The Supreme Court in December 2014 set up a two judge special ‘Social Justice Bench’ to exclusively hear cases concerning social issues particularly those related to women, children and underprivileged saying that specialized approach is needed for dealing with these matters.
Emphasizing that judiciary needs to be proactive to ensure early disposal of such cases and to bring fruits of the rights provided under the Constitution to people, the apex court set up the bench which will function every Friday.
“In Supreme Court several cases relating to the domain of social justice are pending for several years. Chief Justice of India is of the view that these cases shall be given a specialized approach for their early disposal so that the masses will realize the fruits of the rights provided to them by the constitutional text.
The bench will deal exclusively with social matters, including the right to food and medical assistance. The move is designed to ensure that these cases can move quickly through the apex court
The range of issues identified includes access to food for drought-hit people and prevention of premature deaths caused by lack of nutrition. The right to health figures on the agenda with the mandate to make access to medical care a reality irrespective of people’s financial capacity. The bench will also determine availability of night shelters for the homeless and the destitute.
The “forest bench”, later renamed the “green bench”, has been dealing with environmental cases for nearly two decades. Similarly, the lower judiciary has courts dedicated to crimes against children and offences like sexual assault. Having a dedicated bench for matters of constitutional rights and societal concerns will reduce the pendency of cases arising from such matters. The new bench will take up not only pending matters but also new ones in order to “secure social justice, one of the ideals of the Indian Constitution”
The ‘Social Justice Bench’ of the Supreme Court took up matters of Narmada dam project, shelters for homeless persons, welfare of construction workers and exploitation of children in circuses, among others.
The problem is that the concept of rule of law promises equal treatment of all cases Constituting a special bench for a class of cases is antithetical to this concept. However, the rejoinder is that rule of law allows different sections to be treated differently and in fact this seub set is the basis oof so much social progress in India and elsewhere.
It enhances space for PILs.Credit: Sri Ram IAS