Supreme Court of India : Frontier IAS
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Polity

Supreme Court of India : Frontier IAS

India is a federal State having a single and unified judicial system with a three-tier structure, i.e., Supreme Court, High Courts, and Subordinate Courts. Read this article to find out about the Supreme Court of India, its composition, power, and functions.

Supreme Court of India : Frontier IAS

Art. 124-147

Part V of the Constitution deals with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court:

Art. 124 provides for the establishment and constitution of the Supreme Court of India.

Art. 124(1):

“There shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and, until Parliament by law prescribes a large number, of not more than 7 other Judges.”

The Parliament can increase the number of judges if it is necessary.

The sanctioned strength of the judges is 31, consisting of Chief Justice and 30 other judges. 

Appointment of Judges(Art. 124):

  1. The Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of India.
  2. In the appointment of the Chief Justice, the President is constitutionally required to consult such other judges of the Supreme Court as he deems proper, but the outgoing Chief Justice is always consulted.
  3. Generally, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is appointed as the Chief Justice of India (but no such constitutional provision).
  4. The other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and such other judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court, as he deems necessary. The consultation with the Chief Justice is mandatory in the case of appointment of other judges.
  5. On basis of a ruling of Second Judges Case and Third Judges Case, whenever there is a vacancy or a likely vacancy in the Supreme Court, a Collegium of Judges comprising of the Chief Justice and 4 other senior-most judges, recommends the names of the persons to be appointed as judges of Supreme Court. The President now performs the formality of appointing them.

Qualifications of Judges of the Supreme Court:

  1. He must be a citizen of India.
  2. He has been a Judge of a High Court or 2 or more such Courts in succession for at least 5 years.
  3. He has been an Advocate of a High Court or one or more such Courts in succession for at least 10 years.
  4. He should be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the President.

Tenure and removal of the Judges of Supreme Court:

  1. He holds office until he attains the age of 65 years.
  2. He can resign his office by writing to the President.
  3. He can be removed from his office by an order of the President, passed after an address by each House of the Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of the House and not less than two-thirds majority of the members of each House present and voting, passed in the same session. The ground for such removal can be “proved misbehavior or incapacity”.
  4. Under Art. 124(5), Parliament may by law regulate the procedure for the removal of the judges of the Supreme Court. Parliament has passed the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

Judges (Inquiry) Act,1968:

It regulates the procedure related to the removal of a Judge of Supreme Court:

  1. A removal motion addressed to the President signed by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha is given to the Speaker or the Chairman.
  2. The motion is investigated by a Committee of 3, the chief justice or a judge of Supreme Court, a Chief Justice of a High Court, and a distinguished jurist.
  3. If the Committee finds the Judge guilty of misbehavior or that he suffers from incapacity, then the motion for removal of the judge along with the report of the Committee is taken up for consideration in the House where the motion is pending.
  4. If the motion is passed in each House by the majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of that House present and voting the address is presented to the President.
  5. The Judge is removed after the President gives his order for removal on the said address.
  • The judge has the right to defend himself before the Judicial Committee.
  • The Committee submits its report to the presiding officer of the House in which the motion has been introduced. 
  • Parliament may or may not take up any action. If the Judicial Committee fails to establish proof of misbehavior or incapacity, Parliament can not take up the motion.
  • If the motion is passed by the originating House with the required majority, it moves to the other House which shall also pass it with the same majority. 
  • Upon being presented to the President in the same session of Parliament in which the address has been passed, the President shall pass an order for the removal of the Judge.

      Note: Till now, no Judge of the Supreme Court has been removed.

Salary and Allowances:

  1. The salary of the Chief Justice of India is 1,00,000 per month and the salary of other judges of the Supreme Court is 90,000 per month.
  2. They are also paid a sumptuary allowance and provided with free accommodation and other facilities like medical, car, telephone, etc.
  3. The retired Chief Justice and judges are entitled to 50% of their last drawn salary as a monthly pension

Oath or Affirmation:

Under Art. 124(6), a person appointed as a Supreme Court Judge, before entering upon his office takes an oath before the President or some person appointed by him “to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India”.

The seat of the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or, in such place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may with the approval of the President, appoint.

Art. 126:

Appointment of Acting Chief Justice:

The President can appoint a judge of the Supreme Court as an acting Chief Justice of India when:

  1. The office of Chief Justice of India is vacant.
  2. The Chief Justice of India is temporarily absent.
  3. The Chief Justice of India is unable to perform the duties of his office.

Art. 127:

Appointment of Ad hoc Judges:

  1. When there is a lack of quorum of the Judges of the Supreme Court to hold or continue any session in the Court, the Chief Justice of India can appoint a judge of a High Court as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court.
  2. He can do so only after consulting the Chief Justice of the high court concerned and with the previous consent of the President.
  3. The Judge so appointed should be qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Art. 128:

Attendance of retired Judges at sittings of the Supreme Court:

The Chief Justice of India with the previous consent of the President may request a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or Federal Court or a retired Judge of High Court who is duly qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court to act as a Judge of the Supreme Court. Such a Judge is entitled to allowances, determined by the President.

Powers and Functions of Chief Justice of India:

  • It is mandatory for the President to consult the Chief Justice in the appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
  • He administers the oath of office to the President or any person acting as the President.
  • When there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice-President, he performs his duties.
  • Under Art. 258, in the event of a dispute between the Centre and a State regarding the amount to be paid by the Centre to the State, the matter shall be decided by an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice of India.
  • When President asks him to inquire about the charges of misbehavior against a member of the Public Service Commission, he appoints a Judge and submits a report to the President.
  • His consent is required before initiation of criminal proceedings against a Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court.
  • When a resolution for the removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court is under consideration, the presiding officer of the House of Parliament constitutes a Committee of 3 Judges to investigate the alleged charges in consultation with him.
  • He allocates work among the Judges of the Supreme Court.

Independence of Supreme Court:

  1. The appointment of Judges other than the Chief Justice of India is made by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the other 4 senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court to avoid any interference of the Executive.
  2. The Supreme Court has the power to punish any person for the Contempt of Court.
  3. They enjoy the security of tenure. They can only be removed on the grounds of proven misbehavior or incapacity.
  1. After retirement, a person who held office as a Judge of the Supreme Court is prohibited from practicing or acting as a Judge in any court except when he is appointed as an ad hoc Judge by the Chief Justice of India.
  2. The salaries and allowances of the Judges of the Supreme Court are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and are not subject to the vote of the Parliament. Salary and allowances cannot be varied to their disadvantage except during a financial emergency.
  3. The conduct of a Judge of Supreme Court can not be discussed in the Parliament, except on a ground seeking the removal of a Judge.

Jurisdiction and Powers of Supreme Court:

  • Original Jurisdiction
  • Writ Jurisdiction
  • Appellate Jurisdiction
  • Advisory Jurisdiction
  • A Court of Record
  • Powers of Judicial Review
  • Other Powers

Original Jurisdiction:

  1. It means the authority to hear and determine a case in the first instance, not by way of appeal. 
    1. It is of 2 Types:
  • Exclusive Jurisdiction
  • Concurrent Jurisdiction
  1. It has original, exclusive jurisdiction in any of the disputed involving:
    1. The Centre and one or more States.
    2. The Centre and any state or states on one side and one or more states on the other.
    3. Between 2 or more states.
    4. It acts as a Federal Court which implies that the parties to the dispute should be units of a federation. No other court can entertain such disputes
    5. It also involves clarification as to whether a certain item is in the ‘residuary’ category or not under Schedule VII of the Constitution.
    6. Under Art. 71, all disputes regarding the election of the President or Vice President are decided exclusively by the Supreme Court. 

Click here to read Functions and Powers of the Prime Minister

Exclusive of Original Jurisdiction:

The Constitution excludes the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in disputes between the Centre and the State in the following matters:

  1. Under Art. 131, the Court’s jurisdiction does not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, or other similar instrument entered into or executed before 26th Jan 1950 and which has continued in operation thereafter. The President of India has the authority to decide on such matters, though he may refer them to Supreme Court for non-binding advice.
  2. Under Art. 262(2), Parliament may by law exclude Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution, or control of the waters in any inter-state river or river valley.
  3. Matters related to the Finance Commission.
  4. Adjustment of certain expenses and pensions between the Centre and the States.
  5. Recovery of damages by a state against the centre.

Writ Jurisdiction:

  1. The Concurrent Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court consists of the authority to issue writs for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights under Art. 32.
  2. Under Article 32, every individual has the right to move the Supreme Court directly by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of his Fundamental Rights. It is Original Jurisdiction as the individual has the right to directly approach the Supreme Court for the enforcement of his Fundamental Rights.
  3. The Supreme Court is empowered to issue writs including Habeas corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Certiorari and Quo Warranto for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of an aggrieved citizen.
  4. The Supreme Court is empowered to issue appropriate directions and orders to the Executive.

Appellate Jurisdiction:

The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal from all courts. Its Appellate Jurisdiction may be divided into,

  • Cases involving interpretation of the Constitution-civil, criminal or otherwise.
  • Civil cases, irrespective of any Constitutional question.
  • Criminal cases, irrespective of any Constitutional question.
  • Appeals by special leave.

Constitutional Matters:

  • In Constitutional matters, an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court against the judgment 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.
  • If the High Court refuses to give the certificate, the Supreme Court may grant special leave for appeal under Art. 136 if it is satisfied that the case does involve such a question.
  • Based on the certificate, the party in the case can appeal to the Supreme Court on the ground that the question has been wrongly decided.

Civil Matters:

  1. Under Art. 133, an appeal lies to the Supreme Court from any judgment of a High Court if the High Court certifies:
    1. That the case involves a substantial question of law of general importance.
    2. That the question needs to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Before, only those civil cases that involved a sum of Rs.20,000 could be appealed before the Supreme Court. But this monetary limit was removed by 30th Amendment Act.

Criminal Matters:

Art. 134 of the Constitution provides the following provisions for an appeal to Supreme Court in criminal matters:

  1. An appeal lies from any judgment, final order, or sentence of a High Court in a criminal proceeding if the High Court has on appeal, reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death.
  2. If the High Court has withdrawn for trial before itself a case from a lower court and in such a trial sentenced the accused to death.
  3. If the High Court certifies that the case is a fit one for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
  4. The Parliament has further enacted the Supreme Court(Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970, authorizing the Supreme Court to hear appeals from the High Court in the following matters:
  5. If the High Court has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused and sentenced him to imprisonment for life or for a period of at least 10 years.
  6. The High Court after withdrawal of a case from a lower court has sentenced the accused to imprisonment of life or for a period of at least 10 years.

Appeal by Special Leave:

  1. The Constitution of India, under article 136, gives the Supreme Court the power to grant special permission or leave to an aggrieved party to appeal against an order passed in any of the lower courts or tribunals in India (except the court-martial).
  2. It is a discretionary power and hence cannot be claimed as a matter of right.

Advisory Jurisdiction:

  1. Under Art. 143, President is vested with the power to seek advice regarding:
    1. Any question of law or fact of public importance.
    2. Cases belonging to the disputes arising out of pre-constitutional treaties and agreements which are excluded from their original jurisdiction.
  2. In the first case, it is not compulsory for the Court to give its advice.
  3. In the second case, it is mandatory for the Court, to give its opinion to the President.
  4. In both cases, the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court is advisory and not binding on the President.

Supreme Court as a Court of Record:

  1. As a Court of Record, the Supreme Court has the following powers:
    1. Its records and judicial proceedings are of evidentiary value before any court.
    2. Under Art. 129, “The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.”
    3. Has the power to punish for its own contempt.
    4. Has the power to determine its own jurisdiction.

Court of Record:

  1. It is a court whose acts and proceedings are enrolled for testimony, which means its judgments and proceedings can be used as references, while deciding the matters of a case, in all the courts of India.
  2. The truth of these records can not be questioned. They are recognized as legal references.
  3. Art. 215 empowers the High Courts of the States to be courts of record.

Contempt of Court:

  1. A Contempt of Court may be civil or criminal.
  2. Civil Contempt means willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, order, direction, or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  3. Criminal Contempt means the publication of any matter or doing of any act which scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lower the authority of the court or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any matter. Willingness is necessary for contempt of court.
  4. The following acts do not amount to Contempt of Court:
  5. Innocent publication and distribution of matter.
  6. A fair and accurate report of the judicial proceedings.
  7. Fair criticism of the judicial act.
  8. Complaints made in good faith of presiding officers of subordinate courts.
  9. A Contempt of Court may be punished with simple imprisonment up to 6 months or with a fine up to Rs.2,000 or with both provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Power of Judicial Review:

  1. Under Art. 137, the Supreme Court is empowered to review any judgment or order made by it with a view to removing any error in that order.
  2. Judgments of the Supreme Court are binding on other courts of India but not on itself.
  3. Judicial Review is necessary to uphold the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution and to protect the Fundamental Rights of its citizens.

Others Powers of Supreme Court:

  1. It decides disputes regarding the election of the President and the Vice-President.
  2. It has the power of judicial superintendence and control over all courts and tribunals, functioning in the territory of India. (except when Parliament makes an exclusion like Water Tribunals)
  3. In a reference to President, it makes an inquiry into the conduct and behavior of the Chairman and other members of UPSC, and if found guilty, recommends their removal to the President. The advice is binding on the President.
  4. It is authorized to make rules regarding the practice and procedure of the Court with the approval of the President.
  5. It is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution.
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