[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE President of India Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to “The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2019” which increases the sanctioned strength of Supreme Court judges from the existing 31 to 34.
President Kovind signed off on the Act on August 9, 2019.
The Lok Sabha had certified it as a money bill and passed it on August 5, 2019. The Rajya Sabha on August 7, 2019 returned the Bill to the Lok Sabha, deeming it to have been passed in the upper house.
The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill refers to the continuing increase in the pendency of cases in the Supreme Court of India to justify the legislation. As on the June 1, 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 a five judges bench on a regular basis to hear cases involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution as it would result in the constitution of less number of division benches which would lead to a delay in hearing of other civil and criminal matters”, the statement of objects and reasons says.
At present, the Supreme Court is functioning with strength of 31 judges, including the CJI. One of the judges, Justice A M Sapre, is scheduled to retire on August 27, 2019.
With this enactment, the Supreme Court Collegium will be required to fill four vacant seats, including the office to be vacated by Justice Sapre.