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The President of India has signed off on the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 to increase the strength of the Supreme Court to thirty-three (33), excluding the Chief Justice of India.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha last Monday. On Wednesday, the money bill was returned by the Rajya Sabha to Lok Sabha post consideration, without any proposed amendments.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill had referred to the Chief Justice of India’s “intimation” that the inadequate strength of judges was the prime reason behind the backlog. It states,
“1. The pendency of cases in the Supreme Court of India has constantly been on the rise due to comparatively higher rate of institution of cases. As on the 1st day of June, 2019, there were 58669 cases pending in the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of India has intimated that inadequate strength of judges is one of the prime reasons for backlog of cases in the Supreme Court. It is not possible for the Chief Justice of India to constitute five Judges Bench on a regular basis to hear cases involving substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution as it would result in constitution of less number of Division Benches which would lead to delay in hearing of other civil and criminal matters.
2. The feeder cadre of Chief Justices and Judges of the High Courts have increased from 906 to 1,079 and presently new High Courts have also been established in the previous years. This has led to increase in the disposal of cases at the High Court level leading to larger number of appeals to the Supreme Court.
3. It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 to increase the number of Judges in the Supreme Court from present thirty to thirty-three, excluding the Chief Justice of India.”
The Bill had also informed that the creation of three additional posts of judges in the Supreme Court would result in the total expenditure of Rs 6,81,54,528 drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India.
The Union Cabinet had decided to introduce a Bill to increase the strength of the Supreme Court by 10% on July 31.
Prior to the introduction of the Bill, the Supreme Court had a sanctioned strength of 31 judges. The move has now taken the number of posts at the Apex Court to 34.
Since the appointments of Justices BR Gavai, Surya Kant, Aniruddha Bose and AS Bopanna in May this year, the Supreme Court has been functioning at full capacity. The Supreme Court was expected to continue sitting at its full strength until the retirement of Justice AM Sapre on August 27. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is due to retire on November 17 this year.
[Read the Notification dated August 09, 2019 intimating Presidential assent for the Bill]