ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Regional Representation

This refers to the data, analysis and a thinly-veiled suggestion on populationbased state-wise representation in the Supreme Court (SC) by Abhinav Chandrachud in his article “Regional Representation on the Supreme Court” (EPW, 14 May 2011). While the analysis shows that some states or high courts (HCs) have had continuously higher shares of SC seats than justified by their numbers in terms of population or high court strength, it is a dangerous conclusion to even hint at a population-based state-wise sharing of SC seats. The question is simple. Do we need the best jurists to be in the SC or “good enough” judges as long as regional balance is maintained? I wonder if the author would check the social composition of the teachers of his child’s school or the doctor’s team operating on a loved one.

One hopes the SC judge selection process is already (or can be made) fair and consistent, so that the best judges from the HCs are chosen to come to the SC. If there is a bias against any province(s), then that should be handled through making the process as transparent and objective as possible. One of the criteria could be how many of his/her judgments were upheld by the SC on appeal. The other can be having a proper balance of skills, that is, various dimensions of law. However, judges are not politicians or social activists. They do not make law. They are not expected to reflect the people’s opinion or protect any province’s interest. They are there to assess the facts and interpret the same, and reach a conclusion applying the law as it stands now. It is sad if any SC judge fails in that test. Of course, there is human bias. It will exist even for judges who are promoted to the SC through a quota/reservation route. A pseudo-reservation or even informal quota system on regional lines, however, can only be followed by similar claims on religious, gender, income or caste grounds. Even that will not solve any problem, since there is no organisation that will be seen as truly representative. Even religions have enough intersect disputes.

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