The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 will now go to the Rajya Sabha.
Moving the Bill for passage, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said with the approval of the legislation, the strength of the Supreme Court judges will go up to 33, plus the Chief Justice of India.
"It was 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," he said.
As on June 1, there were 58,669 cases pending in the Supreme Court, he said.
Prasad also said that the feeder cadre of Chief Justices and Judges of the High Courts has increased from 906 to 1,079 and new High Courts have also been established, which "has led to increase in the disposal of cases at the High Court level leading to larger number of appeals to the Supreme Court".
The government moved the Bill days after CJI Ranjan Gogoi requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the number of Supreme Court judges as the inadequate strength of judges is one of the prime reasons for backlog of cases in the Supreme Court.
The apex court is functioning with its full strength.
The Bill amends the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 which was amended in 2009 to increase the strength of judges from 25 to 30 (excluding the CJI). The Act, which originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI), was amended in 1960 to increase the strength to 13, and in 1977 to make the number 17.
The working strength of the Supreme Court was, however, restricted to 15 judges (excluding the CJI) by the end of 1979, but this was withdrawn at the request of the then CJI. In 1986, the strength of the top court was increased to 25.
( With inputs from IANS )