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Indian Polity / Judiciary

Powers and Functions of Supreme Court of India


    Articles 124 - 147 deal with composition, powers and functions of Supreme Court of India. The powers and functions that are exercised and enjoyed by the Supreme Court, are Original Jurisdiction, Writ Jurisdiction, Advisory Jurisdiction, Appellate Jurisdiction, Court of Record, Custodian of the Constitution. In addition to the specific functions that are assigned to it, supreme court is vigilant towards the day-to-day happenings in the country and will get involved itself at the right time.

    Jurisdiction and Functions of Supreme Court

    Original Jurisdiction

    • Original Jurisdiction by we mean exclusive or special jurisdiction of Supreme Court. That is there are certain types of disputes which are directly taken to the Supreme Court.
    • Article 131 talks about Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court. All federal disputes that is any dispute between Centre and the States or any dispute among the states, any dispute relating to the election of President and Vice President of India, etc. can directly be taken to the Supreme Court.
    • Though the powers and functions of Supreme Court of India are pervasive in nature, there exists certain limitations also. The following disputes are exempted from Original Jurisdiction of Supreme court even though these disputes are federal in nature. They are -
      (i) Recommendations of Finance Commission under Article 280.
      (ii) All the disputes which are related to the agreements entered into by the States before the commencement of the Supreme Court of India. However, these disputes come under the Advisory Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.

    Writ Jurisdiction

    • Supreme Court issues various Writs under Article 32 for protection of the fundamental rights. Article 32 talks about the Right to constitutional remedies. It is the most important fundamental right without which the remaining fundamental rights may not be useful.
    • Constitution of India provides five types of writs. They are Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Certiorari and Quo warranto.
    • If any of the fundamental rights is violated or abridged, abrogated, the concerned person can directly move to the Supreme Court of India and can seek the constitutional remedy in the form of any of the five writs mentioned above.

    Advisory Jurisdiction

    • Under article 143, President of India may refer to the advice of Supreme court on two matters, (i) On a question of Fact and (ii) On a question of Law.
    • The advice given by the Supreme Court on such matters may or may not be accepted by the President. Even Supreme Court may give or may refuse to give the advice.
    • The advice that is given by the Supreme Court is binding on the lower courts but not on the Government. Only Supreme Court is empowered to render such advice and no other court has the authority to give advice.
    • Exemptions under Article 131 come under Advisory Jurisdiction of Supreme Court in which the Supreme Court is bound to give its advice.
    • If Parliament of India under Article 262 establishes an Interstate River Water Tribunal, any dispute among the States in sharing of river waters is also exempted from Supreme Court's Original Jurisdiction. All such matters are referred to Interstate River Water Tribunal. On the judgment of the Interstate River Water Tribunal, it can be appealed to the Supreme Court under Advisory Jurisdiction under Article 131 exemption.

    Appellate Jurisdiction

    • Article 132 deals with Appellate Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
    • All the judgments of the High Courts are not allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. The powers and functions of Supreme Court of India are devised in such a manner that the sanctity and significance of Supreme Court is not undermined. So, there will be certain preconditions that need to be satisfied in order to appeal from any High Court of India to the Supreme Court. If the High Court declares that the case calls for substantial question of law of general importance or if the High Court declares that the case involves further interpretation of the Constitution or if the High Court certifies that the case is a suitable case for appeal, in such cases only it can be appealed to the Supreme Court of India.
    • In criminal cases, in order to appeal a case from High Court to Supreme Court, the following ground must be satisfied. That is on an appeal from the lower court, the High Court altogether reverses the decision of the lower court whereby the accused person has been awarded death penalty or acquitted. All such cases can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
    • Even if the above mentioned stipulations are not fulfilled, a case can be appealed to Supreme Court under Article 136 through a Special Leave petition ( SLP ).

    Court of Record

    • All the judgements of the Supreme Court will have an evidentiary value. These judgements can be taken as precedents, case laws or as witness in the lower courts.
    • All the institutions and all the individuals will have to honour the decisions or judgements of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, it is punishable under Article 129 which talks about Contempt of Court.

    Custodian of the Constitution

    • Supreme Court protects the Constitution of India from the attacks of the Central as well as State Governments, by the power of Judicial Review under Articles 13, 32, 131, 142, 246, 226. Ultimately, Supreme Court of India maintains the supremacy of the Constitution.
    • Under Article 137, Supreme Court may review its own judgements eventually because of 3 grounds. They are
      (i) If any new material evidence has been found subsequently or,
      (ii) An error of fact occurred on the face of the case or,
      (iii) Any other relevant incidence occurs.

    In addition to the above mentioned powers and functions of Supreme Court of India, if the Apex Court is satisfied that justice is not done in the High Court and which can not be appealed to the Apex Court on procedural grounds, in such cases Supreme Court gives special permission to appeal a case through SLP so that justice can be rendered in the Apex Court. SLP is an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court's discretion and we cannot demand it as our Right.

    Similarly, a Public Interest Litigation ( PIL ) can directly be filed in the Supreme Court, in any High Court of India or in any court of Magistrate by an individual or group of people. PIL is a type of writ in which the litigant person who files the petition should not have any personal interest but the petition should be having the interest of large public. Strictly speaking, the powers and functions of Supreme Court of India are not restricted to certain specific areas only. It can interfere into any issue that seems to be unconstitutional.