There will be at least one Constitution bench for “authoritative pronouncements” on issues like mercy pleas to avoid conflicting views by smaller benches, says Chief Justice of India designate Justice P Sathasivam.
The 64-year-old judge, who will take over as the 40th CJI in a fortnight’s time, feels that a permanent Constitution bench consisting of five judges will solve thousands of cases stuck in litigation, even at the apex court, because of conflicting views from smaller benches.
“I am going to identify these types of cases (and) discuss these issues with my senior colleagues soon after I take over,” Justice Sathasivam, who is scheduled to be sworn in on July 19, said.
Likewise, he said there are thousands of cases relating to entry tax pending all over India and imposition of such a tax on vehicles by each state makes it a difficult proposition.
“If a lorry goes from one state to another, every state imposes tax. How that man will survive?
The new CJI designate also has strong views on the legislative proposal for a bar on judges making casual observations against legislature and executive during hearings and dismisses the idea of setting up circuit benches of the apex court in other parts of the country.
Justice Sathasivam expressed his reservation over the provision of the proposed Judicial Accountability Bill which bars judges from making observations on constitutional authorities saying that it would come in the way of “fair justice“.
However, he clarified his personal view that “no judge is entitled to make unnecessary comments”.
He also wants judges to be cautious while making observations in the courts. It should be limited to eliciting information from parties.
The CJI-designate does not favour setting up circuit benches of the Supreme Court in other parts of the country as this proposal has already been ruled out by the full court of the Supreme Court on seven occasions from 1950 till date.
“Nowadays, in view of the development of technology, like computers, laptops, e—filing, other online facilities, etc, distance is not a factor,” he added.
Justice Sathasivam said the Supreme Court was devoting much time on high profile corporate matters at the cost of general litigants.
“Unfortunately it is true. To solve these commercial matters, corporate litigations, we have the Arbitration Act. The provision of arbitration is there to get rid of litigation from the courts. But after an arbitration award is passed by a former judge or an eminent person, the aggrieved party again goes to court. Secondly, for corporate cases, they engage leading lawyers and senior counsels. Even now we are able to do more cases, but in view of the high stakes they take longer time. But not at the cost of other matters,” he said.
The CJI designate concurred with the idea that the retirement age of High Court judges should be on par with that of Supreme Court judges — 65 years.
“Unfortunately, these are all matters of constitutional amendments which requires two-third majority (in Parliament) and has to be ratified by 50 per cent of the states,” he added.
Justice Sathasivam brushed aside the suggestion that there should be a cooling off period of couple of years before a retired judge is given some assignment in tribunals or commissions.
“We have several tribunals like, TDSAT, TRAI, CAT, NCDRC, AFT. Some important tribunals must be manned by former judges of Supreme Court or High Courts. But where there is no statutory requirement (for appointment of former judges), the judges themselves should refuse,” he concluded.