In a significant decision, the Chief Justice-led bench of the Supreme Court today said it will constitute a five judge constitution bench to decide the long pending demand for establishing a National Court of Appeal (NCA) with regional benches in major cities- Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai- to hear appeals against orders of high courts. The matter will be heard by a Three Judge Bench in the next hearing. CJI T S Thakur directed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and senior lawyer K K Venugopal who has been appointed as amicus curiae to formulate Questions for reference to the Three Judge Bench by April 4, the next date of hearing so that the Three Judge Bench can refer the matter to the Constitution Bench.
CJI T S Thakur importantly also directed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and senior lawyer K K Venugopal who has been appointed as amicus curiae to formulate Questions for reference to the bench by April 4, the next date of hearing.
CJI Thakur said SC will decide if to take the highest level of justice closer to the doorsteps of the litigants.
Surprisingly the AG representing Centre opposed constitution of NCA saying it was neither possible nor desirable.
Amicus Venugopal however supported the idea and favoured a detailed hearing.
"Ireland established NCA after six years of detailed hearing...state after state is doing it" he said.
"I always wonder if access to justice is an illusion for people in southern and eastern or interior north eastern states who fail to move supreme court due to the distance and lack of means", said chief justice Thakur.
Puducherry-based advocate V. Vasantha Kumar, the petitioner in the PIL demanding the NCA had submitted that "distance of the apex court in National Capital from other parts of the country, coupled with high travel expense and cost of litigation were coming in way of citizens from far flung areas to approach the top court of the land, which is otherwise also burdened with large scale pendency of cases."
Kumar moved the apex court after the Centre did not consider his representation for setting up NCA which was suggested by the apex court in a 1986 judgment.
The Law Commission of India in its 125th report had said: "The Supreme Court sits in Delhi alone. Government of India on couple of occasions sought the opinion of the Supreme Court of India for setting up a bench in the South. This proposal did not find favour with the Supreme Court. The result is that those coming from distant places like Tamil Nadu in the South, Gujarat in the West and Assam and other states in the East have to spend huge amount on travel to reach the Supreme Court. And an adjournment becomes prohibitive."
Its 229th report said that "a bench be set up each in the northern region, the southern region, the eastern region and the western region to deal with all appellate work arising out of orders/judgments of the state high courts".