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SC to get more judges, but will it help?

The government decides to raise the strength of Supreme Court judges from the existing 25 to 30, to prevent cases from piling up, report Aloke Tikku and Satya Prakash.
By Aloke Tikku and Satya Prakash | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2008 01:05 AM IST

To bring justice on the fast track, the government on Thursday decided to raise the strength of Supreme Court judges from the existing 25 to 30, to prevent cases from piling up.

“The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal for introduction a Bill in Parliament to amend the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 to augment the strength of the judges,” Deepak Sandhu, Director General, Media and Communications, announced after the Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister.

“The increase in the number of judges will now allow the Supreme Court to function more efficiently and effectively towards attaining the ultimate goal of rendering speedy justice to the litigant public,” Sandhu said. Officials said one important reason for the cases piling up in the highest judicial forum had to do with the expansion of the strength of the high courts, from where a significant chunk of the cases land up in appeals.

Meanwhile, legal experts said merely increasing the number of judges will not help the cause of justice and the court should also concentrate on consistently dispensing quality justice.

Senior advocates Rajeev Dhavan and Colin Gonsalves said the Supreme Court should organize itself in a better manner and have specialized benches to deal with civil, criminal, commercial etc. cases. They mooted the idea of a larger bench of nine judges, which would only deal with constitutional matters, like the one in South Africa.

Welcoming the decision to increase the judges’ strength, Gonsalves said Indian Supreme Court judges work more than the judges of any Supreme Court in the world. He, however, said: “Ideology of judges – pro-rich or pro-poor – is important. In the age of globalisation and economic liberalization it is difficult to find many pro-poor judges. If a judge is not concerned about fundamental rights of citizens and merely interested in commercial litigation then such judges should not be brought to the apex court.”

Dhavan said originally the apex court was designed as a compact court but the problem was that at present it does not organize its own work well. Arrear of cases alone should not be a reason to increase the number of judges.

Agreeing that pendency is a problem and the number of judges should be increased, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said “quality of justice is equally important.” He said the main problem was that the present system of selection of judges was not transparent. “We need a procedure for selection of judges which is not nepotistic.”

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