The Centre on Tuesday opposed a proposal to bifurcate the Supreme Court's authority by creating national courts of appeals for regular cases, which will leave the apex court to deal solely with cases of constitutional importance. However, the Chief Justice of India urged the Centre to explore the possibility of such a move.
"We want to initiate a debate, though the government does not support it," said CJI TS Thakur. "Today 98 per cent of our time is wasted reading files relating to traffic offences or cheque-bounce cases. We might dismiss them finally, but we still have to give our time."
The Supreme Court has been mulling a proposal to set up four national courts of appeal in the North, South, East and West of India to hear appeals challenging high court verdicts, says the Hindustan Times. The NCAs, if instituted, will be above the high courts, but lower than the Supreme Court. They will relieve the apex court of the responsibility of hearing something like 60,000 cases a year.
However, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi has opposed the move, saying that it would lower the Supreme Court's dignity and take away an individual's constitutional right to approach the apex court.
Rohatgi argued: "The solution does not lie with creating courts of appeal because it would not bring down litigation. The Supreme Court has to exercise restraint on the manner of interference under its constitutional power. Today people take chances and come to Supreme Court on every issue, including challenging an adjournment order."
In response, the CJI asked him to submit his proposed arguments on the move.
The SC has also asked senior advocate KK Venugopal, who assists the bench as a "friend of court ", to place his suggestions before the bench which will frame the issues on 4 April and then refer the matter to a constitution bench.
The issue arose when Puducherry-based advocate Vasanta Kumar filed a public interest petition in the SC, pleading for the government to set up courts of appeal in Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai so as to unburden the SC of minor complaints and leave it to decide only questions of law. His PIL said that the courts of appeal should be above the high courts and their decisions should be indisputable unless questions of law remained unanswered.
Justice Thakur said: "Today, at least one lakh cases are filed every year in the Supreme Court. In the next 20 years it will go up to five lakh. You cannot have 150 judges to tackle the litigation explosion because more judges would lead to conflicting judgments and confusion on the legal position on an issue."