Supreme Court Should Expand Bench Compositions for Consistent Legal Interpretation: Justice Muralidhar

Former High Court Judge, Justice Muralidhar, stresses larger Supreme Court bench formations to mitigate conflicting legal interpretations, aiming for consistency.

Senior Advocate and former Delhi and Orissa High Court judge, Justice Dr. S Muralidhar, shared his views on the functioning of the Supreme Court, emphasizing the need for larger bench compositions to mitigate differing legal interpretations. He expressed his opinion during the 30th JP Naik Memorial Lecture titled "Time to Introspect, Revisit: 50 Years of the Committee on the Status of Women in India".

Dr. Muralidhar highlighted the challenge posed by the multitude of two-judge benches in the Indian Supreme Court, which often leads to conflicting interpretations of the law. He advocated for larger bench formations to minimize such conflicts. He stressed that existing decisions should not be revisited hastily unless there is significant disagreement among the current bench members.

Regarding the workload of judges, Dr. Muralidhar acknowledged the taxing nature of their responsibilities, noting that the demanding cerebral work leaves little time for contemplation and increases the likelihood of errors.

In response to a query about the varying judicial interpretations concerning violence and crimes against women, he remarked, "Indian Supreme Court is so different. It has 17 two judge benches. You are bound to have differing interpretations. We should sit in larger benches so that conflict among benches is minimised, and decisions should not be relooked unless there is some serious disagreement. Next is the volume of work; the brain is extremely tired, it is very exhausting cerebral work that leaves you very less time (to think), and the likelihood of mistakes increases."

During his lecture, Justice Muralidhar also addressed the reports of the National Commission for Women (NCW), calling for more detailed documentation of their findings. He criticized recent reports for lacking specificity in categorizing the types of crimes they addressed.

Interestingly, he shared an anecdote about the atmosphere at the Delhi High Court following the landmark 2009 judgment that decriminalized consensual homosexual relations. He recalled a conversation with Justice (AP) Shah in their chambers, where they discussed the potential impact of the ruling. Despite their anticipation, no other judge addressed the matter for several days. Eventually, someone jokingly referred to them as "gaylords".