The Union Cabinet on July 31 approved a proposal to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court (SC) to 34 from the present 31. The move comes amid a rise in the number of pending cases in the apex court. Currently, 59,331 cases are pending in the top court, according to a written reply submitted by the Law Ministry on July 11, 2019 in Rajya Sabha.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi Writes To PM Modi
Earlier, CJI Ranjan Gogoi, in a letter to PM Narendra Modi, had asked to increase the number of judges in the top court. “I request you to kindly consider, on top priority, to augment the judge-strength in the SC appropriately so that it can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain the ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public,” Justice Gogoi wrote.
Stating that the number of Constitution Benches required for deciding important cases are not being formed, Justice Gogoi wrote, “You would recall that way back in 1988, about three decades ago, the judge-strength of the SC was increased from 18 to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.”
The CJI also requested the government to bring constitutional amendments to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65.
Past Approvals To Increase Number Of SC Judges
Initially, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 provided for a maximum of 11 judges, including the CJI. The number was first increased to 14 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960 and then to 18 in 1977. However, till the end of 1979, the working strength was reduced to 16 judges by the Cabinet.
Later in 1986, the number of SC judges was increased to 26, including the CJI. And most recently, through the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009, the number was further increased to 31.