This article has been written by Akash Chaudhary, pursuing a Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution and has been edited by Oishika Banerji (Team Lawsikho).
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Appellate jurisdiction, under the Indian Constitution, is defined as the rights of the higher courts to change or cancel the decision of the lower court. Appellate jurisdiction under Indian Constitution is defined under Article 132 to Article 136. A certificate provided by the competent high court can be used to seek the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. In civil proceedings, there is an appeal right to the Supreme Court if the high court in question certifies that:
- There is a significant legal issue at stake in this case that is pertinent to everybody, and
- The Supreme Court must decide on the aforesaid issue.
Appeals from the high court in criminal proceedings shall be made to the Supreme Court when the concerned high court:
- Has after receiving an appeal overturned an order of acquittal and sentenced defendant to death or to life in prison or for a period of at least 10 years, or
- By using its power or authority withdraw any matter from the subordinate courts or lower courts for its own trial and in such trial the high court convicts the defendant and sentence him to death or to life in prison or for a period of at least 10 years, or
- Declares and certifies that the matter is appropriate for Supreme Court appeal.
This article discusses the appellate jurisdiction under Indian Constitution which ranges from Article 132 to that of 136 of the Indian Constitution.
Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction
The Supreme Court of India can exercise appellate jurisdiction under the following heads:
1. Authority regarding constitutional matters
2. Authority regarding civil matters
3. Authority regarding criminal matters
4. Authority regarding special leave petition.
Appellate Jurisdiction under Indian Constitution
1. Article 132: Supreme Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction over appeals from high courts in certain cases i.e., constitutional matters.
2. Article 133: Supreme Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction over appeals from high courts regarding civil matters.
3. Article 134: Supreme Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction over appeals in criminal matters.
4. Article 135: Supreme Court possesses jurisdiction over the federal court’s legal jurisdiction and can exercise that authority.
5. Article 136: Appeal by Special Leave under the discretion of supreme court | Special Leave Petition.
In simple terms it can also be said that an appeal in the Supreme Court can be made against the order of the high court, but also with the permission of the High Court.
Article 132: Supreme court’s Appellate Jurisdiction over appeals from high courts in certain cases i.e., constitutional matters
According to Article 132 of the Indian Constitution, 1950, it gives power for an appeal to the Supreme Court from any High Court “judgement, decree, or final order”, where case is related to any criminal matter, civil matter, or any other matter and if it is certified by the High Court that the case involves a substantial question of interpretation of the law related to Constitution and Where such a certificate is given by the high court itself. Any party on such grounds can appeal in supreme court on ground that in matter of substantial question, case has been decided.
As observed in SP Sampath Kumar vs. Union Of India (1987), in this case the Supreme Court of India had held that an appeal under Article 132 can only be filed in cases where a certificate is issued by the High Court which mentions that the case involves a substantial question of law. Further, in Keshav Mills Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, Bombay (1953), it was concluded that an appeal under Article 132 can only be filed against the final judgement of the High Court.
In the case of the State of Madras vs. Rowjee (1952), it has been held that an appeal under Article 132 cannot be filed against an interlocutory order of the high court and it can be filed only against final judgement. Also, in State of Andhra Pradesh VS. Sree Rama Rao (1963), Supreme court held that a certificate from high court is not merely a formality and that high court must apply its mind before granting such certificate.
Article 133: Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction over appeals from high courts regarding civil matters
According to Article 133 clause (1) of the Indian Constitution, 1950, any decision, decree, or final order of a high court in a civil case taking place on Indian soil may be appealed to the Supreme Court. An appeal can be made under this Article if the high court certifies the following conditions under Article 134A:
(a) That the case for which an appeal can be made includes a fundamental legal issue of wide significance; and
(b) That according to the high court’s opinion, the substantial question regarding constitutional law needs to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Despite any provisions mentioned in Article 132, any party appealing to the Supreme Court under clause (1) may assert that a significant or basic legal matter regarding the clarification of this Constitution has been incorrectly decided as one of the reasons in such an appeal and Despite anything mentioned in this article, until and unless the Parliament of India by-law provides that no appeal from the final order may be made to the Supreme Court., judgement, or decree of 1 Judge of a high court.
The Supreme Court of India while deciding the case of M/s. Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu v. Union of India (2005), has observed that the expression “judgement, decree, or final order” in Article 133 of the Constitution must be interpreted broadly to include interlocutory orders as well.
The judgement in the case of State of West Bengal v. Kesoram Industries Ltd. (2004) had clarified that the value of the subject matter in a civil case for determining the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court includes not only the claim made by the plaintiff but also the counter-claim made by the defendant.
In Som Prakash Rekhi v. Union of India (1981), the Supreme Court has held that an appeal under Article 133 of the Constitution lies only if the judgement or order appealed against is a final judgement, decree or order which finally determines the rights of the parties in the suit.
In Union of India v. Deoki Nandan Aggarwal (1992), the Supreme Court held that the test to determine whether an issue raised in a civil suit involves a substantial question of law of general importance is whether the issue is of such a nature that it would affect the rights of a large number of people or a significant section of society.
Article 134: Supreme Court’s Appellate Jurisdiction in criminal matters
Article 134 of the Indian constitution talks about the supreme court’s appellate jurisdiction in criminal matters. According to Article 134 “any judgement, final order, or punishment” issued by a high court in a criminal case taking place on Indian soil, there is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court:
- If a high court overturns an accused person’s acquittal following an appeal from the accused and sentenced him to death, i.e., if the high court reverses his decision of acquittal of the accused person upon filing an appeal and sentences that person to death then in that case an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court.
- If the high court withdraws any case for trial before itself, from any court subordinate to its authority and if in such trial high court sentences an accused person to death after convicting him, then, in that case, appeal can be made to the Supreme Court and appellate jurisdiction of Supreme Court will come into effect; or
(c) If the High Court certifies that the case is a fit case pursuant to Article 134A for making an appeal to the Supreme Court, provided that high court will have to establish such conditions where an appeal is allowed, it is subject to such provisions which may be made in that behalf under Article 145 clause 1.
Also, in this Article, the Supreme Court can be conferred with any further powers by law through parliament in which supreme court can entertain and hear appeals from “any sentence, judgement or final order” issued by a High Court in a criminal case that must take place on Indian soil. All the matter is subject to such conditions that the law may impose.
Lets understand essence of this article with some landmark cases:
- K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra (1962): This case was a sensitive and sensational murder trial that eventually led to the abolition of the jury system in India. The case was initially tried before a jury, whose verdict was later set aside by the Bombay High Court. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court under Article 134.
- Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Raj Narain (1975): This case dealt with the election dispute between Indira Gandhi and Raj Narain. The Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi’s election to be null and void, which was later challenged in the Supreme Court under Article 134.
- Zahira Habibullah Sheikh vs. State of Gujarat (2004): This case involved the Best Bakery massacre, where several people were burnt alive during the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. The case had been marked by witness intimidation and a botched investigation. The Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of the matter under Article 134 and transferred the case out of Gujarat.
- Ajmal Kasab vs. State of Maharashtra (2012): This case dealt with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, where Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab was one of the main perpetrators. Kasab was convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court, which was later upheld by the Bombay High Court. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court under Article 134.
- Yakub Abdul Razak Memon vs. State of Maharashtra (2015): This case dealt with the 1993 Bombay bombings, where Yakub Memon was one of the conspirators. Memon was convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court, which was later upheld by the Bombay High Court. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court under Article 134, which rejected his plea for mercy and upheld his death sentence.
Article 135: Supreme Court possesses jurisdiction over federal court’s legal jurisdiction and can exercise that authority.
Federal Courts functioned until the supreme court of India was established in 1950. Federal courts were the supreme authority of the Indian judicial system.
Under current law “Jurisdiction and powers” of the Federal Court are to be exercised by the Supreme Court of India unless otherwise specified by law or by Parliament. The supreme court shall also have the authority, jurisdiction or power for the cases which do not fulfil the criteria under Article 133 or Article 134. Before the implementation of this Constitution, the Federal Court and the Supreme Court could exercise all these functions in accordance with any applicable law.
In the case of the State of Maharashtra v. Milind (2000), the question before the Supreme Court was whether the Bombay High Court had the jurisdiction to hear an appeal against an order of acquittal passed by a Metropolitan Magistrate. The Supreme Court held that the high court had the jurisdiction to hear such an appeal under Article 135 of the Constitution.
Further, in the case of Moosa Raza v. State of Kerala (2005), Article 135 was interpreted in the context of appeals from the decisions of the Rent Control Appellate Authority. The Supreme Court held that when a statute provides for two forums of appeal, both the forums should be deemed to have concurrent jurisdiction unless the statute expressly excludes one of them.
Article 136: Appeal by Special Leave under the discretion of supreme court | Special Leave Petition
In ordinary situations, the procedure to appeal in Supreme Court can be found from Articles 132,133,134. There might be the chance that after covering all the aspects of appeal to the Supreme Court, any situation may arise whose solution is not provided in Articles 132,133 and 134, i.e., some rule of law might still be broken. Thus, to overcome this, a special power is given to the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, 1950. This power completely rests upon the discretion of the Supreme Court.
Before the Supreme Court takes up the case depending on its discretion, till that time this is known as a petition, but once Supreme Court accepts this petition then it is known as an appeal. This article can be termed as an article of special leave petition.
As observed and concluded in the landmark judgement of Ramakant Rai vs. Madan Rai (2004), the Supreme Court had observed that any private party can also file an appeal under Article 136 in the Supreme Court challenging acquittal.
In the case of Dharambir Singh v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2008), the Supreme Court held that the power under Article 136 is not limited to questions of law but extends to questions of fact as well. However, the court will not interfere with the findings of fact unless there is a gross miscarriage of justice.
In the case of Raja Ram Pal v. Speaker, Lok Sabha (2007), the Supreme Court of India has held that the power under Article 136 is not absolute and should be exercised sparingly and only in exceptional cases where there is a manifest error of law or flagrant violation of the principles of natural justice.
In the case of Lachmi Narain v. Union of India (1975), the Supreme Court had once again held that the grant of leave under Article 136 does not automatically stay the operation of the impugned order and that the court has the power to pass appropriate interim orders while the appeal is pending before it.
Final Appellate Authority/Final Order of Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the final authority and the highest court of appeal, and no appeal lies and can be filed after or against the judgement of the Honourable Supreme Court. But one option is given where the Supreme Court can review its own judgement within 30 days from the days of judgement on the grounds of review.
As we come to the end of this article, it is necessary to state that the appellate jurisdiction, as has been discussed under the Indian Constitution, stands as a fundamental pillar of the Indian judicial system and therefore exercising the same is extremely essential as per circumstances.
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