“We must devise a mechanism by which courts should mandatorily impose cost on litigants bringing frivolous cases to the courts. The losing side in a frivolous case must be saddled with the cost of using up precious judicial time and resources,” said Justice Lalit, who will take oath as the 49th Chief Justice on August 27.
He added said the primary function of the Supreme Court, as mandated by the Constitution, is to lay down law and decide intricate constitutional issues.
“If the Supreme Court, even when it had seven or eight judges, could spare five to set up a constitution court, today with a strength of 34 judges, we can surely set up a permanent five-judge bench for that purpose,” he said.
“In normal circumstances, given the position of the Supreme Court, one constitution bench should be in place permanently. Look at the past judges — Justice V Krishna Iyer during his seven year tenure had participated in 55 constitution bench judgments; Justice PN Bhagwati in 113 such judgments. I think we can set up a bench of five-judges permanently,” he said.
Amicus Curiae route to reduce frivolous PILs
With the pandemic restricting the physical functioning of the three-tier justice delivery system for almost two years, the pendency of cases registered a substantial increase in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the district judiciary to cross the four crore mark, with one-fourth of them pending for the past five to 20 years.
CJI-designate Justice UU Lalit said every roadblock in delivering speedy justice must be consciously removed. “As the Supreme Court, we must develop a healthy practice or system to weed out avoidable litigation,” he said.
The SC had devised the concept of public interest litigation, unique to India and somewhat similar to class-action suits of western jurisdictions. This was to enable a public spirited person to bring to the court’ s notice violation of fundamental rights of the poor and deprived who do not have the wherewithal to approach the judiciary for redressal of their grievances. But, in the last decade and half, the SC has witnessed chronic PIL litigants rushing to the court with every issue debated in the public at the drop of a hat. The CJI-designate has a potent solution to eradicate the chronic PIL-mania.
“The constitutional courts can devise a system by which the genuine PILs, entertained by the court, would be conducted only by court-appointed amicus curiae, irrespective of the petitioner, ” he suggested. If the SC and the HCs could put in place this system, many PILs would not take birth as this instrument is primarily aimed at garnering publicity for the petitioner.
Elaborating on his suggestion for SC to have a permanent 5-judge Constitution bench, he said, “In normal circumstances, given the position of the Supreme Court, one Constitution bench should be in place permanently. Look at the past judges — Justice V Krishna Iyer during his seven-year tenure had participated in 55 constitution bench judgments; Justice PN Bhagwati in 113 such judgments. I think we can set up a bench of five-judges permanently,” he said.