India’s Law Commission in its 229th Report noted the dire need to reduce the alarming backlog of cases in the Supreme Court as well as the spiralling costs of litigation for those living far from the court. Previous Law Commission reports highlighted the same concerns, but did not recommend splitting the court into separate benches that would hear only constitutional matters or regular appeals.
The Law Commission compared the number of cases filed in the Supreme Court in 1950 and 2008. In 1950, when the court had only seven judges, 1,215 cases were instituted, 525 of which were disposed of in the same year. From January to April 2008, when the court had 30 judges, 28,007 cases were instituted and 28,559 cases were disposed of. Although more cases were disposed of than instituted in the 2008 period, 46,374 cases remained pending, due to accumulation of cases over the years.
After considering the practice of 55 countries, the Law Commission suggested the constitution of cassation benches and constitution benches of the Supreme Court. The commission recommended that four cassation benches be set up, to deal with appeals from high courts in the north, south, east and west zones of India. The backlog of cases would be transferred to the respective cassation benches, and the Supreme Court would only hear constitutional matters and other cases of national importance on a daily basis.
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