The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced by the Minister of Law and justice in Lok Sabha dated 5 August 2019. It seeks to amend the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956.

Characterstics of the SC Amendment bill-2019

  • The Supreme Court Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to expand the judge's strength from 25 to 31 (including the CJI). This time amendment further increase judges strength in SC from 31 to 33
  • The Act fixes the maximum number of judges in the Supreme Court at 30 judges (except the Chief Justice of India). The Bill increases this number from 30 to 33.

The requirement of this amendment:

  • From 2006 to 2018, there has been an 9% rise in the pendency of cases across all courts and in High Court and Supreme Court this figure around 18% and 35% respectively.
  • Due to higher number of cases disposal in the HC, parties plea in Supreme court so this increase burden on SC judges. So, there was need to increase judges strength in SC.
  • Cases pending in SC around 59 thousands and in HC this figure around 43 lakhs
  • Due to small number of judges, the required number of constitution benches to decide important cases involving substantial questions of law were not being formed.
  • If Chief Justice of India (CJI) constitutes 5 Judges Bench on a regular basis to hear cases involving question of law, it would result in constitution of a smaller number of Benches which would lead to delay in hearing of other criminal and civil matters.
  • Due to small number of judges, disposal rate of cases also low around 30% in HC, 55% in SC and 40% in subordinate courts.


  • SC suggestion of increasing the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65, but bill not mention this suggestion of SC.
  • Bring back practice of tenure appointments of retired HC and SC judges for the clearance of pending cases. This bill also silent on this suggestion

Road ahead

  • Supreme court should not hear the appeal of every decision of the HC. SC should hear cases which involve matter of public importance and a considerable question of law .
  • Flood relief, routine bail matters etc cases should be deal by High Court
  • Need to set up separate constitutional courts, which hear cases of questions of constitutional importance.
  • Cases of special leave should be minimum in the higher judiciary because this increase pendency of cases and push other cases in line.
  • "Cassation Benches" establishment, this arrangement can increase access to justice to the people who live in distant areas of the country and who may otherwise have to come to Delhi and spend more money and time in pursuing appeals.
  • Recent Law Commission's 229th Report, which recommended one Constitution Bench in Delhi, and four ‘Cassation Benches’ for various regions of the country