Lok Sabha passes Bill to increase number of SC judges

As of now, the Supreme Court has a sanctioned strength of 30 judges, plus the chief justice of India -- 31 judges. (DH File Photo)

Lok Sabha on Monday passed a Bill which seeks to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from the present 30 to 33 with a view to reduce pendency of cases.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad used the opportunity to urge the judiciary against making "sweeping commentary" while hearing cases.

"They should have the courage to write it in judgments and give reasons," he said while responding to the debate on the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019.

A Bill which sought to bar judges from making "sweeping remarks" against another constitutional authority was brought by the previous UPA government but lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

Responding to the concerns raised by members over differences within the Supreme Court Judges, Prasad said differences within the judiciary should not come out in the open and they should be settled within and the government should not have any role in it.

Responding to a question on the request made by the Chief Justice of India to increase the retirement age of High Court Judges, he said the matter has to be looked into its totality as others including the three service chiefs and bureaucrats could also demand the same.

A Constitutional Amendment Bill brought by the UPA government to increase the retirement age of High Court Judges from 62 to 65 lapsed and it never came up for discussion in the 15th Lok Sabha.

With several members raising questions over the Supreme Court striking down the National Judicial Appointments law, he said while the government accepts the verdict, he has never agreed on the reasoning given in the order.

Through the National Judicial Appointments Commission, the government had sought to have a bigger say in the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court Judges.

He said as per the judgment, the law minister, who was part of the commission and nominated by the Prime Minister could not act in fairness in appointing judges. "But the Prime Minister, who holds the nuclear button can be trusted for the security of the country and appointment of other constitutional authorities".

"We are accountable to Parliament" and the judiciary should also think of their accountability, he said adding the government is committed to the independence of the judiciary.

The minister also said that he always urged the judiciary to expedite the process of filling vacancies in the subordinate judiciary.

He added that appointments get delayed sometimes as the government applied its mind on the recommendations made by the collegium.

"I am a minister of Narendra Modi government and I will apply my mind," he said.

He said that one of the reasons for higher pendency is PIL as "people read newspaper in the morning and file case at 11 am".

As of now, the Supreme Court has a sanctioned strength of 30 judges, plus the chief justice of India -- 31 judges.

Once the Bill gets parliamentary approval, its sanctioned strength will go up to 33, plus the CJI, according to the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill piloted by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

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