Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India has original, appellate, writ and advisory jurisdiction as discussed below:

Original Jurisdiction

As per article 32, Supreme Court is the guardian / protector of fundamental rights and any person whose fundamental rights are violated can directly approach the Supreme Court for remedy. Supreme Court has from time to time interpreted the fundamental rights and has protected the Citizens of India from any unconstitutional legislation which breech their fundamental rights. Any matter regarding the enforcement of Fundamental Rights comes under the Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Apart from this, Supreme Court is the Highest Interpreter of the Constitution and tribunal for final settlements of the disputes between Center and States as well as States and States. Supreme Court has original Jurisdiction in matters related any dispute between:

  • Government of India and one or more states
  • Government of India and State(s) on one side and State(s) in other side
  • State(s) and State(s)

The dispute should involve a question whether of law or fact on which depends existence of a legal right which the court is called upon to determine.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Supreme Court is the Highest Court of appeal and the writs and decrees of Supreme Court run throughout the country. The cases come to the Supreme Court in the form of appeals against the judgments of the lower courts and this is called appellate jurisdiction. Appellate jurisdiction involves the Constitution, Civil and criminal matters.

An appeal can be made in the Supreme Court against any judgment, decree or final order of the High Court in the territory of India, whether in a civil criminal or other proceedings, if the High Court Certified that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. Even of the High Court refuses to give such certificate , the Supreme Court can grant special leave to appeal if the court is satisfied that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.

In every matter that involves the interpretation of the constitution whether, civil, criminal or any other proceeding, the Supreme Court has been made the final authority to elaborate the meaning and intent of the Constitution.

As far as criminal cases are concerned there are 3 situations in which criminal appeals in Supreme Court are permitted: (Article 134)

  • The High Court has on appeal reverse the order of acquittal of accused person and sentenced him to death.
  • The High Court has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any subordinate court and such trial convicted the accused person and sentenced him to death.
  • High Court certifies that the case is worth appeal to the Supreme Court.

Advisory Jurisdiction

Article 143 (Power of President to consult Supreme Court) discusses the advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

  • If the president feels that a question of law or fact has arisen or is likely to arise and the question is of such a nature and of such public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, he can refer the same to Supreme Court for its advisory Opinion.
  • Such an opinion is NOT binding on the president.

Can Supreme Court overrule its own verdicts?

It is said that the Lower court is concerned with the facts and High Court with the error of the judgment of the lower court. The Supreme Court is concerned with wisdom. But the Supreme Court may also go wrong and such wrongs can be rectified. Article 137 of the Constitution provides that Supreme Court can review and revise its own orders.

Special Leave Petition

Special leave petition is a power of Supreme Court whereby the court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India. {Article 136}. Special Leave Petition has been used frequently to obviate the bar put by article 262 on SC for hearing the matters related to inter-state riparian disputes.

Court of Record

The judgements, proceedings and acts of the Supreme Court are recognized as legal precedents and legal references. They are recorded for perpetual memory and testimony. These records are admitted to be of evidentiary value and cannot be questioned when produced before any court. In India, both Supreme Court and High Courts serve as Courts of Record.

Power to punish for contempt of itself

Supreme Court and High Courts have power to punish for contempt of themselves. While Supreme Court has power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals of the entire country.

Provisions for Independence of Supreme Court

To keep Supreme Court free from encroachments, pressures and interferences of the executive and legislature, following provisions have been made in the constitution.

  • Judiciary is separate from executive.
  • Consultation of judiciary has been made must for appointment of Judges, so that it curtails arbitrary discretion of executive in appointments.
  • Removal of the judges of Supreme Court is one of the most difficult processes. A judge can be removed only by president when a resolution support by at least 100 members of parliament is passed in both the houses by absolute and special majority. This process is such difficult that no judge of Supreme Court has been removed so far.
  • The Salaries, allowances and other privileges are charged upon consolidated fund of India. They cannot be changed except during a financial emergency.
  • The Constitution has put a bar on any discussion in parliament or state legislature regarding conduct of the judges in discharge of their duty except when a motion for their removal is under consideration in parliament.
  • Retired judges of Supreme Court are barred from pleading or acting in any court within the territory of India.
  • Supreme Court has power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • Officers and servants of the Supreme Court are appointed by Supreme Court itself.
  • Parliament can extend but cannot curtail the jurisdiction of Supreme Court.