Jurisdiction and Powers of Supreme Court of India

Jurisdiction and Powers of Supreme Court of India

At the apex of the judicial pyramid stands the Supreme Court of India. India has only one system of state courts with the High Court at the top. In the All India sphere, there is only one court i.e. the Supreme Court of India. In this integrated Court system, the Supreme Court stands out as the highest and the final judicial tribunal of India.

The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and a number of other Judges. At the commencement of the constitution, the number of judges was 13 including the Chief Justice. Exercising its power under Article 124 of the constitution to vary the number, the Parliament subsequently increased the number first to 18 and eventually to 26.

Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar  thinks that, “The Supreme Court of India is more powerful than any Supreme Court in any part of the world.” This is because, our Supreme Court, besides being a Federal Court acting as the guardian of the constitution also exercises appellate and advisory powers.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be divided into 3 categories;

  • (1) original
  • (2) appellate and
  • (3) advisory.

In its original jurisdiction the Supreme Court acts as the guardian and protector of the constitution. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction in case of (a) Union vs. one or more States (b) Union and one or more State vs. one or more States (c) One or more States vs. one or more States.

Appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court extends to both civil and criminal cases. As the highest court of the country appeals in all such cases from the High Court lie with the Supreme Court. In a civil case if the High Court certifies that the case has constitutional significance or that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court, the court hears appeal from the judgment of the High Court.

In a criminal case, appeals may be made to the Supreme Court if (1) the High Court reverses acquittal by a lower court and award death sentence in a case or if (2) the High Court certifies that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also has a Writ jurisdiction. It issues writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto in enforcement of fundamental rights granted in chapter III of the constitution. However, this jurisdiction is not exclusive. High Court also enjoys this jurisdiction.

Finally, the Supreme Court has an Advisory jurisdiction. Artcile 143 empower the President to seek the Court’s advisory opinion on any question of law or fact. Such advice however is not binding on the President.

The constitutional position of the Supreme Court

Alladi Krishna Swami Iyyar correctly says that the Supreme Court of India is the most powerful Court in the world. It is most powerful because it combines “Original, appellate, revisional and consultative powers in a unique manner.”

India has a documentaric constitution as the basic law of the land. Consequently and transgression of the provisions of the constitution can be declared void or ultra vires by the  Supreme Court of India. This is known as the power of judicial review.

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