SUPREME COURT’S ROLE AS PROTECTOR OF CITIZENS’ RIGHTS

  • Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has said the very purpose of the Supreme Court is to hear every little cry for personal liberty and protection of the Fundamental Rights.
  • But pendency is a perennial drawback that affects the court’s role as the timely protector of citizens’ rights.
  • Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has reportedly said the court is bogged down in “frivolous” public interest litigation and bail applications.
  • The “extra burden” has reduced the efficacy of justice administration. The government’s zeroing in on bail applications as one of the reasons for slow justice comes at a time when 10 bail pleas are heard every day by all 13 Benches of the Supreme Court.
  • The CJI has made it clear that bail petitions deal with the question of personal liberty and should not be delayed.
  • Moreover, PIL petitions like the one for an independent and neutral mechanism for appointment of Election Commissioners have raised important issues, with a Constitution Bench recently pointing out orally how the government is paying mere “lip-service” to the independence of the poll body by appointing bureaucrats who cannot even complete the statutory six-year tenure in office.
  • But the statistics do show pendency as a constantly looming shadow, threatening to engulf the good work.
  • In fact, an exasperated Chief Justice Chandrachud in November remarked that “widened access to the Supreme Court” is making things dysfunctional. The Chief Justice said the judiciary is “overburdened because of the system”.
  • Figures in Parliament reveal that there are 498 Constitution Bench cases pending in the Supreme Court as on December 13, 2022.

2,870 PILs pending

  • Public litigation petitions claim a large portion of the court’s space with 2,870 of them pending. Special leave petitions and writ petitions number 4,331 and 2,209, respectively.
  • There are 487 pending election matters in the top court. The total number of pending cases concerning crimes against women relating to “harassment, dowry cruelty and death, sexual harassment, domestic violence” are 283, according to data from the Integrated Case Management Information System.
  • Some of these cases date back to 2014. Contempt of court cases alone number 1,295 in the Supreme Court as on December 16, 2022.
  • The statistics placed on record by the Law Ministry in Parliament show that the Supreme Court has disposed of 10 Constitution Bench cases in 2022 as on December 13; a substantial 29,866 special leave petitions; 974 PIL pleas, which is about double the number disposed of last year; 1,316 writ petitions; 286 election cases and 1,590 contempt matters.
  • In its reply in the Lok Sabha in December on the “reasons behind the delay in disposing of cases”, the Law Ministry said it was a “multi-faceted problem”.
  • “With an increase in the population of the country and awareness among the public of their rights, filing of fresh cases is also increasing by leaps and bounds, year after year. Each case is distinct and variable in nature, therefore, no specific timelines can be determined concerning disposal of cases. Myriad factors come into play,” the Ministry said.
  • Vacancies of judges, frequent adjournments and lack of adequate arrangements to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing are also factors which lead to pendency.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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