When the Supreme Court Sat Outside New Delhi : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-2 - Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies, Government Policies & Interventions, Fundamental Rights, Judgements & Cases, Indian Constitution

Key Phrases: National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010, Article 130, President's Consent, Article 39A

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court of India recently upheld the constitutionality of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010.
  • The petition challenged the constitutionality of certain sections of the NGT Act which provided that any person aggrieved by the decision of the tribunal must approach the Supreme Court directly.
  • It has been argued that a direct appeal on the order of NGT, to the Supreme Court as against a challenge before the High Court, is against the Constitution.
  • The petition in question had also prayed for creating benches of the National Green Tribunal at places where the principal seat of the High Court exists.
  • Supreme Court observed that no court can give a direction either to the Chief Justice of India or the President to exercise the power conferred under Article 130 and to pass an order appointing any other place or places in India as the seat/seats for the sitting of the Supreme Court as sought by the petitioners.

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection.
  • The NGT came into existence as a sui generis institution established for enforcement of environmental rights protected under the Right to Life (Article 21 of the Constitution).
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four place of sitting of the Tribunal.

Seat of Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court's seat is designated under the Constitution as Delhi under Article 130 of the Constitution of India.
  • It also empowers the Chief Justice to appoint another location as the Supreme Court's seat.
  • He or she can only make a decision in this respect with the President's consent.
  • This clause is only optional; it is not required. This implies that no court has the power to order the President or Chief Justice to move the Supreme Court's seat.

Circuit/Regional Benches:

  • A dedicated place in Delhi is provided for the functioning of the Supreme Court (SC).
  • The framers of the constitution being aware of the geographical constraints of India, empowered the Chief Justice to establish circuit benches.
  • These are temporary courts that hold proceedings for a few selected months in a year.
  • Nonetheless, no circuit benches have been established despite the rising pendency of cases.

Law Commission Reports:

Recommendations: The Law Commission, in its several reports submitted to the government, recommended that –

  • 18th Law Commission under Justice A R Lakshmanan (229th Report, 2009) recommended a Constitution Bench be set up in Delhi to deal with constitutional and allied issues, and
    • Four Cassation Benches in Delhi (north), Chennai/Hyderabad (south), Kolkata (east) and Mumbai (west) to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts.
  • 10th Law Commission of India (95th Report) under Justice K K Mathew recommended that “the SC should consist of two Divisions, namely (a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division”.
  • The 11th Law Commission under the chairmanship of Justice D A Desai (125th Report, 1988) “reiterate(d) that the recommendation for splitting the SC into two halves deserves to be implemented”.

Reasons for having Regional/Circuit Benches of Supreme Court:

  • Denial of Justice: Many litigants are discouraged to travel to Delhi from far away locations like south or northeast India.
  • Pendency of Cases: Increased workload on the Supreme Court and at present more than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.
  • Supreme Court as Constitutional court: Supreme Court functions largely as a constitutional court, with some 70-80 judgments being delivered every year by Constitution Benches of five or more judges who rule, as per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, on matters “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of Constitution”.
  • Expensive Justice: It is observed that besides travelling to New Delhi, engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.
  • Geographical Constraints: According to a report by the Centre for Policy Research, a disproportionately high number of cases filed in the Supreme Court originated in High Courts closer to Delhi. Hence coming up with regional benches will remove this constraint.


  • Article 39A: It has been pointed out that Article 39A says that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity.
  • Remove Geographical Constraints: It is high time we had more benches because in a country as vast as India the litigants have to travel long distances and spend a huge amount of money and energy.
  • Not undermine the spirit of the constitution: Setting up Benches outside Delhi would neither impair unity and integrity nor undermine the importance of the Supreme Court.


  • The Supreme Court has not agreed with the proposal, which in its opinion will dilute the prestige of the court.
  • Article 130 says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the CJI may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

Way Ahead:

  • The Chief Justice must establish circuit benches as recommended by multiple law commissions and parliamentary committees.
  • If it is found that Article 130 cannot be stretched to make it possible to implement the recommendations, Parliament should enact suitable legislation/constitutional amendment for this purpose.

Sources: Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. Discuss the need of having regional benches of the Supreme Court of India along with its advantages and disadvantages. Support your answer with valid constitutional provisions.