The Constitution Bench Trade-Off

DESK BRIEF: Recent scholarship suggests that constitution benches have a major impact on the speed at which the Court disposes of cases

In a recent journal article empirically analyzing the Supreme Court of India’s workload, Rahul Hemrajani and Himanshu Agarwal suggest that Constitution Benches have a significant impact on the court’s overall disposal of cases. A Constitution Bench consists of five judges selected by the Chief Justice of India to decide substantive constitutional and legal questions. Committing five judges to a Constitution Bench keeps them from deciding cases in a Single Bench or in smaller Division Benches. The creation of Constitution Benches may adversely impact the pendency and disposal of cases and it is important to quantitatively estimate this trade-off.

Today, the Constitution Bench hearing the Ayodhya dispute completes 20 days of final arguments. While there is no doubt that this is an epochal case that represents a critical moment in Indian legal and political history, it’s unlikely to be a legal precedent that settles many disputes that arise in the future. So if Constitution Bench disposals do represent a trade off with ordinary Bench disposals, we should anticipate a significant dip in court disposals in August and September 2019.

SC Observer Desk

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