The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34 in order to reduce the pendency of cases, PTI reported. The Lok Sabha had passed the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019, on Monday.
The legislation was moved in the Upper House by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress had no objection. “But members of Parliament want to discuss it as we normally do not discuss judiciary,” he said. “We get chance once in a decade or six months...We would also want to know about the judiciary.”
After Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu said it was a Money Bill, Prasad told the Opposition leader that he was willing to have a discussion on the judiciary in November. Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra urged the government to ensure representation of judges from the Schedule Castes in the top court.
On July 31, the Union Cabinet had approved the proposal to increase the strength of judges in the Supreme Court. The strength was last increased from 26 to 31 in 2009, and all positions got filled recently for the first time in over a decade.
In June, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the top court had 58,669 pending cases and the number was rising due to more cases being filed. The chief justice had asked Modi to “augment the judge strength in the SC appropriately” so that it was able to function more efficiently.
The chief justice had also told Modi that the lack of sufficient number of judges prevented him from setting up five-judge Constitution benches to hear cases involving substantial questions of law or the interpretation of Constitution. He had also requested the government to bring about constitutional amendments to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65.