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Posted by on Mar 11, 2014 in Judiciary |

Supreme Court – Jurisdiction and Powers

The Supreme Court is the final authority or highest judicial body in India and enjoys very wide jurisdiction throughout the country. The Constitutional cases and references made by Presidents shall be heard by a bench of at least 5 Supreme Court judges and any other case shall be heard by bench of at least 3 judges.

Original Jurisdiction

  • The Supreme Court has original or exclusive jurisdiction in any dispute –
    • b/w Govt of India (GOI) and one or more states;
    • b/w GOI and any State or States on one side and one or more states on other side;
    • b/w two or more states;

Exclusive or Original Jurisdiction means no other court have power entertain such suit.

  • The Original Jurisdiction doesn’t contain any dispute where both parties are not units of federation such as b/w GOI or any state and a private citizen which can be entertained by any ordinary court.
  • Also certain disputes are not under original jurisdiction of Supreme Court (as jurisdiction of that cases vested in some tribunals) and these are as follows:-
    • Any dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement or other similar instrument which entered into or executed before commencement of constitution continues in operation;
    • Any dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement or other similar instrument which provides that jurisdiction shall not extend such a dispute;
    •  Inter State water disputes;
    • Matters referred to Finance Commission;
    • Adjustment of certain expenses b/w GOI and states;
    • Ordinary dispute of commercial nature b/w GOI and states.

Writ Jurisdiction

  • The Writ Jurisdiction of Supreme Court is provided under Article 32 of the Constitution. The constitutional writs such as habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto or certiorari are tools for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
  • The aggrieved party (only matters related to Fundamental Rights) can directly approach to Supreme Court but writ jurisdiction is not exclusive jurisdiction of Supreme Court as HC has powers to issue writs as well.
  • The Powers of Supreme Court to issue writs is limited to enforcement of Fundamental Rights but HC can issue writs for enforcement of FRs and also for other purposes such as enforcement of legal rights other than FRs.

Appellate Jurisdiction of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in India and enjoys wide appellate jurisdiction in cases:-

  • Constitutional Matters – An appeal can be made to Supreme Court against decision of HC if HC certifies that case involves a substantial question of law that requires interpretation of the constitution.
  • Civil Matters – In any civil case other than constitutional case, an appeal lies to Supreme Court against award of HC if HC certifies that a) the case involves substantial question of law of general importance and b) in opinion of HC the said question needs to be decided by Supreme Court.
  • Criminal Matters – The Supreme Court hears appeal against final judgement of HC in criminal proceedings if HC
    • has on appeal reversed an order of an accused person and sentence him to death but it is supplemented with imprisonment of life or for ten years (by parliament in 1970);
    • has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any subordinate court to its authority and has in such trial convicted the accused and sentence him to death but it is supplemented with imprisonment of life or for ten years (by parliament in 1970);
    • certifies that the case is fit one for appeal to the Supreme Court.

Provided that Parliament can increase power of Supreme Court to hear appeals in criminal proceeding from decision of HC subject to such conditions and limitations as may be specified.

  • Appeal by Special Leave – The Supreme Court can, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgement or award or order passed by any court or tribunal in the territory of India but not applied to court or tribunal related to armed forces. it means the Supreme Court has Suo motto power of appeal against decision of any court in all matters (civil, criminal etc.). The Supreme Court has made guidelines to use this extraordinary power:-
    • In Civil cases, where some substantial question of law or general public interest involved.
    • In Criminal cases, where exceptional circumstances exist such as substantial and grave injustice has been done to accuse.
    • In cases, where tribunal or any quasi judicial body exceeds its limits of jurisdiction or adopted a procedure which violates the normal principle of natural justice.

Advisory Jurisdiction

  • The President can seek opinion of the Supreme Court on following cases or matters under Article 143:-
    • On any question of law or fact has risen or likely to arise, which is of public importance;
    • On any dispute arising out from pre constitution agreement, covenant or other instrument (as not in original jurisdiction of Supreme Court);
    • On first matter, the Supreme Court can tender or refuse to give its opinion. The opinion is only advisory in nature, not executable as judgement of Supreme Court, and not binding on govt itself. But such opinion or propositions of law declared by Supreme Court are binding on subordinate courts.
    • On second matter, the Supreme Court must tender its advice to President.

Miscellaneous Powers

  • The Supreme Court has power to inquire into matters related to conduct and behaviour of chairman and members of UPSC if referred by President. The advice given by Supreme Court in these cases is binding on President.
  • If any dispute arises in relation to election of the President and Vice President, the Supreme Court has exclusive and final authority over such dispute.
  • The Supreme Court has power to review its own decision and can alter its view from previous one.
  • The decision or order of Supreme Court is enforceable all over the country and all authorities shall act in aid of the Supreme Court. Its law binding on all courts of the country.
  • Court of Record – The Supreme Court has power to punish for contempt of court either with simple imprisonment or fine or both. All orders or acts of Supreme Court are recorded for perpetual memory and these are recognised as legal references.
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