NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked whether access to justice is an illusion for people in the southern states, who fail to move the apex court due to lack of means, while deciding on a plea to set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to debate the establishment of a National Court of Appeal (NCA). The Centre vehemently opposed the same stressing that neither is it feasible nor desirable.
An NCA, with benches in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata, is meant to act as the final court in dealing with appeals on decisions of High Courts and tribunals within their region in civil, criminal, labour and revenue matters. In such a scenario, the Supreme Court would only hear matters pertaining to Constitutional and Public law.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate K K Venugopal, amicus curiae in the case, to formulate questions for reference on April 4. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Chennai-based lawyer V Vasanthakumar which said distance of the apex court from other parts of the country, coupled with high travel expenses and cost of litigation were coming in the way of citizens from far-flung areas approaching the court, which is also burdened with large-scale pendency of cases.
The AG felt it was not possible or desirable to have a National Court of Appeal, while Venugopal argued in favour of it. Venugopal countered Rohatgi’s view by pointing out examples from many common law countries, beginning with the 2013 amendment in Ireland, all highlighting the need for separating courts of appeal from constitutional courts.
Venugopal then reeled out statistics which suggested that of 10 cases in the apex court, most litigants came from New Delhi and adjoining areas, which are proximate to the SC.
NCAs may act as final courts
The SC was hearing a PIL which sought setting up of a Constitution Bench to debate the establishment of a National Court of Appeal (NCA). The NCA, with benches in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata, is meant to act as the final court to deal with appeals on High Court and tribunal judgments in its region.