Cases involving constitutional understanding are increasingly reaching the apex court’s doorstep and in a bid to speed up their resolution, the Supreme Court has set up a bench that would exclusively hear all such cases from next week.
Starting from September 3, this special bench would hear all such cases including the ones which are pending before the Supreme Court for five years or more.
The SC issued a notification for setting up of this new bench on August 22 and has also informed all those parties whose cases would be taken up by the five-judge bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam accordingly.
Sathasivam, who took over as CJI in July, has also created specific benches for cases related to women and children.
Another separate special bench which is going to come up by October is for hearing mercy petitions or death sentence.
“We have identified a few cases amongst the 43 cases that are pending and require immediate hearing and is based on constitutional laws. We will start hearing those from September 3 onwards on a regular basis,” an official from SC’s registry told dna, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to media.
Cases that are expected to come up before this bench are expected to involve larger constitutional “interpretations or questions or matters” that are required to be settled.
In May 2008, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench the question relating to the interpretation of section 319 of Criminal Procedure Code that deals with trial of an offence of any person not being the accused has committed any offence for which such person could be tried together with the accused. Almost after five years later, the matter is still pending in the apex court.
Similarly, on March 30, 2011, a three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice SH Kapadia referred the Mineral Area Development Authority versus Steel Authority of India Ltd case, which dealt with the important issue of royalty on minerals, to a larger bench. This case has also not been heard till date.
“There was a time when the Supreme Court used to give due priority to questions where interpretation of the Constitution was required. This became the settled law but with increasing number of cases of urgent hearing this has not been possible,” said former retired High Court Judge R S Sodhi adding over the years, in addition to being the Constitution court, the Supreme Court has also become a national court of appeal.
In its 95th report submitted in 1984, the Law Commission of India had also recommended that the SC should have two separate divisions constitutional division and legal division, which was never considered for.