The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu, has advocated the need to set up Supreme Court benches in different regions of the country to bring the judicial system closer to people.
Concurring with the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice to have separate benches in different regions, the Vice President said “I think it is high time we had more benches because in a country as vast as India the litigants have to travel long distances and spend a huge amount of money and energy.”
Naidu made these observations while addressing the gathering at the launch of a book chronicling his two years in office titled ‘Listening, Learning and Leading” by Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, in Chennai on August 11.
It was not only the legislature and the executive that should become more responsive to people, the judicial processes must become more people-friendly, the Vice President stressed.
Emphasising the urgency to decide election petitions and criminal cases against sitting MPs and MLAs in a time-bound manner, he said, it has been found that election petitions and criminal cases were not decided even for the entire term of the legislators defeating the very purpose of the election laws.
Calling for expeditious decisions by the Chairpersons of Legislative bodies in cases involving disqualification of members defecting to other parties, Naidu observed that the anti-defection law was not being implemented in letter and spirit.
The Vice President said because of the inaction of the Speaker or Chairman the legislators not only continue in the new party but also become Ministers in a few cases. “This kind of travesty of justice should not be tolerated,” he emphasized and said that delay in such cases would erode public confidence in the judicial and legislative bodies.
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Suggesting special judicial tribunals to decide such cases in a reasonable time of six months or one year, the Vice President called for revisiting the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, containing anti-defection provisions, to ensure a time bound disposal of such cases and make it more effective by plugging loopholes.
Naidu also referred to the figures mentioned by the Chief Justice of India recently about heavy pendency of cases in various courts and said “apparently, there are nearly 60,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court and nearly 4.4 million cases in the High Courts. We need to take action to reduce this heavy pendency. Justice delayed, as is often said, is justice denied,” he added.
The Vice President said the law enforcement machinery and the justice dispensing structures must be accessible, credible, equitable, and transparently even-handed.
Expressing his happiness over the decision of the government to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court by 10 per cent, the Vice President said that a number of civil and criminal cases have been pending for over 25 years and wanted the Supreme Court to have two divisions: one dealing with Constitutional matters and another with appeals.
He said the proposal for two divisions merits serious consideration “because it would enable the Supreme Court to devote more time to Constitutional issues and make it more accessible to common people.”
Naidu said the procedure for appointment of judges might also have to be revisited and a credible, transparent process instituted which will steer clear of avoidable controversies.
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