Sound suggestion


The Law Commission’s suggestion for division of the supreme court into four courts to be set up in four regions and designation of the court in Delhi as a constitutional court deserves serious consideration. The commission, headed by Justice A R Lakshmanan, has pointed out that the system of dividing the highest court into a constitutional court and dispute settlement courts is working well in many countries.

According to the proposal, the four regional courts will be ‘cassation courts’ which will work as courts of last resort in the regions where they are situated. No appeal will lie on their decisions. For example, appeals on cases in the high courts of all southern states will only go to the cassation court in the region and will end there.

But constitutional issues, PILs and the like which have national importance will be handled by the constitutional court in Delhi. This arrangement will reduce the burden on the present supreme court. The important features of a good system of delivery of justice are speed, cheapness of the process and accessibility. The present system is deficient on these as the supreme court is located far away from most states and is weighed down by cases. Demands for setting up benches in the south and in the North-East have been made but they have not progressed much. A restructuring of the court will take it closer to the people. The parliamentary standing committee of the law ministry had made a similar suggestion in the past. There is no need for a constitutional amendment to implement the new system. Only a facilitating legislation by parliament is enough.

The commission has also recommended an increase in the retirement age of judges from 65 to 70. The Constitution review commission had also suggested an increase in the retirement age. Judges have a higher retirement age in many countries and in some others there is no retirement age at all. The proposal has been made in view of the difficulty in finding suitable persons for judicial positions. The problem of mounting arrears in courts is often commented upon. Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan last week called for an increase in the strength of the judiciary to cut down delays. But the many suggestions, coming from different sources, to deal with the problem are hardly acted upon. A debate on the law commission’s recommendations can be a starting point for action.

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