Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial court and the final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of judicial review. Consisting of the Chief Justice of India and a maximum of 31 judges, it has extensive powers in the form of original, appellate and advisory jurisdictions.[3]

As the final court of appeal of the country, it takes up appeals primarily against verdicts of the high courts of various states of the Union and other courts and tribunals. It safeguards fundamental rights of citizens and settles disputes between various government authorities as well as the central government vs state governments or state governments versus another state government in the country. As an advisory court, it hears matters which may specifically be referred to it under the constitution by President of India. It also may take cognisance of matters on its own (or suo moto), without anyone drawing its attention to them. The law declared by the supreme court becomes binding on all courts within India and also by the union and state governments.[4] Per Article 142 of the constitution, it is the duty of the president to enforce the decrees of the supreme court.

Supreme Court of India
Emblem of the Supreme Court of India
Established1 October 1937
(as Federal Court of India)
28 January 1950
(as Supreme Court of India)[1]
CountryIndia
LocationTilak Marg, New Delhi, Delhi
Coordinates28°37′20″N 77°14′23″E / 28.622237°N 77.239584°ECoordinates: 28°37′20″N 77°14′23″E / 28.622237°N 77.239584°E
Mottoयतो धर्मस्ततो जयः॥ (IAST: Yato Dharmastato Jayaḥ)
Where there is righteousness (dharma), there is victory (jayah)
Composition methodCollegium of the Supreme Court of India
Authorized byConstitution of India
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement at 65 years of age
No. of positions31 (30+1; sanctioned strength)
28 (27+1; present strength)[2]
Websitewww.sci.gov.in
Chief Justice of India
CurrentlyRanjan Gogoi
Since3 October 2018
Lead position ends17 November 2019

History

In 1861 the Indian High Courts Act 1861 was enacted to create high courts for various provinces and abolished supreme courts at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and also the sadr adalats in presidency towns which had acted as the highest court in their respective regions. These new high courts had the distinction of being the highest courts for all cases till the creation of Federal Court of India under the Government of India Act 1935. The Federal Court had jurisdiction to solve disputes between provinces and federal states and hear appeal against judgements of the high courts. The first CJI of India was H. J. Kania.[4]

The Supreme Court of India came into being on 28 January 1950.[5] It replaced both the Federal Court of India and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which were then at the apex of the Indian court system. The first proceedings and inauguration, however took place on 28 January 1950, at 9.45 a.m, when the judges took their seats, and thus regarded as the official date of establishment.[6]

Supreme court initially had its seat at Chamber of Princes in the parliament building where the previous Federal Court of India sat from 1937 to 1950. The first Chief Justice of India was H. J. Kania. In 1958, the supreme court moved to its present premises.[5] Originally, the Constitution of India envisaged a supreme court with a chief justice and seven judges; leaving it to parliament to increase this number.[7] In formative years, the supreme court met from 10 to 12 in the morning and then 2 to 4 in the afternoon for 28 days in a month.[8]

Court building architecture

Supreme Court of India - Central Wing
Central Wing of the court where the chief justice's courtroom is located

The building is shaped to symbolize scales of justice with its centre-beam being the Central Wing of the building comprising the chief justice’s court, the largest of the courtrooms, with two court halls on either side. The Right Wing of the structure has the bar – room, the offices of the Attorney General of India and other law officers and the library of the court. The Left Wing has the offices of the court. In all, there are 15 courtrooms in the various wings of the building.[4][5][9]

Building of The Supreme Court of India
Left side of the supreme court building

The foundation stone of the supreme court's building was laid on 29 October 1954 by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. The main block of the building has been built on a triangular plot of 17 acres and has been designed in an Indo-British style by the chief architect Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar, the first Indian to head the Central Public Works Department. It has a 27.6 m (90 ft 7 in) high dome and a spacious colonnaded verandah. The court moved into the building in 1958. In 1979, two new wings – the East Wing and the West Wing – were added to the complex. 1994 saw the last extension.[5]

Mother and Child Sculpture

Inside the Supreme Court of India. 16
Mother and Child Sculpture

On 20 February 1980, a black bronze sculpture of 210 cm (6 ft 11 in) height was installed in the lawn of the supreme court. It portrays Mother India in the form of the figure of a lady, sheltering the young Republic of India represented by the symbol of a child, who is upholding the laws of land symbolically shown in the form of an open book. On the book, a balance beam is shown, which represents dispensation of equal justice to all. The sculpture was made by the renowned artist Chintamoni Kar. The sculpture is just behind the statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Seal

The design of the Court's seal is reproduced from the wheel that appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion capital of Asoka with 24 spokes. The inscription in Sanskrit, यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः (IAST: Yato Dharmastato Jayaḥ, means "whence law (dharma), thence victory". It is also referred as the wheel of righteousness, encompassing truth, goodness and equity.[4]

Constitution of the court

Supreme Court of India - Retouched
Supreme Court building with the sculpture in the foreground

Registry

The registry of the supreme court is headed by the Secretary-General who is assisted by 8 registrars, several additional and deputy registrars, etc., with 1770 employees in all (221 gazetted officers, 805 non-gazetted and 744 Class IV employees)[10] Article 146 of the constitution deals with the appointments of officers and servants of the supreme court registry.[11][12]

Supreme court advocates

Supreme Court Rules, 2013 entitle only those advocates who are registered with the supreme court, called advocates-on-record to appear, act and plead for a party in the court.[13] Those advocates who are designated as 'senior advocates' by the supreme court or any of the high courts can appear for clients along with an advocate-on-record. Any other advocate can appear for a party along with or under instructions from an advocate-on-record.

Composition

Size of the court

Initially the Constitution of India provided for a supreme court with a chief justice and 7 judges. In the early years, a full bench of the supreme court sat together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the court increased and cases began to accumulate, parliament increased the number of judges(including CJI) from the original 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009 (current strength). As the number of the judges has increased, they sit in smaller benches of two or three (referred to as a division bench)[14]—coming together in larger benches of five or more (referred to as a constitution bench) when required to settle fundamental questions of law. A bench may refer a case before it to a larger bench, should the need arise.[15]

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution who has been

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India

is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the supreme court.[16]

Court demographics

I am proud to be an Indian. India is the only country where a member of the minority Parsi community with a population of 1,67,000, like myself, can aspire to attain the post of the Chief Justice of India. These things do not happen in our neighbouring countries.

In practice, judges of the supreme court have been selected so far, mostly from amongst judges of the high courts. Barely seven justices—S. M. Sikri, S. Chandra Roy, Kuldip Singh, Santosh Hegde, R. F. Nariman, U. U. Lalit, L. Nageswara Rao and Indu Malhotra—have been appointed to the supreme court directly from the bar (i.e. who were practising advocates).[19][20]

The Supreme Court saw its first woman judge when Justice M. Fathima Beevi was sworn into office in 1989.[21] The seventh and the most recent woman judge in the court is Justice Indu Malhotra.[22][23] In 1968, Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah became the first Muslim Chief Justice of India. In 2000, Justice K. G. Balakrishnan became the first judge from the dalit community. In 2007 he also became the first dalit Chief Justice of India. In 2010, Justice S. H. Kapadia coming from a Parsi minority community became the Chief Justice of India.[17][24] In 2017, Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar became the first Sikh Chief Justice of India. Indu Malhotra is the first women justice to be selected directly from bar.

Judicial independence

The constitution seeks to ensure the independence of supreme court judges in various ways. Per Article 50 of directive principles of state policy, the state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive. Independence of the judiciary, the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law are the features of the basic structure of the constitution. Supreme court and high courts are empowered to frame suo moto cases without receiving the formal petitions/complaints on any suspected injustice including actions/acts indulging in contempt of court and contempt of the constitution by the executive, legislators, citizens, etc.[25] The main purpose of supreme court is to decide constitutional issues.[26] It is the duty of the judiciary to frame suo moto cases or to probe the cases/petitions at the earliest against the executive or legislature when laws are implemented violating the basic foundation and basic structure of the constitution as the Article 38 (1) of directive principles ensures that the state/judiciary shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order in which social, economic and political justice is animated/informed in all institutions of life.[27]

B. R. Ambedkar clarified as given below in the Constituent Assembly debates on Article 38 (1) high lighting its inevitable implementation.

... The word 'strive' which occurs in the Draft Constitution, in judgement, is very important. We have used it because our intention is even when there are circumstances which prevent the Government, or which stand in the way of the Government giving effect to these Directive Principles, they shall, even under hard and unpropitious circumstances, always strive in the fulfilment of these Directives. That is why we have used the word 'strive'. Otherwise, it would be open for any Government to say that the circumstances are so bad, that the finances are so inadequate that we cannot even make an effort in the direction in which the Constitution asks us to go.

Appointments and the Collegium

As per the constitution, as held by the court in the Three Judges Cases – (1982, 1993, 1998), a judge is appointed to the supreme court by the president on the recommendation of the collegium  — a closed group of the Chief Justice of India, the four most senior judges of the court and the senior-most judge hailing from the high court of a prospective appointee.[28] This has resulted in a Memorandum of Procedure being followed, for the appointments.

Judges used to be appointed by the president on the advice of the union cabinet. After 1993 (the Second Judges' Case), no minister, or even the executive collectively, can suggest any names to the president,[29][30] who ultimately decides on appointing them from a list of names recommended only by the collegium of the judiciary. Simultaneously, as held in that judgment, the executive was given the power to reject a recommended name. However, according to some, the executive has not been diligent in using this power to reject the names of bad candidates recommended by the judiciary.[31][32][33]

The collegium system has come under a fair amount of criticism.[30] In 2015, the parliament passed a law to replace the collegium with a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). This was struck down as unconstitutional by the supreme court, in the Fourth Judges' Case, as the new system would undermine the independence of the judiciary.[34] Putting the old system of the collegium back, the court invited suggestions, even from the general public, on how to improve the collegium system, broadly along the lines of – setting up an eligibility criteria for appointments, a permanent secretariat to help the collegium sift through material on potential candidates, infusing more transparency into the selection process, grievance redressal and any other suggestion not in these four categories, like transfer of judges.[35] This resulted in the court asking the government and the collegium to finalize the memorandum of procedure incorporating the above.[36]

Once, in 2009, the recommendation for the appointment of a judge of a high court made by the collegium of that court, had come to be challenged in the supreme court. The court held that who could become a judge was a matter of fact, and any person had a right to question it. But who should become a judge was a matter of opinion and could not be questioned. As long as an effective consultation took place within a collegium in arriving at that opinion, the content or material placed before it to form the opinion could not be called for scrutiny in court.[37]

Tenure

Supreme court judges retire at the age of 65. However, there have been suggestions from the judges of the Supreme Court of India to provide for a fixed term for the judges including the Chief Justice of India.[38]

Salary

Article 125 of the Indian constitution leaves it to the Indian parliament to determine the salary, other allowances, leave of absence, pension, etc. of the supreme court judges. However, the parliament cannot alter any of these privileges and rights to the judge's disadvantage after his/her appointment.[39] A judge of the supreme court draws a salary of 250,000 (US$3,500) per month—equivalent to the most-senior civil servant of the Indian government, Cabinet Secretary of India—while the chief justice earns 280,000 (US$3,900) per month.[40]

Oath of affirmation

As Per Article 124 and third Schedule of the constitution, the chief justice (or a judge) of the Supreme Court of India is required to make and subscribe in the presence of the president an oath or affirmation that he/she

will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my ability, knowledge and judgement perform the duties of my office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws.

Removal

Per Article 124(4) of the constitution, President can remove a judge on proved misbehaviour or incapacity when parliament approves with a majority of the total membership of each house in favour of impeachment and not less than two thirds of the members of each house present. For initiating impeachment proceedings against a judge, at least 50 members of Rajya Sabha or 100 members of Lok Sabha shall issue the notice as per Judges (Inquiry) Act,1968.[41] Then a judicial committee would be formed to frame charges against the judge, to conduct the fair trial and to submit its report to parliament. When the judicial committee report finds the judge guilty of misbehaviour or incapacity, further removal proceedings would be taken up by the parliament if the judge is not resigning himself.[42][43][44]

The judge upon proven guilty is also liable for punishment as per applicable laws or for contempt of the constitution by breaching the oath under disrespecting constitution[45]

Post-retirement

A Person who has retired as a judge of the supreme court is debarred from practicing in any court of law or before any other authority in India.

Review petition

Article 137 of the Constitution of India lays down provision for the power of the supreme court to review its own judgements. As per this Article, subject to the provisions of any law made by parliament or any rules made under Article 145, the supreme court shall have power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it.[46]

Under Order XL of the supreme court Rules, that have been framed under its powers under Article 145 of the constitution, the supreme court may review its judgment or order but no application for review is to be entertained in a civil proceeding except on the grounds mentioned in Order XLVII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Powers to punish for contempt

Under Articles 129 and 142 of the constitution the supreme court has been vested with power to punish anyone for contempt of any court in India including itself. The supreme court performed an unprecedented action when it directed a sitting minister of state in Maharashtra government, Swaroop Singh Naik,[47] to be jailed for 1-month on a charge of contempt of court on 12 May 2006.[48][49]

Rules

The Constitution of India under Article 145 empowers the supreme court to frame its own rules for regulating the practice and procedure of the court as and when required (with the approval of the president). Accordingly, "Supreme Court Rules, 1950" were framed. The 1950 Rules were replaced by the Supreme Court Rules, 1966.[50] In 2014, supreme court notified the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 replacing the 1966 Rules effective from 19 August 2015.[13]

Roster system

The supreme court decided to follow a new roster system from 5 February 2018 for allocation of matters to judges. Under the new roster system, the CJI will hear all special leave petitions (SLPs), and matters related to public interest, social justice, elections, arbitration, and criminal matters, among others. The other collegium/senior judges to hear matters related to labour disputes, taxation matters, compensation matters, consumer protection matters, maritime law matters, mortgage matters, personal law matters, family law matters, land acquisition matters, service matters, company matters etc.[51]

Reporting and citation

Supreme Court Reports is the official journal of reportable supreme court decisions. It is published under the authority of the Supreme Court of India by the Controller of Publications, Government of India, Delhi.[52] In addition, there are many other reputed private journals that report supreme court decisions. Some of these other important journals are: SCR (The Supreme Court Reports), SCC (Supreme Court Cases), AIR (All India Reporter), SCALE, etc.

Right to Information

In the year 2010, the supreme court filed an appeal before itself challenging the judgement of the Delhi high court holding that the office of the chief justice of India came under the ambit of the RTI Act and was liable to reveal information under it.[53] Though the supreme court is in favour of bringing CJI office under RTI act, the judgement of the pending case is not yet pronounced.[54][55]

Facilities in the campus

Legal-aid,[56][57][58] court-fee vendors, first-aid post, dental clinic, physiotherapy unit and pathology lab; rail-reservation counter, canteen, post office and a branch and 3 ATMs of UCO Bank, supreme court Museum[10] can be availed by litigants and visitors.

Landmark judgments

Land reform

After some of the courts overturned state laws for redistributing land from zamindar (landlord) estates on the ground that the laws violated the zamindars' fundamental rights, the parliament passed the 1st amendment to the constitution in 1951, followed by the 4th amendment in 1955, to uphold its authority to redistribute land. The supreme court countered these amendments in 1967 when it ruled in Golaknath v. State of Punjab[59] that the parliament did not have the power to abrogate fundamental rights, including the provisions on private property. The 25th amendment to the constitution in 1971 curtailed the right of a citizen to property as a fundamental right and gave authority to the government to infringe private property, which led to a furor amongst the zamindars.

Emergency (1975–1977)

The independence of judiciary was severely curtailed[60] during the Indian Emergency (1975–1977) of Indira Gandhi. The constitutional rights of imprisoned persons were restricted under Preventive detention laws passed by the parliament. In the case of Shiva Kant Shukla (Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla), popularly known as the Habeas Corpus case, a bench of five senior-most judges of supreme court ruled in favour of state's right for unrestricted powers of detention during the emergency. Justices A.N. Ray, P. N. Bhagwati, Y. V. Chandrachud, and M.H. Beg, stated in the majority decision:[61]

(under the declaration of emergency) no person has any locus to move any writ petition under Art. 226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention.

The only dissenting opinion was from Justice H. R. Khanna, who stated:

detention without trial is an anathema to all those who love personal liberty... A dissent is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.[61]

It is believed that before delivering his dissenting opinion, Justice Khanna had mentioned to his sister: "I have prepared my judgment, which is going to cost me the Chief Justice-ship of India."[62] In January 1977, Justice Khanna was superseded despite being the most senior judge at the time and thereby Government broke the convention of appointing only the senior most judge to the position of Chief Justice of India. Justice Khanna remains a legendary figure among the legal fraternity in India for this decision.

The New York Times, wrote of this opinion: "The submission of an independent judiciary to absolutist government is virtually the last step in the destruction of a democratic society; and the Indian supreme court's decision appears close to utter surrender."

During the emergency period, the government also passed the 39th amendment, which sought to limit judicial review for the election of the prime minister; only a body constituted by parliament could review this election.[63] Subsequently, the parliament, with most opposition members in jail during the emergency, passed the 42nd Amendment which prevented any court from reviewing any amendment to the constitution with the exception of procedural issues concerning ratification. A few years after the emergency, however, the supreme court rejected the absoluteness of the 42nd amendment and reaffirmed its power of judicial review in Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980).

Post-1980: an assertive court

After Indira Gandhi lost elections in 1977, the new government of Morarji Desai, and especially law minister Shanti Bhushan (who had earlier argued for the detenues in the Habeas Corpus case), introduced a number of amendments making it more difficult to declare and sustain an emergency, and reinstated much of the power to the supreme court. It is said that the basic structure doctrine, created in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, was strengthened in Indira Gandhi's case and set in stone in Minerva Mills v. Union of India.[64]

The supreme court's creative and expansive interpretations of Article 21 (Life and Personal Liberty), primarily after the Emergency period, have given rise to a new jurisprudence of public interest litigation that has vigorously promoted many important economic and social rights (constitutionally protected but not enforceable) including, but not restricted to, the rights to free education, livelihood, a clean environment,[65] food and many others. Civil and political rights (traditionally protected in the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Indian constitution) have also been expanded and more fiercely protected. These new interpretations have opened the avenue for litigation on a number of important issues.

Recent important cases

Among the important pronouncements of the supreme court post 2000 is the Coelho case I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (Judgment of 11 January 2007). A unanimous bench of 9 judges reaffirmed the basic structure doctrine. It held that a constitutional amendment which entails violation of any fundamental rights which the court regards as forming part of the basic structure of the constitution, then the same can be struck down depending upon its impact and consequences. The judgment clearly imposes further limitations on the constituent power of parliament with respect to the principles underlying certain fundamental rights. The judgment in Coelho has in effect restored the decision in Golak Nath regarding non-amendability of the constitution on account of infraction of fundamental rights, contrary to the judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case.

Another important decision was of the five-judge bench in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India; where the constitutional validity of Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admissions) Act, 2006 was upheld, subject to the "creamy layer" criteria. Importantly, the court refused to follow the 'strict scrutiny' standards of review followed by the United States supreme court. At the same time, the court has applied the strict scrutiny standards in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India[66] (2007) ([5])a

2G spectrum case

The supreme court declared allotment of spectrum as "unconstitutional and arbitrary" and quashed all the 122 licenses issued in 2008 during tenure of A. Raja (then minister for communications & IT), the main official accused in the 2G case.[67]

Black money

The government refused to disclose details of about 18 Indians holding accounts in LGT Bank, Liechtenstein, evoking a sharp response from a bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar. The court ordered Special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter.[68][69] Lack of enthusiasm made the court create a special investigative team (SIT).[70]

Minority reservations

The supreme court upheld the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgement quashing 4.5% sub-quota for minorities under OBC reservation quota of 27%.[71]

Online/postal ballot for Indian citizen living abroad (NRIs)

Three judge bench presided by chief justice, Justice Altamas Kabir issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission of India (EC) on the PIL filed by a group of NRIs for online/postal ballot for the Indian citizens living abroad.[72][73]

T. S. R. Subramanian vs. Union of India

While hearing T.S.R. Subramanian vs Union of India, a division bench of the supreme court ruled that—

These rulings were received mostly positively, and were termed as a 'major reform'.[75][77][78][84][85]

Recognition of transgender as 'third gender' in law

In April 2014, Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan declared transgender to be the 'third gender' in Indian law, in the case, National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India.[86][87][88] The ruling said:[89]

Seldom, our society realises or cares to realise the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex. Our society often ridicules and abuses the Transgender community and in public places like railway stations, bus stands, schools, workplaces, malls, theatres, hospitals, they are sidelined and treated as untouchables, forgetting the fact that the moral failure lies in the society's unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and expressions, a mindset which we have to change.

Justice Radhakrishnan said that transgender people should be treated consistently with other minorities under the law, enabling them to access jobs, healthcare and education.[90] He framed the issue as one of human rights, saying that, "These TGs, even though insignificant in numbers, are still human beings and therefore they have every right to enjoy their human rights", concluding by declaring that:[89]

(1) Hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as "third gender" for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.

(2) Transgender persons' right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender.

Relief to over 35,000 public servants

In B.Prabhakara Rao vs. State of A.P. involved sudden reduction in age of superannuation from 58 years to 55 years of over 35,000 public servants of State Government, public sector undertakings, statutory bodies, educational institutions and Tirupathi-Tirumalai Devasthanams (TTD). They lost first round of litigation in the supreme court. Realising the mistake, fresh legislation was brought restoring the original age of superannuation of 58 years but providing that the benefit of new legislation would not extend to those whose reduction of age of superannuation had been upheld. In challenge to this law, Subodh Markandeya argued that all that was required was to strike down naughty "not" – which found favour with the supreme court bringing relief to over 35,000 public servants.

Decriminalise homosexuality

A five member constitutional bench decriminalised homosexuality by partially striking down the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in September 2018. The bench led by Dipak Misra unanimously declared that criminalisation of private consensual sex between adult persons of the same sex under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was clearly unconstitutional. The court, however, held that the section would apply to bestiality, sex with minors and non consensual sexual acts.[91]

Criticism

Corruption

The year 2008 saw the supreme court embroiled in several controversies, from serious allegations of corruption at the highest level of the judiciary,[92] expensive private holidays at the tax payers expense,[93] refusal to divulge details of judges' assets to the public,[94] secrecy in the appointments of judges',[95] to refusal to make information public under the Right to Information Act.[96] The chief justice K. G. Balakrishnan invited a lot of criticism for his comments on his post not being that of a public servant, but that of a constitutional authority.[97] He later went back on this stand.[98] The judiciary has come in for serious criticisms from former presidents Pratibha Patil and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam for failure in handling its duties.[99] Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, has stated that corruption is one of the major challenges facing the judiciary, and suggested that there is an urgent need to eradicate this menace.[100]

The Cabinet Secretary of India introduced the judges Inquiry (Amendment) Bill 2008 in parliament for setting up of a panel called the National Judicial Council, headed by the Chief Justice of India, that will probe into allegations of corruption and misconduct by High Court and supreme court judges.[101][102]

Pending cases

According to supreme court newsletter, there are 58,519 cases pending in the supreme court, out of which 37,385 are pending for more than a year, at the end of 2011. Excluding connected cases, there are still 33,892 pending cases.[103] As per the latest pendency data made available by the supreme court, the total number of pending cases in the supreme court as on 1 November 2017 is 55,259 which includes 32,160 admission matters (miscellaneous) and 23,099 regular hearing matters.[104] In May, 2014, former Chief Justice of India, Justice R.M. Lodha, proposed to make Indian judiciary work throughout the year (instead of the present system of having long vacations, specially in the higher courts) in order to reduce pendency of cases in Indian courts; however, as per this proposal there is not going to be any increase in the number of working days or working hours of any of the judges and it only meant that different judges would be going on vacation during different periods of the year as per their choice; but, the Bar Council of India rejected this proposal mainly because it would have inconvenienced the advocates who would have to work throughout the year.[105] More over, various time frames specified in 'code of civil procedure' are also diluted by supreme court judgements to give the courts right to endlessly adjourn the cases.[106][107]

Rule of law

Supreme court has not taken up the trail of many pending cases, since April 2014 (more than three years), challenging the validity of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 which was enacted by the parliament without following the stipulated procedure in the constitution and is claimed detrimental to the basic foundation of the constitution on which the basic structure of the constitution is resting.[108] The basic foundation of the constitution is the dignity and the freedom of its citizens which is of supreme importance and can not be destroyed by any legislation of the parliament.[109] Whereas the fair trial to examine the validity of the ninety-ninth constitutional amendment dated 31 December 2014, to form National Judicial Appointments Commission for the purpose of appointing the judges of the supreme court and high courts, was conducted on utmost priority and supreme court delivered its judgement on 16 October 2015 (within a year) quashing the constitutional amendment as unconstitutional and ultra virus stating the said amendment is interfering with the independence of the judiciary.[110] Disposal of the various petitions filed against Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 is also equally important as it has alienated the basic rights of a vast section of Indian citizens and also against federal character of the constitution which is part of the basic structure of the constitution. Supreme court is also wasting its valuable time by not taking up the case in toto but conducted a piecemeal trail by delivering its judgement to dispose the petitions related with apportionment of assets between the newly formed states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.[111] Supreme court is also conducting piecemeal trail of the petitions filed by the states regarding water sharing of rivers and bifurcation of the common high court without considering the earlier pending petitions challenging the validity of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 which is the basic cause of all these disputes.[112][113] Under checks and balances as provided in the constitution, it is the duty of the judiciary/supreme court to establish the rule of law at the earliest by rectifying any misuse of the constitution by the parliament and the executive without colluding with them and to remove perceptions of people that rule of law is side lined and a section of its citizens are subjected to discrimination.[114][115]

Four judges vs chief justice

On 12 January 2018, four senior judges of the supreme court; Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed a press conference criticizing Chief Justice Dipak Misra's style of administration and the manner in which he allocated cases among judges of the supreme court. However, people close to Misra refuted the allegations that allocation of cases was unfair.[116] On 20 April 2018, seven opposition parties submitted a petition seeking impeachment of Dipak Misra to the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, with signatures from seventy-one parliamentarians.[117] On 23 April 2018, the petition was rejected by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, primarily on the basis that the complaints were about administration and not misbehaviour, and that thus impeachment would seriously interfere with the constitutionally protected independence of the judiciary.[118][119][120]

Holidays and working hours

The Supreme court works from 10 am to 4:30 pm, but is closed during winter and summer for 2 weeks each. Some critics feel that this delays pending cases. However, in an interview in June 2018 with NDTV, Justice Chelameswar revealed that most Supreme court judges including him work around 14 hours per day, and continue to work for an average of 7 hours per day even during vacations. He further reminded that while the Supreme court of United States delivers judgement on just 120 cases while every judge in the Supreme court of India delivers judgements on 1000-1500 cases per year.[121]

See also

References

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External links

Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley (born 28 December 1952) is an Indian politician and advocate, who is the current Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of the Government of India. A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Jaitley previously held the cabinet portfolios of Finance, Defence, Corporate Affairs, Commerce and Industry and Law and Justice in the Vajpayee government and Narendra Modi government. From 2009 to 2014 he served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India.

Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India

Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India is an Indian public interest litigation case challenging the conclusion of the Mandal Commission that about 52% of the total population of India belonged to Other Backward Classes classification. The National Sample Survey Organisation had estimated the OBC segment to be 42 per cent.

Attorney General of India

The Attorney General for India is the Indian government's chief legal advisor, and is primary lawyer in the Supreme Court of India. He can be said to be the lawyer from government's side. He is appointed by the President of India under Article 76(1) of the Constitution and holds office during the pleasure of the President. He must be a person qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court (He must have been a judge of some high court for five years or an advocate of some high court for ten years or an eminent jurist, in the opinion of the President and must be a citizen of India.)

The 15th and current Attorney General is K. K. Venugopal. He was appointed by Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India at that time. He was formally appointed as with effect from 30 June 2017 and shall have a tenure of 3 years.

Chief Justice of India

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the head of the judiciary of India and the Supreme Court of India. The CJI also heads their administrative functions.

As head of the supreme court, the chief justice is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law. In accordance with Article 145 of the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure of 1966, the Chief Justice allocates all work to the other judges who are bound to refer the matter back to him or her (for re-allocation) in any case where they require it to be looked into by a larger bench of more judges.

On the administrative side, the Chief Justice carries out the following functions: maintenance of the roster; appointment of court officials and general and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court.

It has been an unbroken convention for decades now, to appoint the senior-most judge of the supreme court as the CJI.The present CJI is Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and is the 46th CJI since January 1950, the year the Constitution came into effect and the supreme court came into being. He succeeded Justice Dipak Misra on 2 October 2018, and will remain in office till 17 November 2019, the day he retires on turning 65 years in age.

Dalveer Bhandari

Dalveer Bhandari (born 1 October 1947) is an Indian member of the International Court of Justice and was a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Dinesh Maheshwari

Hon'ble Mr. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari (born 15 May 1958) is Judge of Supreme Court of India. He was the Chief justice of High Court of Karnataka. He took oath as a Judge of Rajasthan High Court on 2 September 2004. He was transferred to Allahabad High Court and remained Senior Judge at the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court from 2 March 2015. He took Oath as Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya on 24 February 2016. On transfer to Karnataka, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari took oath as 30th Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka on 12 February 2018. He took oath as Judge of Supreme Court of India on 18 January 2019.

Indira Banerjee

Justice Indira Banerjee is presently a Judge in the Supreme Court of India, the 8th female Judge in history and the 3rd female Judge of the Supreme Court of India at present. She was the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, the second woman to hold the postition in India. before being elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Judiciary of India

The Indian Judiciary administers a common law system of legal jurisdiction, in which customs, precedents and legislation, all codify the law of the land. It has in fact, inherited the legacy of the legal system established by the then colonial powers and the princely states since the mid-19th century, and has partly retained characteristics of practices from the ancient and medieval times.There are various levels of judiciary in India – different types of courts, each with varying powers depending on the tier and jurisdiction bestowed upon them. They form a strict hierarchy of precedence, in line with the order of the courts in which they sit, with the Supreme Court of India at the top, followed by High Courts of respective states with district judges sitting in District Courts and Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judge (Junior Division) at the bottom.

After this, the Executive Hierarchy starts. While not Judicial officers, they hold magisterial power to trial minor cases cases that are not brought before the Civil Courts).

K. K. Venugopal

Kottayan Katankot Venugopal (born 1931), known generally as K. K. Venugopal (personal name is Venugopal) is an Indian constitutional lawyer and a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India. On 30 June 2017, he was appointed as the Attorney General of India .

K. T. Thomas (Justice)

Kallupurackal Thomas Thomas is a former Indian judge of the Supreme Court, known for his strong opinions with regard to Indian socio-political milieu. He was awarded Padmabhushan by the Government of India in 2007 for his services in the field of social affairs.

List of Chief Justices of India

This is a list of all Chief Justices of India (CJI). There are a total of 46 Chief Justices of India that have served since the establishment of the Supreme Court of India in 1950, which superseded the Federal Court of India. The current Incumbent Chief Justice is Ranjan Gogoi, who entered office 3 October 2018.

List of high courts in India

There are 25 high courts at the state and union territory level of India, which together with the Supreme Court of India at the national level, comprise the country's judicial system. Each high court has jurisdiction over a state, a union territory or a group of states and union territories. Below the high courts is a hierarchy of subordinate courts such as the civil courts, family courts, criminal courts and various other district courts. High courts are instituted as constitutional courts under Part VI, Chapter V, Article 214 of the Indian constitution.The high courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in each state and union territory. However, a high court exercises its original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the subordinate courts are not authorized by law to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters, if so designated specifically in a state or federal law.

However, the work of most high courts primarily consists of appeals from lower courts and writ petitions in terms of Article 226 of the constitution. Writ jurisdiction is also an original jurisdiction of a high court. The precise territorial jurisdiction of each high court varies. The appeal order is the following: tehsil-kotwali-criminal/civil courts → district court → high court → supreme court.

Each state is divided into judicial districts presided over by a district and sessions judge. He is known as district judge when he presides over a civil case, and sessions judge when he presides over a criminal case. He is the highest judicial authority below a high court judge. Below him, there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known by different names in different states. Under Article 141 of the constitution, all courts in India — including high courts — are bound by the judgments and orders of the Supreme Court of India by precedence.

Judges in a high court are appointed by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the governor of the state. High courts are headed by a chief justice. The chief justices rank fourteenth (within their respective states) and seventeenth (outside their respective states) on the Indian order of precedence. The number of judges in a court is decided by dividing the average institution of main cases during the last five years by the national average, or the average rate of disposal of main cases per judge per year in that High Court, whichever is higher.

The Calcutta High Court is the oldest high court in the country, established on 2 July 1862. High courts that handle a large number of cases of a particular region have permanent benches established there. Benches are also present in states which come under the jurisdiction of a court outside its territorial limits. Smaller states with few cases may have circuit benches established. Circuit benches (known as circuit courts in some parts of the world) are temporary courts which hold proceedings for a few selected months in a year. Thus cases built up during this interim period are judged when the circuit court is in session. According to a study conducted by Bangalore-based NGO, Daksh, on 21 high courts in collaboration with the Ministry of Law and Justice in March 2015, it was found that average pendency of a case in high courts in India is 3 years.

List of sitting judges of the Supreme Court of India

This is a list of judges of the Supreme Court of India, the highest court in the Republic of India. The list is ordered according to seniority. There are currently 27 judges (including Chief Justice of India) against a maximum possible strength of 31. As per the Constitution of India, judges of the Supreme Court retire at age 65.Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the 46th Chief Justice of India. He was sworn in on 3 October 2018.

Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum

Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum [1985 (1) SCALE 767 = 1985 (3) SCR 844 = 1985 (2) SCC 556 = AIR 1985 SC 945], commonly referred to as the Shah Bano case, was a controversial maintenance lawsuit in India, in which the supreme court delivered a judgment favoring maintenance given to an aggrieved divorced Muslim woman. Then the Congress government, panicky in an election year, gave into the pressure of Muslim orthodoxy and enacted a law with its most controversial aspect being the right to maintenance for the period of iddat after the divorce, and shifting the onus of maintaining her to her relatives or the Wakf Board. It was seen as discriminatory as it denied right to basic maintenance available to non-Muslim women under secular law.Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, was divorced by her husband in 1978. She filed a criminal suit in the Supreme Court of India, in which she won the right to alimony from her husband. However, the Muslim politicians mounted a campaign for the verdict's nullification. The Indian Parliament reversed the judgement under pressure from Islamic orthodoxy. The judgement in favour of the woman in this case evoked criticisms among Muslims some of whom cited Qur'an to show that the judgement was in conflict with Islamic law. It triggered controversy about the extent of having different civil codes for different religions, especially for Muslims in India. This case caused the Congress government, with its absolute majority, to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which diluted the judgment of the Supreme Court and restricted the right of Muslim divorcées to alimony from their former husbands for only 90 days after the divorce (the period of Iddah in Islamic Law). However, in the later judgements including Daniel Latifi case and Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, the Supreme Court of India interpreted the act in a manner reassuring the validity of the case and consequently upheld the Shah Bano judgement and The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 was nullified. Many Muslims including All India Shia Personal Law Board supported the Supreme Court's order to make the right to maintenance of a divorced Muslim wife absolute.

Nalin Kohli

Nalin Kohli is an Indian politician and an advocate at the Supreme Court of India. He is a member of and one of the official spokespersons for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He has also been Convenor of the BJP’s National Media Cell.Kohli is also a former prime-time news anchor on Doordarshan, the national television channel of India.

Rajendra Mal Lodha

Justice R. M. Lodha (born 28 September 1949) was the 41st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Before being elevated to the Supreme Court, he served as the Chief Justice of Patna High Court. He has also served as a judge in Rajasthan High Court and Bombay High Court. On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court committee headed by RM Lodha suspended the owners of Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from the Indian Premier League cricket tournament for a period of two years for alleged involvement in betting.

Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind (born 1 October 1945) is an Indian politician currently serving as the 14th President of India, in office since 25 July 2017. Previously he had served as the Governor of Bihar from 2015 to 2017 and was a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from 1994 to 2006. Kovind was nominated as a presidential candidate by the ruling NDA coalition and won the 2017 presidential election.Before entering politics, he was a lawyer for 16 years and practiced in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court until 1993.

Rohinton Fali Nariman

Rohinton Fali Nariman (born 13 August 1956) is a judge of the Supreme Court of India. Before being elevated as a judge, he practised as a senior counsel at the Supreme Court. He was appointed the Solicitor General of India on 23 July 2011. He also served as a member of the Bar Council of India. He was designated as a Senior Counsel by Justice Venkatachaliah (the then Chief Justice of India) in 1993 at the early age of 37.

Sharad Arvind Bobde

Sharad Arvind Bobde (born 24 April 1956 Nagpur) is a judge of the Supreme Court of India. He is a former Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court. He is also serving as the Chancellor of Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai and Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur. He is due to retire on 23 April 2021. With a tenure of 8 years in Supreme Court of India, he is in line to be Chief Justice of India (with effect from 19 Nov 2019) after superannuation of Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

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