For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, three single-judge benches on Wednesday took up 20 cases each for hearing and passed the orders.
Three single-judge benches of Justices Krishna Murari, S Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy conducted the hearings on 20 transfer petitions (petitions seeking transfer of case from one court to another) each through video conferencing and passed necessary orders.
The apex court, which currently has 32 judges out of the sanctioned strength of 34, normally sits in the combination of two or three, besides the larger Constitution benches.
To reduce huge pendency of cases, the apex court had made certain amendments to the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, in September last year which stated that single-judge bench would hear appeals in bail and anticipatory bail matters in offences entailing jail term of up to seven years.
On May 11, the top court has issued a notice saying that from Wednesday, one or more single-judge benches will sit to adjudicate transfer petitions, appeals of bail and anticipatory bail in cases in which offences entail jail term of up to seven years as also applications for transfer of cases.
As per a notice issued by the top court on its website, besides other amendments the competent authority has provided that certain categories of matters may be "heard and disposed of finally by a judge sitting singly nominated by the Chief Justice".
Special Leave Petitions arising out of grant, dismissal or rejection of bail application or anticipatory bail application in the matters filed against the order passed under section 437, section 438 or section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) involving the offences punishable with sentence up to seven years imprisonment," the notice has said.
It has further said that single judge would also hear application for transfer of cases under section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and also application of urgent nature for transfer of cases under section 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC).
"Take further notice that the matters referred to above will be listed before judge sitting singly w.e.f May 13, 2020," the notice has said.
A gazette notification was issued on September 17 last year, through which the apex court had amended the Supreme Court Rules, 2013. Earlier, as per Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and older rules, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) had the power to appoint one or more judges to hear all matters of an urgent nature during summer vacation or winter holidays.
The Supreme Court website has said, "The original Constitution of 1950 envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 puisne Judges - leaving it to Parliament to increase this number".
It has said, "In the early years, all the Judges of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the Court increased and arrears of cases began to cumulate, Parliament increased the number of Judges from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978 and 26 in 1986."
"As the number of the Judges has increased, they sit in smaller Benches of two and three - coming together in larger Benches of 5 and more only when required to do so or to settle a difference of opinion or controversy," the apex court website has said.