With the number of litigations and appeals against lower court orders increasing, there is a need for setting up a Supreme Court (SC) bench in Mumbai, feel lawyers and litigants, who are forced to travel to Delhi every time a case comes up at the apex court.
Bombay Lawyers Association (BLA), which is active in facilitating improvement in the quality of legal services, has written a letter to the recently-appointed Union law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, suggesting that an apex court bench be set up in Mumbai.
The June 4 letter signed by BLA president Ahmad Abdi, states that the Law Commission of India headed by Justice AR Laxmanan, had in 2009, recommended that SC benches be set up in Chennai/Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
"The constitution bench of SC can remain at Delhi; the three regional benches can deal with appeals from high courts in the respective regions. This will save litigants' money and time," said Abdi.
Since 2009, the parliamentary panel has repeatedly been recommending the need to set up at least three Supreme Court benches to enhance accessibility to litigants. The parliamentary panel on law and justice ministry in the 14th Lok Sabha, headed by the present President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, had recommended at least thrice between 1999 and 2000 that more Supreme Court benches be set up.
However, the Supreme Court rejected it every time.
The last such rejection came during the tenure of Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan. The SC then reiterated its stand that dividing the Supreme Court would affect the country's unitary character.
Activist Meera Kamath, who has had to make several trips to Delhi in connection with her petitions, says a bench in Mumbai would be of great help. "Senior citizens have great difficulty travelling to Delhi. We even have to worry about small things like getting train reservation," said Kamath.
Another litigant said just like in any court, there was no guarantee that the matter would reach the hearing stage. "We travel all the way to Delhi and the matter may not even be taken up for hearing. In the process, we lose not just our time but also money," said Shekhar Jadhav, another litigant.
Advocate Uday Warunjikar, secretary, Advocates Association of Western India, said the demand for SC bench in Mumbai was long standing, and it should be set up in the interest of the litigants. "Mumbai is the commercial capital of the country and accounts for 15% of the GDP. More than 20% of the litigation filed in SC are from Mumbai, and hence a SC bench should be set up here," added Warunjikar.
The BLA letter states that Chapter IV of the Constitution deals with establishment of the SC and its constitution and powers. Article 130 reads: "The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint."
Abdi said: "The framers of our Constitution visualized the future requirement and provided that the Chief Justice, with the approval of the President, may decide to have seat of Supreme Court at places other than Delhi."
In order to facilitate litigants, the Bombay high court has benches in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Panjim, Goa.
In order to bring justice to the doorsteps, former Union law minister HR Bhardwaj, who is at present the governor of Karnataka, introduced a unique scheme of mobile village courts, which were supposed to deliver justice in petty criminal matters in three months' time.
The same idea was taken forward by his successor Veerappa Moily. Consequently, the Gramin Nyayalaya Act, 2008 came into effect from October 2, 2009.