REDUCING DELAYS IN THE SUPREME COURT
Expediting critical Constitution Bench cases in the Supreme Court through developing a first-ever comprehensive tracker
Under Article 145(3) of the Constitution, matters 'involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution' are required to be decided by a minimum of 5 judges. These benches of the Supreme Court, often involving 5, 7, or 9 judges, are called Constitution Benches. Over the course of India's history, Constitution Benches have settled fundamental questions involving individual rights and separation of powers between the Centre and States – thus shaping the nation's future.
While much has been written about contemporary issues of political significance awaiting judgment, there is no study about those cases which have been pending for years. To fill this gap, the JALDI (Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India) Initiative at Vidhi launched a first-ever comprehensive tracker of all pending 5, 7, and 9 bench cases before the Supreme Court.
The ultimate goal of this research is to highlight the trend of the changing nature of the way the Supreme Court is prioritising its cases. From what was envisaged to be a largely Constitutional Court, it is now reduced to a glorified court of appeal. This portal shines a light on the need for the Supreme Court to reclaim its main mandate – that of interpreting the Constitution and upholding the rights of the citizens.
There are 35 main constitution bench matters pending before the Supreme Court. However, given that a specific main case is connected to multiple related matters, a total of 587 cases are pending before these benches as on March 8, 2021.
The tracker provides detailed information on each case, including a summary, timelines of events and orders, information on facts, questions of law, arguments, precedents, and legislations under challenge.
Tagged or related matters and their pendencies are also charted on the portal while the section on additional reading materials is aimed as a resource for those looking to dive in deeper.
The Constitution Bench Pendency Project has achieved its goal of being the only holistic resource for understanding the importance and potential implications of pending Constitution Bench cases. It has spurred conversation among various stakeholders, and has been used extensively by journalists, academicians, and researchers to highlight the need for setting up a permanent Constitution Bench in the Supreme Court to resolve pending constitutional cases.
For instance, among others, Rajya Sabha member P. Wilson's tweet on the topic discussing Vidhi's research has contributed to building a public momentum on this issue.
'This excellent report justifies my consistent demand for permanent regional benches & constitutional bench of #SupremeCourt. If constitution bench sits permanently all year, important constitutional matters can be decided expeditiously.'
— P. Wilson
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, RAJYA SABHA
The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has developed an excellent comprehensive tracker of all the pending cases before the 5-judge, 7-judge, and 9-judge constitution benches of the Supreme Court.' — Prabhash Ranjan
PROFESSOR AND VICE DEAN, JINDAL GLOBAL LAW SCHOOL