This article is written by Suryansh Singh, a 3rd-year law student from Indore Institute of law. This article mainly discusses the powers and functions of the Supreme Court.
Previously Federal court constituted under the Government of India Act 1935, was considered to be the apex court of India which was structured during the British rule. Then in 1950, the supreme court was established which took place of the federal court. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and it contains provisions which are enforced by law. Without the enforcement of the law, the provisions embedded under the constitution are meaningless. Therefore the judiciary has independence in order to interpret the provisions of the Indian constitution. Being the apex court of the country the supreme court works under the framework of the constitution by acting as the guardian of the constitution and custodian of the fundamental rights and freedom of the citizens of our country. It is the interpreter of the provisions and the controller of the entire judicial system of India.
Article 124 of the Indian constitution states that there shall be a supreme court in India. Any decision of the supreme court shall be binding upon all the subordinate courts. In India, there is an independent judiciary so that the traditional concept of natural justice and good conscience should be maintained equal justice shall prevail. In India, there is a separate judicial system so that the clarity and uniformity in the shall be maintained.
There is a hierarchical system in the Indian judiciary. In India the Supreme court is the apex judicial authority followed by the high court and then the district court and at last there comes Panchayat.
Article 124(3) of the Indian constitution states the following conditions for a person to become the judge of the supreme court
- He must be a citizen of India
- If he is an eminent jurist
- He must be a judge of a high court for at least five years
- He has been an advocate of a high court for at least ten years or an advocate of two or more such courts.
Terms of Office and Removal
A supreme court judge has the tenure until he has attained the age of 65. However, the tenure of the judge can be shortened on the following conditions:
- If he resigns( Article 124(2)
- If he dies during his tenure.
- If he is impeached
Procedure of impeachment
A judge of the supreme court stands removed if:
- A motion is signed by the 50 members of Rajya Sabha and 100 members of the Lok Sabha.
- An inquiry committee consisting of a supreme court judge and chief justice of the high court and an eminent jurist is constituted for the investigation of the charges.
- If the inquiry committee proves the charges then it is addressed in both the house of parliament.
- If the motion is passed with two-third majority in both houses then the motion is addressed to the president.
- The judge has the right to in order to prove that he is not guilty.
- If the president is satisfied with motion addressed to him, he may issue an order to remove the judge.
The Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 provides for the procedure for the investigation.
Salary, Allowances and other amenities
Salary allowances and other benefits of a supreme court judge has been stated under article 125 of the Indian constitution. The salaries and allowances of the judges are decided by the Parliament and it must not vary to its disadvantage.
The other privileges a judge has is of a residence free of cost with a pension after his retirement. A judge after his retirement can’t hold the office for profit motive under state as well as union government. He can’t act in the court after his retirement or under any other authority as prescribed by law.
What is the jurisdiction and powers of the supreme court
Supreme court of India is the apex judicial authority in India. Under article 141 it has been stated that the decision of the supreme court is binding upon all the other courts. It tends to regulate the judicial system of the country in order to maintain public peace and protect it from any external transgression. Therefore it possesses a very wide range of powers and functions which are discussed below:
Courts of record
Under article 129 of the Indian constitution, it has been stated very clearly that the supreme court of India is a court of record and has the power to punish for contempt itself. A court of record means the proceedings, decisions or acts of a court which are enrolled for the evidential matter and for the interminable and testimonial purposes. They are unquestionable when presented before any other court.
Jurisdiction of the supreme court
Under article 131 of the Indian constitution, the supreme court has original jurisdiction in the following cases
- If there is a dispute between the government of India and one or more states
- Between the government of India and any state or states on the one side and one or more states on the other side
- Between two or more states
Even the dispute arising in the election of the President and Vice President is dealt with by the supreme court.In these matters, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to exercise its power without the intervention of any other judicial authority. As the Supreme court is the highest judicial authority it protects the fundamental rights of an individual from any kind of infringement. Under article 32 it has given the right to an individual to approach the supreme if there is any violation of his fundamental rights. Under article 32 a court an issue orders or writs( habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, quo-warranto)
This jurisdiction of the supreme court is subjected to certain limitations. These limitations any kind of dispute arising from an agreement which was executed even before the constitution was commenced. In case of fundamental rights, it only covers the legal aspects whereas the rest of it is left untouched.
The Supreme is the apex judicial authority of appeals and enjoys constitutional, civil as well as criminal appeals.
Constitutional appeal: under article 132 of the constitution it has been stated that appeal for any final judgement of the high court whether of civil or criminal nature for which the high court issues a certificate stating that it contains a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the provisions of the constitution lies in the supreme court. Even if the high court refuses to issue the certificate, the Supreme court has the power to grant SLPin these matters.
Civil Appeals: Cases of civil nature shall lie in the supreme court if the high court is satisfied with the following conditions and certifies that
- The matter involves a substantial question of law
- If the high court thinks that this case needs to be decided by the supreme court
Criminal Appeals: under article 134(1) a criminal appeal shall lie in the supreme court under the following circumstances:
- If the high court in an appeal has reversed the judgment of the lower court and sentenced death penalty to the accused who has been acquitted.
- In the second situation when the high court itself has withdrawn a case from a lower court and then sentenced the accused person death penalty.
- If a case is certified by the high court that it is fit for the appeal in the supreme court. Sometimes the supreme court is conferred with powers by the parliament in order to deal with certain cases decided by the high court.
The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to grant special leave petition to the final judgement given by any lower courts except for the courts or tribunal which has been formed by the law relating to armed forces. However, if the judgement or order is given by a high court(single judge bench) then the no appeal for that matter will be entertained in the supreme court.
Under article 138 of the Indian Constitution the law expands the jurisdiction of the supreme court in respect of subjects contained under the union list and shall also have jurisdiction over any other subject for which the consent of state has been obtained.
Under article 143 it has been stated that the supreme court on many occasions have given advice to the government as well as the president, if the matter is related to the interest of the public or if there arises a substantial question of law. The supreme court after the profound enquiry reports to them.
Miscellaneous powers and functions
- Being the supreme judicial authority of the country it protects the constitution and enlighten us with the provisions of the constitution through its grand vision which is considered to be final.
- It is the custodian of the fundamental rights. Under article 32 every citizen of India has the Locus Standi to move to court in order to seek legal remedy if there is any kind of infringement to the fundamental rights.
- Under article 129 supreme court is the court of record. Its judgment unquestionable and are accepted by all the lower courts as precedents. Under article 141 the decision of the high court is considered to be final and binding upon all the lower courts and regarded as law.
- If any law is passed by the parliament or the state legislature which does not comply with the provisions of the Indian constitution or is passed with the jurisdiction which they even do not possess will be declared void by the supreme court through judicial review.
- The supreme court under article 137 has the power to review its owns judgement
- If new evidence are found
- If a fact which is related to the records of the came to the light
- If there are enough reasons to suffice for a review Supreme court itself states that nothing can restrain it from reviewing its own decisions if it is satisfied with its effects over the general public.
- The supreme court is conferred with the power to make rules for carrying out its practice and procedure.
- The supreme court has the power to appoint its officers and servants. For example, chief justice of India or the other supreme court judges is appointed by it to carry out its functions. Though the person has to be qualified for the job.
- Supreme Court under article 129 has the power to punish a person if found guilty of contempt of court. Contempt of court basically means hampering the proceedings of the court neglecting its order, defying its authority which ultimately results in disrespect of the court. The consequences arising out of it includes both the civil or criminal penalties depending upon the gravity of the consequences.
- Appeals under The Peoples Representation Act 1951 can be filed in the supreme court.
Independence of the judiciary in India
It is very amusing that though our Indian constitution never mentioned about judicial review yet the apex judicial authority possess the power of judicial review.it has been stated under Article 32 and 226 that both the supreme court as well the high court are conferred with the power of judicial review of the following things-
- Judicial review of the legislative and administrative actions
- Judicial review of the quasi judicial proceedings
India is a democratic type of country in which there is the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary. They have their own independence and perform their functions accordingly. However, in order to assure that such independence does not turn out to arbitrary, checks and balances between the organs has to be maintained. The functioning of a democratic country explicitly lies over the independence of these organs. If the legislative and administrative actions turns out to be unconstitutional or it does not comply with the provisions of the constitution then the court has the power of judicial review in order to restrict such exercises. The ambit of the judicial review has now expanded to the concept of socio-economic justice. In order to keep a check on this power judicial restraint is necessary. Under article 32 a person can approach the court if there is any infringement of his fundamental rights. Judicial review is the basic structure of the Indian constitution which can’t be curtailed by the amendment. The powers of judicial review enshrined under the Indian constitution are partial or limited in nature as it only deals with unconstitutional exercises performed through administrative and legislative action or whether it deals with the fundamental rights
Quasi-Judicial function and Judicial Review
Quasi-judicial functions is neither a judicial function nor an administrative function. The quasi-judicial act has the appropriate jurisdiction which is sanctioned by the law while determining the basic rights that an individual has in order to enjoy his fundamental freedom. If a tribunal or an authority has been constituted by the law and are conferred the powers of deciding a matter are subject to judicial review.
Administrative Action and Judicial Review
The ambit of judicial review is limited to three grounds in case of administrative action.
- In the case of unreasonability or irrationality
- Unlawfulness or illegality
- Proportionality and procedural impropriety
Judicial review of a decision matter process whenever it has been depraved through irrationality and ignorance of such essential factors that no reasonable authority conferred with the power could have made such a decision, follows the due procedure of law and through examination takes the relevance of the factors.
It can be concluded that the supreme court is the apex judicial authority of India. The supreme court has very wide jurisdiction and it enjoys enormous powers and functions which it performs for the general interest of the public. It is the protector of the fundamental rights of an individual and through its grand vision interprets the provisions of the constitution.It guarantees the socio-economic justice to the citizens of India and makes laws which are of unquestionable nature and binding upon all the other courts.