Q. 1. Describe the composition of the Supreme Court of India.
Ans. The Supreme Court established under the Indian Constitution (Art. 124) is the highest Judicial authority in the country. It stands at the apex of our Judicial system which is an integrated one.
All the courts even those functioning in the States of India, are subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Courts in India administer both the Federal laws as well as the State laws. Hence, Judiciary in India is unified.
Composition of the Supreme Court. At the time of the commencement of the Constitution, the Supreme Court consisted of eight judges, including the Chief Justice. But Article 124 empowers the Parliament to determine and raise the number of Judges. In April, 1986 the number of Judges was increased from 17 to 25. In Dec., 2008 the number of judges was increased from 25 to 30. Thus, at present, the Supreme Court consists of Chief Justice and 30 other Judges.
Ad hoc Judges. Article 127(1) makes provision for the appointment of ad hoc judges also. Ad hoc judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of India with the prior consent of the President from among the judges of any High Court duly qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court for such period as may be necessary.
Appointment of Retired Judges. The Constitution of India also provides for the appointment of retired judges of the Supreme Court or the Federal Court, with the prior consent of the President and his consent, on a request being made by the Chief Justice of India to sit and act as a judge of the Supreme Court at any time.
Appointment of the Judges. The Chief Justice of India is appointed by the President in consultation with such judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as he may deem fit. In the appointment of other judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India must be consulted by the President. On Oct. 28, 1998, in a significant unanimous order, a ninejudge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that recommendations made by the Chief Justice of India on the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court without following the consultation process was not binding on the government. The consultation process to be adopted by the Chief Justice requires consultation of four senior most judges of the Supreme Court.
Qualifications for appointment of Judges. A candidate for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court must fulfil the following qualifications:
(1) He should be a citizen of India.
(2) Must have been a Judge of one or more High Courts for five successive years or must have been an advocate of one or more High Courts for ten successive years.
(3) If in the opinion of the President, he is a distinguished jurist.
Term of office. Judges of the Supreme Court hold office till they complete the age of 65 years. In case any discrepancies about the age of a Judge, the decision of the President shall be final. A judge may resign his office by writing to that effect to the President before the completion of his tenure. On January 13, 1983, Mr. Justice Baharul Islam resigned as a judge of the Supreme Court.
The Judge can be removed from office by the President after an address of each House and by a majority of not less than twothirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President, in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. On 11th May, 1993, the first-ever impeachment motion against a Supreme Court judge failed in the Lok Sabha when the opposition sponsored move for removal of Mr. Justice V. Ramaswami could not be carried for want of requisite majority after the ruling Congress enbloc abstained from voting.
Salaries and Allowances of Judges. The Chief Justice gets a salary of ` 2,80,000 per month and the other apex court judges ` 2,50,000 per month. Every Judge of Supreme Court is entitled without payment of rent to the use of an official residence. The Judges are also alotted travelling allowances when they undertake journey for the performance of their official duties.
The salaries and allowances of the Judges are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and accordingly, are not subject to the vote of Parliament.
Neither the privilege nor the allowances of a Judge nor his rights in respect of leave or absence or pension shall be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. The salaries and allowances of the Judges can be reduced by the President during continuance of a Proclamation of Financial emergency.
The Constitution, thus guarantees to the Judges both security of service and emoluments.
Prohibition of practice after retirement. The retired judges of the Supreme Court are debarred from pleading before any Court in India. Even if a Judge resigns, he is debarred from pleading. However, the retired judges can be invited to act as judges of the Supreme Court for some particular business or period of time.
No retired judge of the Supreme Court can be asked to act as a judge of the Supreme Court without his consent. Such judges get allowances and not salary. Their allowances are determined by the President.
Oath. On assuming office, each judge of the Supreme Court has to make and subscribe before the President or before any person appointed by the President for the purpose to an oath or affirmation according to a set from.
Immunities of Judges. In order to further safeguard the independence of judiciary, the Constitution provides that there can be no discussion in Parliament on the conduct of a judge in the discharge of his official duties nor can the actions and decisions of the Judges in their official capacity be subject to criticism so as to impute motive of any kind.
Seat of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sits in Delhi. It can also sit at any other place or places as the Chief Justice of India may appoint from time to time with the approval of the President. Under this Article, the Supreme Court had held its sessions at Hyderabad and Srinagar.
Q. 2. Discuss in brief the powers of the Supreme Court of India.
Discuss the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India.
Ans. The Supreme Court is the highest Court of the land. It has been vested with wider jurisdiction than other superior courts in any part of the world.
According to Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, “The Supreme Court in the Indian Union has more powers than any Supreme Court in any part of the world.” The jurisdiction of the court may be divided into three categories—Original, Appellate and Advisory.
1. Original Jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction means cases which start in the Supreme Court and regarding which the Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction. The Constitution of India divides powers between Centre and States. Howsoever neatly the powers between the two may have been distributed, there are always possibilities of doubt and dispute.
New situations demand new interpretations. Thus, the Supreme Court decides cases (a) between the Government of India and one or more States (b) between the Government of India and any one State or States on one side and one or more other State on the other or (c) between two or more States.
It should be noted that the Supreme Court can entertain such cases only if the disputes involve any questions, whether of law or fact, on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends. Where the claim made by one of the parties is not dependent on law but on legal considerations, the Supreme Court has no original jurisdiction.
Enforcement of Fundamental Rights. The Constitution makes the Supreme Court the ultimate guardian of the Fundamental Rights and liberties of the people. Rights of the people have no meaning if they are not backed and upheld by judiciary.
It is both the jurisdiction as well as the responsibility of Supreme Court to issue orders, directions and Writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quowarranto and Certiorari or any of them for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. However, this jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is not exclusive.
State High Courts have also been given similar powers.
To decide election disputes of the President and Vice-President. The Supreme Court is also empowered to decide any dispute relating to the election of the President or the Vice-President of India and in this regard the Supreme Court's decision is final and binding. In 1967, election of Dr. Zakir Hussain and in 1969 the election of President V.V.
Giri was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Court decided that the election was valid.
2. Appellate Jurisdiction. The Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be divided into three main parts, i.e., Constitutional, Civil and Criminal.
(a) Appeal in Constitutional Cases. Article 132(1) provides that an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from any judgement, decree or final order of a High Court in India whether in a civil, criminal or order proceeding, if the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. Even if the High Court refuses to give such a certificate, the Supreme Court can grant special leave to appeal if the court is satisfied that the case involves a substantive question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.
(b) Appeals in Civil Cases. With regard to appeals in Civil cases, the 30th Amendment, 1972 has brought significant changes. Prior to the 30th Amendment, appeal to the Supreme Court in civil proceeding against a judgement, decree or final order of a High Court certified that amount or value of the subject matter of the dispute was not less than ₹ 20,000. The 30th Amendment seeks to do away with the monetary limits for invoking the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The amendment provides for the right to appeal to the Supreme Court on any judgement of a High Court if the case involves a substantial question of law of general importance and if in the opinion of the High Court the said question needs to be decided by the Supreme Court.
(c) Appeal in Criminal Cases. With regard to criminal cases, Article 134 provides that an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from any judgement, final order or sentence in a criminal proceeding of a High Court if,
(1) the High Court has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death,
(2) has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any court subordinate to its authority and has in such trial convicted the accused person and sentenced him to death or,
(3) certifies that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court. Under the Constitution, Parliament may, by law, widen still further the criminal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
44th Amendment inserts a new Article 134-A which provides that the High Court should consider the question of granting of certificate immediately on the delivery of the judgement, decree, final order, or sentence concerned on the basis of an oral application by a party or, if the High Court deems it fit so to do, on its own motion.
(d) Special Leave to Appeal. Article 136 of the Constitution vests the Supreme Court with a power which is utmost important. It provides that the Supreme Court may, in its directions, grant special leave to appeal from any judgement, decree determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any Court of Tribunal in the territory of India.
The only exception to this all embracing power of judicial superintendence is the decisions of any court constituted under any law relating to the Armed Court can grant special leave to appeal even if the High Court has refused to grant certificate to appeal to the Supreme Court.
3. Advisory Jurisdiction. Under Article 143 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court exercises advisory or consultative functions also. Art. 143 provides that if at any time it appears to the President that a question of law or fact has arisen or is likely to arise which is of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration and opinion. Such a question is heard by a Bench consisting of at least five judges and the court follows the procedure of an ordinary trial. The majority opinion is sent to the President.
The judges can hold dissenting opinion as well. The opinion of the Supreme Court is not binding on the President as it is not of the nature of a judicial pronouncement, nor is it obligatory for the Supreme Court to give its opinion.
4. Interpretation and Protection of the Constitution. The Constitution of India has placed this responsibility of interpreting the Constitution on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the final authority to expound the meaning and intent of the Constitution. Likewise, it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution.
There are many instances where the Supreme Court exercised its power of judicial review. In 1967, in Golak Nath’s case, the Supreme Court declared that the Parliament has no power to amend the provision of Fundamental Rights. The 24th and 25th Amendments were challenged by Keshvananda Bharati and others. In this case, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision of Golak Nath’s Case and gave the Parliament the power to amend the Fundamental Rights. On 9th May, 1980 the Supreme Court struck down Section 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 which gave unlimited powers to Parliament to amend the Constitution.
The Supreme Court also struck down Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment Act amending Article 31-C giving primacy to Directive Principles of State Policy over Fundamental Rights.
5. Court of Record. The Supreme Court is the Court of record. The significance of a court of record is two fold: First, the records of the Supreme Court are admitted to be of evidentiary value and are not questioned when they are produced before any Court.
Secondly, it has the power to fine and imprison for contempt of its authority.
6. Power Regarding Transference of Cases. The Supreme Court is also empowered to transfer any case, appeal or other proceedings pending before any High Court to any other High Court.
7. Power to Review its Decisions. The Supreme Court has the power to review its own decisions. In other words, the Supreme Court is not bound by its own decisions. Any such review is undertaken by a larger bench than the one which passed the original judgement. The Supreme Court's power to review its earlier decisions helps to correct any decision which may be erroneous. In 1971, in the case of Keshvanand Bharati, Supreme Court reversed its judgement of Golak Nath's Case and gave the Parliament the power to amend the Fundamental Rights but Parliament has no power to change the basic structure of the Constitution.
8. Miscellaneous Functions. The Supreme Court performs some miscellaneous functions also.
They are as follows:
(i) The Supreme Court is the highest court of theland. It has the power to inspect and supervise the working of the subordinate courts. It can also make rules for their efficient working.
(ii) The Supreme Court can also make rules for the persons practising before the court.
(iii) The Supreme Court can make rules for the maintenance of records by the lower courts.
(iv) The Supreme Court has the power to initiate contempt proceeding against any alleged offender indulging in malicious and tendentious criticism. It can fine and imprison anybody for contempt of its authority.
(v) For the enforcement of its decrees and orders, the Supreme Court can issue appropriate directions.
It is the constitutional duty of all the civil and Judicial authorities in the territory of India to act in aid of the Supreme Court.
Position of the Supreme Court in India. The powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India, if not wider than the jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts of other countries of the world is not lesser than the powers of the Supreme Courts of other countries of the world. In the words of Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, “The Supreme Court in the Indian Union has more powers than any other Supreme Court in any part of the world.” The Supreme Court of India has been given vast powers by the Constitution. The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all the Courts, and on all the authorities Central as well as States.
The Supreme Court can set aside any law or executive order which encroaches upon the rights of the people. In this way, the Supreme Court holds Executive and Legislature in check. While interpreting the Constitution and laws, the Supreme Court, in an indirect manner, makes new laws. In December, 1982 the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the workers to be heard in the winding up proceedings of a Company.
The Supreme Court's verdict breaks new ground in the history of Jurisprudence in this country in as much as it seeks to interpret old laws in the context of the new social and political milieu.
Commenting upon the role of the Supreme Court, Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar said, “The future evolution of the Indian Constitution will thus depend to a large extent upon the work of the Supreme Court and the direction given to it by that Court.” In the words of M.V. Pylee: “The combination of such wide and varied powers in the Supreme Court of India makes it not only the supreme authority in the judicial field but also the guardian of the Constitution and law of the land.” Surely, the powers of the Supreme Court are wide and formidable.