five judges bench.

Saying that in principle it agreed that people should have easy access to justice and long distances were dissuading, the bench asked Venugopal to give it a road map for establishing the national court of appeal with four regional benches.

However, it also asked to also address the questions whether the setting up of the national court of appeal was legally permissible under the existing constitutional scheme and if it would not lead to the dilution of the authority of the top court.

In an argument that has the potential of blocking the plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that the court sought to be established was in violation of the constitution’s article 136 which provides for that Supreme Court, in exercise of its discretion, may grant leave to appeal against any judgment, decree determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.

He said that article 136 was “unalterable” and formed part of the basic structure of the constitution which can’t be tinkered with.

Venugopal said the role of the apex court should be limited to the examining the issues of national and exceptional importance including the interpretation of the constitution and rest should be left to be decided and terminated at the national court of appeal.

To buttress his plea, he gave the breakup of the cases coming to the apex court saying that out of every 10 cases coming before the apex court, 9.5 cases were from the states in proximity of Delhi including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttrakhand.

The balance came from the rest of the country with Kerala and northeastern states being distant last in number of cases and a national court of appeal would take away a large part of apex court cases, thereby reducing their pendency.

Opposing the plea, Rohatgi argued that the setting up of the national court of appeal would dilute the apex court’s authority and in no way result in reducing the pendency of the cases.

He said that the national court of appeal would be adding another court of appeal, noted that in the past, the Supreme Court had repeatedly rejected the suggestions for setting up of its regional benches in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata.

He said that there was no nexus between setting up the national court of appeal and the question of bringing dower three pendency of cases.

Pointing to the vastness of the country and location of Supreme Court in the national capital, petitioner, advocate Vashantha Kumsar has contended that of all the cases filed before it, the highest number are from high courts in northern states – 12 percent from Delhi, 8.9 percent from Punjab and Haryana, 7 percent from Uttarkhand, 4.3 percent from Himachal Pradesh, etc and the lowest from the southern high courts – Kerala 2.5 percent, Andhra Pradesh 2.8 percent, and 1.1 percent from Madras High Court.”

The petitioner has sought the implementation of the 1986 suggestion by the apex court constitution bench for the establishment of national court of appeal with regional benches.

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