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Will South India have a Supreme Court Bench? Law Minister updates Rajya Sabha MPs Vaiko, P Wilson

In November last year, MDMK's Vaiko and DMK's P Wilson had raised the demand in the Rajya Sabha zero hour.

Bar & Bench

The Law Ministry recently addressed representations to Rajya Sabha MPs, Vaiko and P Wilson over the demands made for the establishment of regional Benches of the Supreme Court.

The letters signed off by the Union Law Minister RS Prasad indicate that regional Benches of the Supreme Court cannot presently be set up due to Constitutional obstacles and given that a related issue is presently pending before the Supreme Court in the National Court of Appeal case.

The letters point out that Article 130 of the Constitution vests with the Chief Justice of India the discretion to decide where the Supreme Court should sit, with the approval of the President. In this backdrop, the letter goes on to state,

... the idea of a separate Bench of Supreme Court outside Delhi has not found favour with the Supreme Court of India. Attorney Generals of India, from time to time, were also consulted and they had also opposed the idea of establishment of Regional Benches of the Supreme Court.
Law Minister, RS Prasad

Further, it is noted that

"In Writ Petition WP (C) No. 36/2016 on establishment of National Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court vide its Judgment dated 13.07.2016 deemed it proper to refer the aforementioned issue to Constitutional Bench. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court."

Law Minister, RS Prasad

In November last year, a demand for setting up Regional Benches of the Supreme Court was raised in the Rajya Sabha by members representing Tamil Nadu by Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) member Vaiko and Dravida Munnnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP P Wilson.

Vaiko had 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.

Apart from pointing out that the measure would aid in bringing down the caseload of the Supreme Court, he was also reported to have proposed that the regional Bench for the South be set up in Chennai.

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.

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, more recently, by the Vice President of India (and Rajya Sabha Chairman), Venkaiah Naidu.

The Law Ministry's representation dated February 12 also acknowledges this, noting that representations to that effect have been received several times by the Government, and that it was also mooted in the Law Commission's 229th report.

[Read the Letters]

Law Minister Letter - Re Regional Benches of SC - Feb 12, 2020.pdf
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Law Ministry Letter re Regional Benches of SC - P Wilson.pdf
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