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A demand for setting up Regional Benches of the Supreme Court was raised yesterday in the Rajya Sabha by members representing Tamil Nadu.
The issue was raised by leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Vaiko and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) nominee and Senior Advocate P Wilson during the zero hour of yesterday’s Rajya Sabha session.
Vaiko pushed for the setting up of regional Benches, highlighting that people from South India face various barriers in approaching the Apex Court, including language barriers, travelling time and economic constraints. He is reported to have remarked,
“The aforesaid issues have discouraged the weaker sections of the society from seeking legal assistance from the Supreme Court,”
Wilson also raised similar concerns, pointing out that (when it comes to litigants outside Delhi), access to the Supreme Court is restricted only to those who have the economic means to travel and afford a lawyer in Delhi.
“This effectively rules out a large percentage of the population who do not have the economic means, and therefore can litigate only up to the High Court… a person who cannot afford to go to Delhi, or afford the fees of the lawyers at Delhi, which is invariably higher due to demand, is left without an appellate remedy”, he said, in his representation to the Rajya Sabha Chairman.
He has also pointed out that the idea has been mooted several times – by Parliamentary standing committees, the Law Commission of India (in its 229th report) and by the Vice President of India (and Rajya Sabha Chairman), Venkaiah Naidu.
Further, Wilson has pressed for the setting up of such Regional Benches as it would improve the judge to litigant ratio in India.
“Presently, the ratio of number of Supreme Court Judges to the population of the country and the docket of the Court is miniscule. For total population of 133.92 crores we have strength of 34 Judges only.“
Therefore he urged that due measures be implemented to carry forward the proposal to set up regional Supreme Court Benches.
“It is expedient that in the interest of administration of justice, and access to justice, which is a fundamental right, the Law Ministry must take forward this proposal with the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India … Even otherwise, it is always open to the Government to introduce appropriate Constitutional amendments to mandate the setting up of such regional Benches of the Supreme Court“, he said.