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New Delhi : Expressing his serious concern over inordinate delay in justice delivery in the country, Vice President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu on September 27, 2019, suggested several reforms including bifurcation of the Supreme Court  and setting up of four Regional Benches of the Apex Court besides evolving Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that limit the number of adjournments and the timeframe for disposal of cases by the courts.

Naidu spoke at length on the present state of judicial system in the country and the pressing need for  reforms  in the presence of Supreme Court Judge Justice Rohinton F Nariman, Attorney General of India K K Venugopal, several former judges including Justice A R Dave and senior advocates like Salman Khurshid, Rajiv Dhawan, and Mahalakshmi Pavani, after releasing of book ‘Parameswara to PP’, a compilation of articles of former senior advocate of the Supreme Court late Pavani Parameswara  Rao (P.P. Rao).

Naidu strongly endorsed the recommendation of the Law Commission towards splitting the Supreme Court into Constitutional Division and Courts of Appeal for steady disposal of cases, according to a PIB release. He also underlined the need to set up four Regional Benches of the apex court and went to the extent of saying that this arrangement does not require any amendment to the Constitution.

He recalled that Article 130 of the Constitution which says: “The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time appoint.”  Naidu also referred to a recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice on having Regional Benches of the Supreme Court on trial basis.

To cut the present delays in delivering justice, Naidu urged that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) may be evolved by the judiciary by which the number of permissible adjournments can be specified and a time limit can be set for disposal of cases based on the nature of issues involved.  The Vice President urged the Government to be much more proactive in addressing the large number of pending vacancies  in the judicial system so that delays are avoided. He urged the judiciary and the Government to act in tandem in this regard.

Continuing with his concern over justice delivery, Naidu said, “ The speed and quality of justice delivery in the country has a huge bearing on the economic development as it impacts the flow of investment. It would be better if judges at various levels are exposed to special orientation programmes organised by the judiciary itself on various technical and specialised branches of emerging laws and the attendant issues and processes.” He called for induction of capable judges and quality lawyers besides improving the quality of legal education to enable delivery of justice in time.

Naidu underscored the need to revisit the Anti-Defection Laws contained in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution to prevent loopholes and set time limits for the Presiding Officers of various legislatures to decide on defection matters in quick time. He recalled several  instances  of delay in deciding on defection  matters as a result of which those subsequently disqualified have completed their terms in legislatures.

He also suggested special judicial tribunals for disposing defection cases within six months to one year. He also underscored the need for election cases and cases of criminal proceedings against politicians to be decided by special benches of higher courts for their disposal within six months. Naidu expressed concern over the huge pendency of over 3 crore cases in different courts across the country with some of them pending over for 50 years.

Naidu hailed former senior Supreme Court advocate late  P P Rao as an epitome of “sobriety, balance and equanimity” who never resorted to any histrionics in the court even in extreme situations.

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