Rajya Sabha approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges

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Topic covered:

Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Rajya Sabha approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Collegium system for the appointment of judges, selection and removal of SC judges.

For Mains: Issues with Collegium system, Need for urgent reforms.

 

Context: Rajya Sabha approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34.

At present, the sanctioned strength of the apex court is 31.

 

Need:

59,331 cases are pending in the top court. Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law are not being formed.

Therefore, increase in strength is needed so that the SC 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.

 

Background:

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI). This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.

In 1988, the judge strength of the SC was increased to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.

 

Who appoints judges to the SC?

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the appointments are made by the President of India.

The names are recommended by the Collegium.

 

Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge:

  1. The norms relating to the eligibility has been envisaged in the Article 124 of the Indian Constitution.
  2. To become a judge of the Supreme court, an individual should be an Indian citizen.
  3. In terms of age, a person should not exceed 65 years of age.
  4. The person should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.

 

Is the collegium’s recommendation final and binding?

The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval. The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.

 

Other Judicial Reforms necessary:

  1. The need of the hour is to revisit the existing system through a transparent and participatory procedure, preferably by an independent broad-based constitutional body guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
  2. The new system should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
  3. The system needs to establish a body which is independent and objective in the selection process.
  4. Setting up a constitutional body accommodating the federal concept of diversity and independence of judiciary for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary can also be thought of as an alternate measure.
  5. As of now, instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appointment in order of preference and other valid criteria.

 

Sources: the Hindu.