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India's Social Justice Bench Meets for the First Time

The Indian Supreme Court has established a “Social Justice Bench” to cover cases about social justice in a timely manner. A statement released by the Supreme Court explains, “In Supreme Court several cases relating to the domain of ‘social justice’ are pending for several years. Hon’ble the 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 hopes to cover a wide range of issues including those related to poverty, women’s rights, and children’s issues. The Chief Justice has called for a weekly meeting of the bench on Fridays to hear said cases. Justices Madan B. Lokur and U. U. Lalit will preside over the bench.
This past Friday the bench heard its first cases, which consisted of various social issues including shelter homes, construction workers’ rights, and children’s exploitation in the circus industry.
For one of the cases, the Justices called on the Central and Delhi government to increase shelters for homeless people before the cold winter months set in. Another case heard was about the plight of children who are exploited by circuses, despite a Supreme Court ban three years ago.  This provides us with an insight into the types of issues the bench will take up in future weeks.
The establishment of this bench is a great step for the Indian Justice System as it provides a unique opportunity for various issues of social significance to be covered that might not get heard as quickly before. It will be interesting to see the cases the bench decides to hear in the coming weeks and what difference, if any, it has on the ability of people to get justice.
One overarching concern is that the bench will only meet once every week for two hours. Given the large number of cases that are pending in the social justice category, the court will either have to convene the bench more frequently or face the same slow process as in the past. In that case, this move to create a new bench will largely be a public relations project rather than a public good one.
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