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Beginning July 12, the Supreme Court of India will begin hearing four cases for which a new constitutional bench has been formed. The newly formed bench will comprise Justices Hrishikesh Roy, PS Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra and will be led by the Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Yashwant Chandrachud.
The following cases are listed to be heard by this bench:
Tej Prakash Pathak and Ors. Vs. Rajasthan High Court and ors
This case deals with the question if the rules of appointment can be changed after the selection process has started. This case was earlier brought before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court which referred it to the current five-judge bench.
In 2008, in a case titled K. Manjusree Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and another, the Supreme Court had held that the rules of appointment cannot be changed midway through the selection process. In 2013, a petition was filed in the apex court seeking invalidation of the introduction of cutoff marks which were notified after the interview process was concluded.
Subsequently, doubts were cast on the correctness of the K. Manjusree Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and another. Now, the matter stands before the new constitution bench to be decided.
The case was being heard by another five-judge bench led by Justice Indira Banerjee but this bench had to be dissolved due to the retirement of Justice Banerjee.
Central Organisation for Railway Electrification v. M/s ECI SPIC SMO MCML (JV) A Joint Venture Company
The case deals with the question of appointment of arbitrators by a person who himself is ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator
M/s Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co Ltd v. Rambha Devi & Ors
The legal issue involved here is:
“Whether a person holding a driving license in respect of “light motor vehicle”, could on the strength of that license, be entitled to drive a “transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class” having unladen weight not exceeding 7500 kg?”
What are Constitution Benches?
The Supreme Court, positioned at the highest level of the Indian judicial system, plays a vital role as the guardian of the Constitution. Its primary responsibility is to safeguard the fundamental rights of citizens and ensure the protection of their liberties. In situations where a legal matter emerges, necessitating the interpretation of a constitutional provision or addressing a “significant legal question,” a Bench comprising a minimum of five judges of the Supreme Court is constituted to adjudicate on the matter. This specialized Bench is referred to as a Constitution Bench. Over the years, Constitution Benches have played a pivotal role in deciding some of India’s most consequential cases.
When can the Supreme Court set up a Constitution Bench?
Article 145(3) of the Constitution of India provides for the setting up of a Constitution Bench. It says that a minimum of five judges must sit for deciding a case of a substantial question of law that relates to the Constitution. It is reflective of the primacy and importance attached to the interpretation of the Constitution in our country.
There are some more scenarios where a constitution bench is set up:
- When two or three judge benches give conflicting judgements on the same legal issue.
- When a case is being decided by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court and it is of the view that some earlier judgment of the court is faulty and decides to refer the matter to a five-judge bench for reconsideration.