One of the unique features of the Indian Constitution is that, notwithstanding the adoption of a federal system and existence of Central Acts and State Acts in their respective spheres, it has generally provided for a single integrated system of Courts to administer both Union and State laws. At the apex of the entire judicial system, exists the Supreme Court of India below which are the High Courts in each State or group of States. Below the High Court lies the hierarchy of Subordinate Courts.
On the 28th of January, 1950, two days after India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic, the Supreme Court came into being. The inauguration took place in the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament building which also housed India’s Parliament, consisting of the Council of States and the House of the People.
The Original Constitution of 1950 envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 Judges-leaving it to Parliament to Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the Court increased and arrears of cases began to accumulate, parliament increased the number of Judges from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009.
ESTABLISHMENT AND CONSTITUTION OF SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of the land as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the constitution of India. According to the constitution of India, the role of the Supreme Court of India is that of a federal court, guardian of the Constitution and the highest court of appeal.
According to Article 124 (2), every judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years :
Provided that in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted.
QUALIFICATION OF THE JUDGES
According to Article 124 (3), a person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court unless he is a citizen of India and –
- Has been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
- Has been for at least ten years an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
- Is, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist.
APPOINTMENT OF ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE
According to Article 126 when the office of Chief Justice of India is vacant or when the Chief Justice is, by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to perform the duties of his office, the duties of the office shall be performed by such one of the other Judges of the Court as the President may appoint for the purpose.
APPOINTMENT OF AD HOC JUDGES
According to Article 127(1) if at any time there should not be a quorum of the Judges of the Supreme court available to hold or continue any session of the Court, the Chief Justice of India may, with the previous consent of the President and after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned, request in writing the attendance at the sittings of the Court, as an ad hoc Judge, for such period as may be necessary, of a Judge of a High Court duly qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice of India.
SUPREME COURT TO BE A COURT OF RECORD
According to Article 129, the Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself
Seat of Supreme Court
According to Article 130, the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such or such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time appoint.
Removal of the Judges of Supreme Court
Article 124 (4) provides for the removal of a judge of Supreme Court. It states that a judge of the Supreme Court is removed by the President upon the passage of resolution by both the houses of the Parliament supported by not sell than 2/3 of the members present and voting and by a majority of the house on the grounds of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
Article 124 (4) is an incomplete provision. Article 124 (5) authorizes the Parliament to regulate by law providing for the procedure for the introduction of the resolution and the proof of misbehavior or incapacity. Accordingly, the parliament enacted the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968. The act contains the procedure to be adopted for the passage of resolution in the Parliament.
The resolution can be introduced in either House of the Parliament. However, for its introduction in the Lok Sabha, it should be supported by not less than 100 members of the Hose and if it is introduced in the Rajya Sabha, it must be supported by not less than 50 members of the House. After its proper introduction the presiding officer shall appoint a Judicial committee to investigate charges against the judge. The committee is headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The second member can be a sitting Judge of either the Supreme Court or High Court and the third member can be an eminent jurist. The concerned judge has the right to defend himself before the judicial committee. After the presentation of the report of the Committee, both the houses can pass the resolution by the majority mentioned under Article 124 (4). On the passage of the resolution, the president can remove the concerned judge.
Till this day there has been a solitary case of a judge being forced to resign because of Sharp public opinion with even a threat of removal if he did not resign that of Justice Imam of the Supreme Court who had, while on the Bench, suffered from physical disability.
In regard to investigation and proof of misbehavior alleged against Justice V.Ramaswami of the Supreme Court, a three member committee was appointed under the Judges (Inquiry) Act. It comprised Justice P.B. Sawant of the Supreme Court as presiding officer, P.D. Desai, Chief Justice, Bombay High Court and Justice O.Chinnappa Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court, as members. This committee unanimously found the charges leveled against Justice V.Ramaswami proved but the motion for his removal in the Lok Sabha failed because of political considerations. The enquiry committee indicted the sitting Supreme Court judge but Parliament absolved him. Thus the removal of a Supreme Court judge by parliamentary process was unsuccessful in the only case brought before Parliament so far.