Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India


Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India, as the apex judicial authority in the country, holds a pivotal role in the Indian legal system. Established under Article 124 of the Constitution of India, it is designed to be the final arbiter of legal and constitutional disputes, thereby upholding the principles of justice, liberty, and equality enshrined in the Constitution. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is multifaceted, encompassing various powers and responsibilities that are critical to maintaining the rule of law and democracy in India.

These jurisdictions include original jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, advisory jurisdiction, review jurisdiction, and a unique power to address public interest litigations (PILs). Each of these jurisdictions empowers the Court to deal with specific types of cases, ranging from disputes between states and the union government, to appeals against the decisions of lower courts, to matters of significant public interest that require judicial intervention.

Through these jurisdictions, the Supreme Court not only resolves legal conflicts but also interprets the Constitution, reviews its own judgments, and offers advisory opinions to the government on legal matters. Its role extends beyond mere dispute resolution, encompassing the safeguarding of fundamental rights, the promotion of social justice, and the maintenance of the constitutional balance of power among the branches of the government.

In essence, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India is central to the functioning of the country's legal framework, ensuring that justice is delivered, the Constitution is upheld, and the democratic ethos of the nation is preserved.

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

History of Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India, established on January 28, 1950, succeeded the Federal Court of India established under the Government of India Act 1935. It marks not only the genesis of a new legal institution but also a historical shift from the British colonial legal system to an independent legal order post-India's independence on August 15, 1947. The establishment of the Supreme Court was a crucial step in the country's transition towards becoming a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic as enshrined in its Constitution.

Pre-Independence Judicial System

Before the Supreme Court was established, the British era judicial system in India was headed by the Federal Court, which had been created under the Government of India Act, 1935. Before the Federal Court, the highest court in India was the Privy Council in London, to which appeals from the Indian courts were made. The establishment of the Federal Court was a significant step, as it was the first time a court had the authority to interpret the Constitution within India, although it had limited jurisdiction.

Establishment and Evolution

The Supreme Court of India was inaugurated on January 28, 1950, just two days after the country became a republic with the adoption of the Constitution of India on January 26, 1950. The inauguration took place in the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament building, and the Court moved to its present premises in Tilak Marg, New Delhi, in 1958.

The first Chief Justice of India was Justice Hiralal J. Kania. The Supreme Court initially had eight judges, including the Chief Justice. Over the years, the strength of the Court has been increased by the Parliament to accommodate the growing number of cases. The sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court is 34 judges, including the Chief Justice of India.

Architectural Significance

The Supreme Court building is shaped to project the image of scales of justice. The central wing of the building is crowned with a 27.6 m high dome and a spacious library hall. The architecture of the building was designed by Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar, the first Indian to head the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).

The Supreme Court's role in the Indian democracy has been pivotal in ensuring the protection of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the fundamental rights of the citizens, making it an indispensable institution in the governance and justice system of India.

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India, as the apex court in the Indian judicial system, has a broad jurisdiction that encompasses several areas, allowing it to play a crucial role in the country's governance and legal framework. Its jurisdiction can broadly be categorized into the following:

Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court

The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India refers to the authority vested in it to hear and adjudicate cases that are presented to it directly, rather than on appeal. This jurisdiction is explicitly outlined in Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. Under original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court deals with disputes involving:

Between the Government of India and one or more States: If there is a legal dispute between the Union Government and one or more states of India, such cases fall under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other: This implies that the Supreme Court has the authority to adjudicate disputes between different groups of states or between the central government and a group of states.

Between two or more States: If there is a legal dispute between two or more states, the Supreme Court is the first and final authority to adjudicate such disputes.

It's important to note that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not extend to matters:

  • That involve the rights of states against citizens or foreigners.
  • Where the dispute arises out of treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad, or other similar instruments that, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of the Constitution, continue in operation, or which provide that the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction in respect of such a dispute.

This jurisdiction is exclusive, meaning that no other court has the authority to hear the cases that fall within it. The purpose behind granting the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in these matters is to maintain the federal balance within the country by resolving disputes between the Union and states or among the states themselves in an impartial manner.

For a dispute to qualify under Article 131, it must specifically involve a question of legal rights. No other court except the Supreme Court can adjudicate disputes that fall under this Article. The intention behind giving the Supreme Court such broad jurisdiction was to ensure that significant federal disputes could be resolved definitively and authoritatively at the highest level.

Additionally, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in Section 25, allows the Supreme Court to transfer cases from one state's courts to another for various reasons, providing a mechanism for ensuring justice is administered effectively across state lines.

The State of Bihar v. Union of India case in 1969 clarified that Article 131 limits the Supreme Court to deciding only on the legal rights at issue in a dispute, not necessarily resolving the entire dispute. Furthermore, it was determined that disputes involving private parties, even if the government is also a party, do not fall under Article 131's scope. This means that the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction is specifically for disputes between governmental entities without private parties' involvement.

Limitations of the original jurisdiction

The Supreme Court's jurisdiction under Article 131 can be bypassed if there's a specific treaty, agreement, or instrument that excludes it.

Article 131 should be considered in the context of other constitutional provisions, meaning its original jurisdiction might be limited by other parts of the Constitution. For instance, Article 262 takes away the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over disputes related to inter-state water disputes, and recommendations by the President to the Finance Commission under Article 280 also fall outside its purview.

The Supreme Court's original jurisdiction, based on Article 131, doesn't allow it to review the constitutionality of laws made by the legislature. This was established in a case where the State of Madhya Pradesh wanted to challenge parts of a law but was told by the Supreme Court that such challenges don't fall under its original jurisdiction. Instead, challenges to the constitutionality of laws should be brought under Article 32, where the Court can use its authority to issue writs for reviewing such laws.

However, a later case raised questions about this limitation. In the State of Jharkhand v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court noted that Article 131 mentions the Court has jurisdiction over all disputes between the government and states, which could include both facts and legal questions. This suggests that perhaps the Court's jurisdiction could include disputes over the validity of laws. Due to these doubts, the earlier decision is being re-examined by a larger bench to decide if the original jurisdiction can indeed cover such disputes.

Writ Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

Writ jurisdiction refers to the power of certain courts to issue orders (writs) to lower courts, governments, corporations, or individuals to perform or refrain from performing a specific action. This jurisdiction is primarily aimed at protecting the rights of individuals against violations by public authorities or to enforce public duties. In India, writ jurisdiction is enshrined in the Constitution under Articles 32 and 226.

Article 32

Article 32 of the Indian Constitution is known as the "Right to Constitutional Remedies." It allows individuals to approach the Supreme Court directly if they believe their fundamental rights have been violated. The Supreme Court can issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari to enforce the fundamental rights of individuals. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar referred to Article 32 as the heart and soul of the Constitution because it provides a direct remedy for the enforcement of rights.

Article 226

Article 226 provides similar powers to the High Courts, allowing individuals to approach them when their rights are violated—not limited only to fundamental rights but also any other rights. The scope under Article 226 is broader than Article 32, as it can be invoked for any rights violation, not just for fundamental rights. The High Courts can issue the same writs as the Supreme Court to any person, authority, or government within their jurisdiction.

Types of Writs

Habeas Corpus: Literally meaning "you may have the body," it is issued to produce a person before the court to verify if the person's detention or imprisonment is lawful.

Mandamus: This writ commands a public authority to perform its duty which it has failed or refused to perform.

Prohibition: It is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or usurping a jurisdiction it does not possess.

Quo Warranto: It questions the legality of a person occupying a public office, asking them under what authority they hold the office.

Certiorari: This writ is issued by a superior court to a lower court or tribunal either to transfer a case pending with the latter to itself or to quash the order of the lower court in a case.

Differences between Articles 32 and 226

Article 32 applies only to the Supreme Court and is used for enforcing fundamental rights, while Article 226 applies to High Courts and can be used for any rights.

  • The scope of Article 226 is wider than Article 32.
  • While both articles empower courts to issue writs, Article 32 is considered a fundamental right itself, making it a crucial part of the Constitution's guarantee of rights protection.
  • Writ jurisdiction thus plays a vital role in the Indian judicial system, acting as a mechanism to control administrative actions and protect citizens' rights.

Appellate Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India's appellate jurisdiction is a critical aspect of its role in the Indian judicial system, allowing it to hear appeals against the decisions of lower courts. This jurisdiction is enshrined in the Constitution of India and is essential for ensuring that justice is served correctly, providing a mechanism to correct errors or misinterpretations of law made by lower courts. The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is broadly categorized into several types, each governed by specific constitutional provisions:

Civil Appeals (Article 133): The Supreme Court has the authority to hear appeals from any judgment, decree, or final order in a civil proceeding of a High Court if the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law that requires the interpretation of the Constitution. Additionally, there are conditions under which such appeals can be made, including matters of high net worth or significant legal importance.

Criminal Appeals (Article 134): In criminal cases, appeals can be made to the Supreme Court if the High Court has:

  • Reversed an order of acquittal and sentenced the accused to death or to imprisonment for life or for a period of ten years or more, or
  • Withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any Court subordinate to its authority and has in such trial convicted the accused and sentenced them as described above, or
  • Certified that the case is a fit one for appeal to the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Matters (Article 132): Appeals can be made to the Supreme Court against any judgment, decree, or final order of a High Court, whether in India or in a territory under its administration, if the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law pertaining to the Constitution.

Appeals by Special Leave (Article 136): This provision grants the Supreme Court the discretionary power to grant leave to appeal against 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. This power is very broad and can be invoked in a wide array of cases, making it a potent tool for seeking justice at the highest level.

Appeals from Tribunals: The Supreme Court also hears appeals from decisions of various tribunals and bodies established by law for specific purposes, ensuring that their decisions comply with the law and justice.

The Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction serves multiple purposes, including ensuring uniform interpretation and application of laws across the country, correcting judicial errors, and resolving significant legal issues. This jurisdiction underscores the Supreme Court's role as the apex judicial authority in India, tasked with safeguarding the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.

Advisory Jurisdiction Supreme Court of India

The advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India is outlined in Article 143 of the Indian Constitution. This unique provision allows the President of India to seek the Supreme Court's opinion on questions of law or fact that are of public importance or which involve the interpretation of the Constitution. The advisory function of the Supreme Court is a consultative process, and it's important to note that the opinions provided by the Court under this jurisdiction are not binding on the government.

Article 143 specifies two circumstances under which the President may seek the Supreme Court's advice:

On any question of law or fact of public importance which has arisen or which is likely to arise: This allows the President to seek the Court's opinion on significant legal questions or factual issues that are considered important for the public interest. The Supreme Court's advisory opinion helps guide the executive and legislative branches in their decision-making processes.

On any dispute arising out of any pre-constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instruments: This provision is particularly aimed at disputes related to agreements that were in place before the Constitution came into effect. It provides a mechanism for addressing legal questions that may arise from these historical documents, which might affect the current governance and legal framework.

The advisory jurisdiction is exercised through a process where the President refers the question to the Supreme Court, which then examines the matter and returns its opinion to the President. While the advisory opinions of the Supreme Court carry significant weight and are respected for their legal analysis, they are not enforceable as judgments. This means that the government is not legally required to act according to the advice given by the Supreme Court under Article 143.

The purpose of this jurisdiction is to allow the executive branch to seek the apex court's guidance on complex legal matters that have significant implications for governance, policy-making, and the interpretation of the Constitution. It provides a mechanism for ensuring that actions and policies are in alignment with constitutional principles and legal standards, thereby reinforcing the rule of law and the democratic framework of governance in India.

Review Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

The review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India is a critical aspect of its judicial functions, allowing it to reconsider its own judgments and orders. This jurisdiction is conferred upon the Supreme Court by Article 137 of the Indian Constitution, which states that the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament or any rules made under Article 145 of the Constitution.

The review jurisdiction is exercised under the rules prescribed by the Supreme Court itself, as outlined in the Supreme Court Rules, 2013. According to these rules, a review petition needs to be filed within a certain period after the judgment or order has been passed, typically within 30 days in a civil case and 60 days in a criminal case.

Key points about the Supreme Court's review jurisdiction include:

Grounds for Review: The grounds for seeking a review are generally limited. A review petition may be entertained if there is a discovery of new and important evidence which was not within the petitioner's knowledge or could not be produced at the time of the original judgment, or if there is an apparent error on the face of the record. Review petitions are not meant for re-hearing of the original matter and are not to be used as an appeal mechanism.

In-Chamber Proceedings: Review petitions are usually decided by the judges in their chambers, without a public hearing. However, in exceptional cases, the court may decide to conduct an open-court hearing.

Bench Composition: The review petition is generally heard by the same bench that delivered the judgment or order being reviewed, unless one of the judges is unavailable due to retirement, elevation as the Chief Justice, or any other reason. In such cases, a suitable replacement is made from the available judges.

Limited Scope: The scope of review is strictly limited, and the Supreme Court exercises this power with caution. It is not an opportunity to re-argue the case but is rather meant to correct grave errors that might have occurred in the judgment.

Curative Petition: If a review petition is dismissed, the aggrieved party has the option to file a curative petition, which is the last judicial remedy available. The curative petition is meant to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice and is heard by the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the judges who passed the judgment in review if available.

The review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court thus serves as an essential mechanism for justice, allowing the Court to rectify errors in its judgments or orders and ensuring the finality and correctness of its decisions.

Curative Petition of Supreme Court of India

A curative petition is a legal mechanism in the Indian judicial system that represents the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court after a review petition is dismissed or has failed. This concept was introduced by the Supreme Court of India in the landmark case of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr. (2002) to prevent miscarriage of justice and to correct gross miscarriage of justice.

Key aspects of a curative petition include:

Purpose: The primary purpose of a curative petition is to ensure there is no miscarriage of justice and to prevent abuse of process in the court. It is intended to cure gross miscarriage of justice and errors in the judgments or orders passed by the Supreme Court.

Basis for Filing: A curative petition can be filed after a review petition against the final judgment/order of the Supreme Court has been dismissed. It is essential that the petitioner demonstrates that there was a violation of the principles of natural justice and that he or she was not heard by the court before passing the order, or if the petitioner can establish that there is a genuine area of concern that went unnoticed in the judgment.

Procedure: The procedure for filing a curative petition is outlined in the judgment of the Rupa Ashok Hurra case. The petition must first be circulated to a Bench of the three senior-most judges, and the judges who passed the judgment complained of, if available. Only if a majority of the judges conclude that the matter needs hearing would it be listed before the same bench (to the extent possible).

Limited Scope: The scope of curative petitions is very limited. The Supreme Court exercises this power with caution, ensuring that it is not used as a tool to re-litigate the final judgments. The court will generally consider a curative petition only when it is convinced that there was a genuine violation of principles of natural justice and that the interests of justice necessitate its intervention.

Hearing: Unlike review petitions, which are usually decided in chambers without an open court hearing, curative petitions, if admitted, may be heard in open court. This provides an opportunity for oral arguments to be made before the court.

Rarity: Given their nature as a final recourse, curative petitions are rare and only admitted in exceptional circumstances where a clear case of injustice is evident.

A curative petition thus serves as a crucial safeguard against miscarriage of justice, ensuring that the Supreme Court’s judgments adhere to the principles of fairness and justice.

Inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

The inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India refers to the inherent powers vested in the Court to do justice and ensure that the process of the Court is not used to perpetrate injustice. These powers are not derived from any statute but are inherent in the very nature of the Court as the apex judicial body in India's judicial system. The Supreme Court, through its inherent jurisdiction, has the flexibility to meet the demands of justice and to respond to situations that may not be covered explicitly by statutory laws or existing procedural codes.

The Supreme Court of India has special powers that are not directly related to hearing cases on appeal. For example, it is the only court that can resolve disputes about the election of India's President or Vice President, as stated in Article 71 of the Constitution.

Additionally, under Article 129, the Supreme Court has the authority to discipline anyone who disrespects the court or disrupts its proceedings, a power known as contempt of court. The court can initiate these actions on its own (suo moto), or act based on recommendations from the Attorney General or Solicitor General of India. Moreover, any individual can bring a contempt case to the court's attention.

A landmark case in 1991, Delhi Judicial Service Association vs. State of Gujarat, confirmed that the Supreme Court could address contempt issues not just within itself but also in lower courts. The ruling also emphasized that the Supreme Court has a supervisory role over all courts in India, given its ability to hear appeals from any court or tribunal in the country.

Key aspects of the inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court include:

Administration of Justice: The primary purpose of the inherent powers is to ensure the smooth administration of justice, prevent abuse of the process of the Court, and to act in the interest of justice where the statutory laws are silent or inadequate.

Miscarriage of Justice: The Supreme Court may exercise its inherent powers to prevent miscarriage of justice. This means the Court can intervene in matters where, due to a procedural or a palpable error, justice might not be served if the Court were to adhere strictly to the procedural codes.

Supplementary to Statutory Powers: The inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court acts as a supplement to the powers explicitly conferred upon it by the Constitution and various laws. It fills the gaps in the legal framework to address unforeseen situations ensuring that justice is not hindered by technicalities.

Limitations: While the Supreme Court has wide-ranging powers, its inherent jurisdiction is not unlimited. The exercise of these powers is guided by principles of justice, equity, and good conscience. The Court exercises such powers with caution and within the bounds of law and judicial discipline.

Doctrine of Curability: The inherent powers include the doctrine of curability, where minor procedural defects or lapses can be cured if substantive justice demands it, thereby preventing litigants from suffering due to minor procedural irregularities.

The inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is foundational to its role as the apex court in India’s judiciary, allowing it to uphold justice in a flexible manner, beyond the constraints of statutory provisions.

Extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

The extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India encompasses several key powers that allow it to intervene in matters of significant importance or in situations requiring immediate judicial attention beyond the ordinary legal processes. These powers are conferred upon the Supreme Court by the Constitution of India and enable it to uphold the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as enshrined in the Constitution. The extraordinary jurisdiction includes:

Special Leave Petition (SLP) under Article 136: The Supreme Court has the discretion to 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. This extraordinary power is wide-ranging and allows the Supreme Court to intervene in cases it deems fit, without being bound by the specific limitations of jurisdiction that apply to ordinary appellate mechanisms.

Review Jurisdiction (Article 137): Under this jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it. This power is exercised under the rules prescribed by the Supreme Court itself and is typically invoked in the interest of justice, especially when there is an apparent error on the face of the record.

These extraordinary jurisdictions enable the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and ensure justice is served, reflecting its role as the guardian of the Constitution and the final arbiter of legal disputes in India.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) represents a significant judicial innovation by the Supreme Court of India, which has played a pivotal role in democratizing access to justice for the Indian populace. PIL allows any individual or organization to file a lawsuit in the interest of the public welfare, especially for those who are marginalized or unable to bring forth their grievances due to economic or social barriers. This mechanism transcends the traditional requirement that only those directly affected by an issue have the standing to sue.

Origins and Evolution:

The concept of PIL emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the aegis of Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who were instrumental in broadening the scope of Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies) and Article 226 (Power of High Courts to issue certain writs) of the Indian Constitution. These articles, primarily designed for the enforcement of fundamental rights, were interpreted to allow public-spirited citizens and organizations to approach the Supreme Court and High Courts on behalf of those whose rights were being violated.

Characteristics of PIL:

Relaxed Locus Standi: The traditional rule that only those with a direct interest in the legal issue could file a lawsuit was relaxed. This meant that any public-spirited individual or NGO could approach the court on behalf of the affected parties, especially in cases involving the environment, human rights, consumer protection, etc.

Wide Range of Issues: PIL cases have covered a broad spectrum of issues, including environmental protection, road safety, welfare of the underprivileged and disabled, against corruption and maladministration, and for the protection of cultural heritage.

Simplified Procedures: The Supreme Court has allowed PILs to be filed through simple letters or telegrams, significantly lowering the barrier for accessing justice and encouraging more people to come forward with issues of public importance.

Judicial Activism: PIL is seen as a form of judicial activism, where the courts proactively intervene to rectify wrongs in the society, even if it means stepping into the domains traditionally occupied by the executive or legislative branches.

Impact of PIL:

PIL has had a profound impact on the Indian legal and social landscape. It has led to landmark judgments and directives in cases related to environmental protection (such as the Ganga Pollution Case), prison reforms, health care, and education. Through PIL, the courts have issued guidelines and directives to both the government and private entities to ensure the protection and promotion of constitutional rights and welfare.

Criticism and Challenges:

While PIL has been hailed for making justice more accessible, it has also faced criticism for leading to an overreach by the judiciary into the domains of the executive and legislative branches, potentially upsetting the balance of power. Concerns have also been raised about frivolous PILs that burden the court system without serving genuine public interest.

Public Interest Litigation has undeniably transformed the judicial landscape in India, empowering citizens to partake in the judicial process and advocate for justice and accountability. It underscores the role of the judiciary in promoting social justice and ensuring that the benefits of a democratic society reach the most vulnerable sections of the population.

Powers of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India, established under Article 124 of the Indian Constitution, is the apex court in the country's judicial hierarchy, and its decisions are binding on all other courts within the territory of India. The powers of the Supreme Court are vast and multifaceted, ensuring the court plays a crucial role in the country's governance by interpreting the Constitution, protecting fundamental rights, and resolving legal disputes. Here's an overview of the key powers of the Supreme Court:

Original Jurisdiction: The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to settle disputes between the Government of India and one or more states, or between two or more states. This is defined under Article 131 of the Constitution.

Writ Jurisdiction: Under Article 32 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to issue directions, orders, or writs, including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari, to enforce the rights of citizens or command the government in certain matters.

Appellate Jurisdiction: The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the country. It hears appeals against the judgments of lower courts, including High Courts. Its appellate jurisdiction extends to civil, criminal, and constitutional matters.

Advisory Jurisdiction: Article 143 of the Constitution allows the President of India to seek the Supreme Court's opinion on questions of law or fact that are of public importance. However, the advice provided by the Supreme Court is not binding on the President.

Review Jurisdiction: The Supreme Court has the power to review its own judgments or orders. This is meant to correct any mistakes or errors that might have occurred in the judgment.

Curative Petition: Beyond the review jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has devised the concept of the curative petition, which provides one last opportunity to the aggrieved parties for seeking reconsideration of a judgment after the review petition is dismissed, ensuring justice in the case of gross miscarriage.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL): The Supreme Court has allowed for the filing of public interest litigations. This empowers the court to address grievances affecting the larger public interest, even if the petitioner is not directly involved in the issue.

Inherent Powers: The Supreme Court has inherent powers to do justice and ensure the proper functioning of the court system. This includes powers necessary to maintain its dignity, secure obedience to its process, and to deliver complete justice.

Contempt Powers: The Supreme Court has the power to punish for its contempt under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution, ensuring respect for its authority, judgments, and dignity.

Extraordinary Jurisdiction: Through various doctrines and rules (such as the Basic Structure doctrine), the Supreme Court exercises extraordinary jurisdiction to protect the Constitution and its foundational principles.

The powers of the Supreme Court of India are instrumental in upholding the Constitution, ensuring the rule of law, protecting the rights of citizens, and maintaining a federal balance among the various organs of the State and between the Union and the states.

Contempt Powers of the Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court of India has been granted the power to punish for contempt of itself under Article 129 of the Indian Constitution, which declares the Supreme Court as a court of record and grants it the power to punish for contempt. Similarly, the High Courts have been endowed with the same power under Article 215 of the Constitution. The concept of contempt is aimed at safeguarding the authority and dignity of the judiciary, ensuring that its orders and processes are obeyed and respected.

Contempt of court can be broadly classified into two categories:

Civil Contempt: Under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, civil contempt is defined as the willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

Criminal Contempt: Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, defines criminal contempt as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:

  • Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court;
  • Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding;
  • Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, provides the legal framework for the exercise of the contempt powers by the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The Act aims to balance the need for upholding the dignity and authority of the courts with the need for protecting freedom of speech and expression.

The Supreme Court, in exercising its contempt powers, follows procedures that ensure fairness and transparency. Accused individuals are given a chance to present their defense, and punishments are awarded only when contempt is clearly proven. Punishments for contempt can include simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or a fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or both. However, the court also possesses the discretion to let the accused off with a warning in appropriate cases.

The contempt powers of the Supreme Court are pivotal in maintaining the effectiveness and integrity of the judiciary, ensuring that its orders are implemented, and that the public's confidence in the judicial system is maintained.


The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India encompasses a wide and versatile range, critical to the functioning of India's democratic framework and the maintenance of the rule of law. Its jurisdictions, including original, appellate, advisory, review, and a few special jurisdictions like contempt, PILs, and curative petitions, allow it to address a broad spectrum of legal, constitutional, and societal issues.

Through its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court directly handles disputes involving the Union and states, ensuring a platform for resolving federal conflicts. Its appellate jurisdiction forms the backbone of India's judicial review mechanism, allowing it to adjudicate appeals from lower courts and tribunals, thereby maintaining uniformity and consistency in the application of law throughout the country.

The advisory and review jurisdictions enable the Court to offer legal opinions on matters of public importance and revisit its own judgments, respectively, ensuring that justice is served in the light of new evidence or interpretations. The Court's power to entertain curative petitions adds another layer of scrutiny to ensure that miscarriage of justice is rectified.

The introduction of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) has democratized access to justice, allowing the Court to intervene in matters affecting the larger public interest, even when traditional locus standi is not met. This has been instrumental in addressing grievances related to environmental protection, human rights, and corruption, among others.

The Supreme Court's inherent and extraordinary jurisdictions further underscore its role as the ultimate guardian of the Constitution and the fundamental rights it enshrines. Through its contempt powers, the Court ensures compliance with its orders, preserving the integrity and authority of the judiciary.

In conclusion, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India is foundational to upholding the Constitution, protecting citizens' rights, and ensuring the smooth operation of the country's legal and governmental systems. Its broad jurisdictional powers enable it to adapt to changing societal needs and challenges, making it a pivotal institution in India's democratic setup.



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Barristery.in: Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India
Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India refers to the authority vested in it to hear and adjudicate cases that are presented to it directly, rather
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