The President of India Ram Nath Kovind on August 9, 2019, has signed off on theSupreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019, to increase the sanctioned strength of the apex court judges from the existing 31 to 34 including the Chief Justice of India.
The Bill presented for consideration by the UnionLaw Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was passed by the Parliament on August 7, 2019.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill had referred to the Chief Justice of India's "intimation" that the inadequate strength of judges was the prime reason behind the backlog. It states,
- The pendency of cases in the Supreme Court of India has constantly been on the rise due to comparatively higher rate of institution of cases. As on the 1st day of June, 2019, there were 58669 cases pending in the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of India has intimated that inadequate strength of judges is one of the prime reasons for backlog of cases in the Supreme Court. It is not possible for the Chief Justice of India to constitute five Judges Bench on a regular basis to hear cases involving substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution as it would result in constitution of less number of Division Benches which would lead to delay in hearing of other civil and criminal matters.
- The feeder cadre of Chief Justices and Judges of the High Courts have increased from 906 to 1,079 and presently new High Courts have also been established in the previous years. This has led to increase in the disposal of cases at the High Court level leading to larger number of appeals to the Supreme Court.
- It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 to increase the number of Judges in the Supreme Court from present thirty to thirty-three, excluding the Chief Justice of India."