Historic move: SC sets up special bench to hear social justice cases

In a historic step, the Supreme Court has set up a special Social Justice Bench to hear issues related to women, children and the underprivileged.

The newly constituted bench, comprising justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit, will assemble every Friday at 2 pm from 12 December.

Many cases related to social justice are pending in the courts for a number of years.

Chief Justice H L Dattu was of the view that such cases must get a special approach for early disposal to uphold the legal rights of the masses.

The issues that will come up before the new bench include night shelters for the homeless, dealing with rampant corruption in distribution of grains to the poor through the public distribution system, and the mid-day meal in government schools.

Public interest litigations highlighting deficiencies and corruption in implementation of social welfare schemes have so far been dealt with by different benches resulting in a divergent approach towards the problem.

The need for a special bench to ensure social justice to citizens, as promised in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution's, had been felt for some time by the judges. The Supreme Court listed a few issues that it intends to entertain through PILs.

One highlighted by the court is ensuring adequate healthcare to citizens irrespective of social and economic status.

The list is long – it includes "release of surplus foodgrains lying in stock for the use of people in drought affected areas, framing of a fresh scheme for distribution of foodgrains, steps for prevention of death of women and children for want of nutritional food, mid-day meal for school-going children and issues related to them, night shelter for the destitute and homeless, access to potable drinking water for all, secure employment for women to prevent them from going into prostitution".

Supreme Court secretary general V S R Avadhani said, "These are some of the areas where the constitutional mechanism has to play a proactive role in order to meet the goals of the Constitution."

"The Chief Justice of India has ordered constitution of a special 'social justice bench' to deal with matters relating to society and its members, to secure social justice, one of the ideals of the Indian Constitution," Avadhani said.