December 7, 2021
Logjam and bread
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. Pancake enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief. Canada has decided to tap into its maple syrup strategic reserve to make up for shortages. Quebec produces about 73% of the world’s maple syrup. The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (QMSP) said it will release 22.7 million kgs into the market by February. The reserve was created in 2000 to keep syrup stock in check and ensure a constant supply for the domestic and international markets.
Oh, and by the way, either/view newsletter was not published yesterday due to extenuating circumstances. Normal service has been resumed from today.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Will a National Court of Appeal expedite Indian adjudication?
Have you been to court lately? It’s just a bunch of black robes, the smell of stale paper and a whole lot of waiting. Like a mysterious roommate, pendency showed up in the judiciary and getting them to leave has become way harder than it ever should have been.
To deal with this ever-growing backlog, major judicial voices have once again pushed the proposal of creating a National Court of Appeal. The idea is that this court will deal with any and all cases that don’t require the Supreme Court’s immediate attention. The problem is that this just might be an oversimplification of an issue that has plagued the Indian judicial system for years.
According to experts, our Supreme Court is “one of the most accessible apex courts in the world.” This is mainly because of the wide amount of topics the court is expected to look into. They cover everything from granting special leaves to constitutional law. And over the years, this mishmash of jurisdiction has led to more cases coming in than those being dealt with. So the idea of a National Court of Appeal (NCA) came into view.
Since 1986, the establishment of an NCA has been considered “very desirable” by the apex court. According to them, the NCA would have regional benches in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai, and would deal with all cases sent over from subordinate courts. Leaving only those regarding public and constitutional law for the Supreme Court to work with.
Back in 2014, when a petition requesting the same was doing its rounds, both the Chief Justice and the Attorney General were against an NCA. They were of the opinion that bifurcating the powers of the apex court would “completely change the constitution of the Supreme Court”. This November, the Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal, in front of our Chief Justice and PM, brought it up again. And the CJI seems to agree.
The more the merrier
When it comes to safeguarding fundamental rights, you can’t have too much of a good thing. Adding another layer of adjudication that basically just sifts through piles of paperwork would literally help the Supreme Court do just that. In his speech, Venugopal proposed the establishment of four regional ‘Courts of Appeal’ – one for each cardinal direction. This would make high-level adjudication easier to access as litigants would no longer have to drag themselves to the capital just to be heard. High-level regional courts will make the lives of litigants far easier and offer enough of a relief to the top court to get some real work done.
How things work now is that the cases appealed in the different tribunals and High Courts can later be appealed in the top court as well. This reduces the “finality” of a High Court’s judgement, thus, reducing its sanctity. And this isn’t even a new phenomenon, the 14th Law Commission report in 1958 also pointed it out but nothing was done to fix it. Today, our inherited legal system is still forced to deal with the problems of yesteryear because of technicalities. Several experts, including our AG and CJI, believe that bifurcating the Supreme Court’s judicial powers will definitely help overcome the same. Not only saving time but revenue as well.
This brings us to the main reason for the establishment of an NCA. Its ability to streamline the Supreme Court’s work. Sure, the top court’s ability to deal with every topic under the sun does make it a formidable institution. But practically speaking, the demand for sound justice is simply higher than its supply. And why wouldn’t it be? Our courts are severely understaffed and the stalling of work due to the pandemic definitely didn’t help. In fact, the most common type of case piling up at the Supreme Court are those regarding special leaves. Having an NCA take care of that would let the apex finally focus on things that actually matter – all things constitutional and public.
Too many cooks convolute the judicial system
A major reason for the NCA to not be established is, unfortunately, the law itself. According to Article 130 of the Indian Constitution, “the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint”. Offering up different regional versions of the same just isn’t allowed. Turns out, the Supreme Court is their name and sitting in New Delhi is their game. Since 2014, various officials have recognised that amending the article would be “impermissible as this would change the constitution of the Supreme Court completely”.
Similarly, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court also said that “no effort should be made to restrict the powers of this Court under Article 136”. Article 136 specifically grants the apex court the “special power to grant special leave, to appeal against any judgment or order or decree in any matter or cause, passed or made by any Court/tribunal in the territory of India.” Considering that the whole point of the NCA is to take over that function of the top court, it kind of fundamentally falls flat on its face. According to the bench, “it would be better to use the said power with circumspection, rather than to limit the power forever”.
In a general sense too, the concept of an NCA seems to ignore the fact that this backlog of cases isn’t exclusive to the top court alone. Right now, there exist more than 4.5 crores pending cases in the lower judiciary. If the mechanism for the delivery of justice isn’t improved at these levels, the crisis of pendency will soon achieve permanency in our courts. An NCA also just adds an extra layer of adjudication in an already stretched out process of availing justice. Spending a bunch of taxpayer money only to add to red tape doesn’t really warrant speedy trials. All this seems to do is benefit lawyers as job opportunities open up.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Jobs or moksha? Modi’s Kashi corridor in Varanasi comes at a price
For the Left:
TMC’s high-risk strategy may benefit the BJP
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Farming practices recognised (Rajasthan) – The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recognised the farming practices of the tribals in Banswara, Dungarpur, and Pratapgarh. Their farming methods are carried out without damaging the soil. The FAO said this methodology was innovative and sustainable for areas where resources are scarce. It is thanks to a campaign that has trained over 600 indigenous women in preserving traditional practices of farming that preserved the health of the soil.
Stubble burnt (Punjab) – In the state, stubble burning has ended post the paddy harvesting phase. Punjab has burnt 15.47 lakh hectares of stubble, 52% of the state’s total rice area. The actual burnt area is 2.49 lakh hectares lower compared to last year. This year also marked the second-highest number of fire incidents at more than 71,000.
Tamil mandatory in competitive exams (Tamil Nadu) – The state government defended its decision to introduce a mandatory paper on Tamil in competitive exams. Minister for Finance and Human Resources Management, Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, said the level is up to Class 10. The government cited the necessity for government jobs, and allied service aspirants, as their jobs will involve contact with locals.
Paddy procurement (Jharkhand) – From December 15, the state will begin procurement of paddy. The state wants to extend the benefits of MSP to as many farmers as possible. It aims to buy a maximum of 200 metric tonnes of paddy from a single farmer. The government has identified 65,000 farmers who weren’t genuine beneficiaries of MSP to rectify the issue. The government aims to produce 8 lakh metric tonnes of paddy this time.
Mistaken identity killings (Nagaland) – Thirteen villagers and a soldier were killed at an Indo-Maynmar border district after a counter-insurgency operation went wrong. After receiving a tip-off about possible insurgents, soldiers opened fire on a truck carrying villagers. Things turned tense later as protestors broke into the Assam rifles camp leading to one man dying. The state government has formed a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the incident.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹9326 crores – Meta’s gross ad revenue for the fiscal year ended March 2021. It is a 41% increase owing to people engaging more with digital tools during the pandemic.