Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

 Jurisdictions of the Apex Court

By Shreya Verma

The Supreme Court is watching tower above all. It keeps a watch like a Sentinel and sees if all the structures as provided under the constitution are functioning in accordance with the constitution or not this was the view of the Apex Court in Union of India vs. Sankal Chand Himmatlal Seth (1997) SC 

Jurisdiction means, the authority of a court or official organization to make decisions and judgments. The constitution itself define areas where a court can exercise its authority or what its jurisdictions are: Likewise, Supreme Court has: 

  1. Original Jurisdiction, as per which it resolves disputes between centre-state, state-state disputes;

  2. Appellate Jurisdiction, which is related to decide any substantial question of law arising out of any order or decree, be it criminal or civil, decided by the High Court

  3. Advisory Jurisdiction, in the matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.

  4. Writ jurisdiction, is relating to when a person can directly approach the Supreme Court in case of any breach of Fundamental Right. Supreme Court can issue 5 writs namely, habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari

  1. Original Jurisdiction: India while adopting its constitution adopted a federal structure as per which, the power was decentralised or was allocated at two points viz. Centre and States. In such cases there is a reasonable probability that these power centres may fight among themselves. So, in such cases Supreme Court acts as a neutral umpire and reminds these power centres of their powers and limitations. Constitution empowers Supreme Court as its original jurisdiction Under Art. 131 to resolve such disputes arising between Centre and State or between different states. Only Inter-Governmental disputes are covered under original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as was held in the case of State of Karnataka vs. Union of India (1978) the reason for the same could be that other disputes like regarding violation of Fundamental rights that is covered under Art. 32 as writ jurisdiction, not Supreme Court solely is responsible to resolve dispute arising out of violation of Fundamental rights but a writ can also be filed under the High Court. That is the reason why Art. 131 restricts the inter-governmental disputes resolution as the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. As it being the Apex and unbiased body can better resolve such issues. 

  2. Appellate Jurisdiction: Articles 132, 133, 134 and 134A deals with an appeal before Supreme Court. Article 132 Lays down that if the High Court certifies that there is a substantial question of law as regards the interpretation of the constitution then the appeal will lie before the Supreme Court, irrespective of, whether the case is civil or criminal. 

Article 133 talks about civil appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court that is, when there is a civil matter in which a substantial question of law relating to general importance has been raised or when the substantial question arose because the constitution was wrongfully interpreted or when in the opinion of High Court, a question is needed to be decided by the Supreme court then also appeal will lie before the Supreme Court. Where, article 133 talks specifically about civil matters article 134 is concerned with criminal proceedings where, either on appeal by itself after withdrawing a trial and transferring it to itself the High Court has reversed an order of acquittal of the accused and has sentenced him to death.

Article 134A gives the power to the High Court either to suo moto or upon an application, to issue a certificate in case if it finds out that it involves a question of constitutional interpretation or it is a question of general interpretation of the constitution.

  1. Advisory jurisdiction: The Supreme Court has special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution. The President of India can seek the advice of the supreme court when a question of law or fact has arisen which is of such public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court. President can consult regarding any matter, irrespective of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as has been conferred under article 131.

  2. Writ jurisdiction: Article 139 confers power to issue direction, orders and writs to the supreme court read with article 32 talks about the writ jurisdiction office Supreme Court. Article 32 Lays down that the supreme court shall have power to issue writs with respect to enforcement of fundamental rights. Following writs can be issued by the supreme court:

  1. Habeas corpus is issued to secure the release of a person who has been unlawfully detained or is detained without any justification it can be issued either by the detainee himself or on his behalf by anyone as was held by the supreme court in Sunil Batra vs Delhi administration 1980 SC

  2. mandamus is issued in form of a command to a public authority to act lawfully or to desist from doing an unlawful act; 

  3. the writ of certiorari issued to judicial authority or to a body created by a statute in case of abuse of Jurisdiction by them; 

  4. the writ of prohibition is a judicial order to prevent any violation of any law principle of natural justice; and

  5.  quo warranto asks a person about his authority to hold public office.

The Supreme court has been entrusted with the task of guarding the sanctity of the constitution therefore it can act more than what has been conferred under the provisions. Article 142 to the constitution empowers Supreme Court to pass any decree which according to it is necessary for doing complete justice. In Shahid Balwa vs. Union of India (2014) SC, the Supreme Court clarified that Article 142 is a collective measure whereby the equity can be given preference so as to ensure that no injustice is caused. Article 142 is basically an inherent power of the supreme good which is used by the supreme court to pass orders which is required to be passed in a particular case whatever made the nature of the case the Supreme court can easily pass the judgement over it.


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