Bill on more Supreme Court judges
The Union cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to introduce a bill to increase the number of Supreme Court judges to 34 from the existing sanctioned strength of 31.
Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, who announced the decision, told reporters the number of cases filed in the top court was rising every day.
The decision comes in the backdrop of a letter that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 22 for increasing the strength of judges in the court.
Justice Gogoi had in his letter recalled that the last time the court’s judge strength had been raised was in 2009 — from 26 to 31 — but there had been no further increase despite the mounting number of cases.
“I request you to kindly consider, on top priority, to augment the judge strength in the SC appropriately so that it can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain the ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public,” Justice Gogoi had said in his letter.
Justice Gogoi also said the court had a backlog of over 58,000 cases, apart from hundreds of cases new litigants filed every day.
The original Constitution of 1950 had envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and seven puisne judges, leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
In the early years, all the judges of the top court sat together to hear cases. As the number of cases increased, Parliament raised the judge strength from eight to 11 in 1956, to 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978 and to 26 in 1986. The court now has 31 judges, including the Chief Justice of India.
Justice Gogoi has also requested the government to fill up the 400-odd vacancies in various high courts across the country.
He has suggested that the retirement age of high court judges be raised to 65 years from 62 now.
Supreme Court judges retire when they turn 65.