Report No. 125
Third Decade (1971-80)
2.13. The institution, the disposal and the mounting arrears showed no respite and the trend during this decade was almost similar to the earlier two decades. The emerging scenario during this decade is tabulated. (See Table VI in Appendix I and Graphs VIII and IX in Appendix II). In fact, the arrears rose by nearly 400% or quadrupled. Again, during this period, in the year 1977, the Judge strength was revised from 13 to 17.
One noteworthy event that occurred during this period was that pursuant to 45th Report of the Law Commission, Article 133 of the Constitution was amended by the Constitution (Thirtieth Amendment) Act, 1972, by which the right to reach the Supreme Court on account of pecuniary value of the subject-matter in dispute was taken away, hopefully expecting that frivolous litigation depending only on value of the subject-matter in dispute would be eliminated.
The hope appears to have been belied because there was no visible respite in the matter of rising arrears. Nor the increased Judge strength made any difference. The situation had become so alarming that massive effort was necessary to deal with the situation. The arrears were sufficient to alert everyone worried about the overload of justice institutions and its possible breakdown. Two attempts, one, to narrow the nosal through which large number of cases flow into the Supreme Court and two, raising the Judge strength in their combined effect, hardly made any dent on the situation.
In the meantime, Parliament enacted Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970, which gave a fillip to the inflow of criminal appeals to the Supreme Court. It is necessary to mention here that during this decade, famous fundamental rights case, Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru v. State of Kerala AIR 1973 SC 1461 was heard by a Bench of 13 Judges leaving practically none to attend to other cases. All these factors were responsible for 400% rise in arrears during this decade.
2.14. Apart from the rise in cases awaiting final hearing, there was rise in the institution of petitions for special leave and petitions under Article 32 complaining violation of fundamental rights. Whenever institution of special leave petitions rise, miscellaneous matters rise simultaneously.
2.15. A short period development which contributed considerably to the fall in the number of disposal of cases may as well be studied. By the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, Articles 144A and 226A were incorporated in the Constitution. Article 144A provided that the minimum number of Judges of the Supreme Court who shall sit for the purpose of determining any question as to the constitutional validity of any Central law or State law shall be seven.
Article 226A denied jurisdiction to the High Court to consider the constitutional validity of any Central law in any proceedings under Article 226. Article 144A had the inbuilt tendency to delay the disposal of cases because more Judges were engaged in hearing some specific cases which could have been heard by smaller Benches. Later on, Article 144A was deleted1 However, during the period it was on the statute book, it made its own contribution towards rising arrears.
1. Constitution (Forty-third Amendment) Act, 1977.