In this article we will discuss the Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India in a simple and easy way, and try to understand its various other dimensions. To understand this article well, you must first understand the Basics of Supreme Court.

In the Indian integrated judicial system, the Supreme Court is at the top, so it is natural that it will also have the highest jurisdiction. So just read this article till the end;

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court
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Jurisdiction and Powers of Supreme Court

According to a democracy, every necessary freedom has been given to the Supreme Court. In such a situation, an institution is independent, it is inherent in itself that it will have its own area where it will exercise its freedom or apply its powers.

Since our judicial system is based on an integrated system where the Supreme Court is situated at the top. It is the final court of appeal and it is also the interpreter and guarantor of the Constitution and the rights of the citizens of India. In such a situation, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court would be wide. The description of how extensive it is is found in the constitution, which we are going to discuss next.

उच्चतम न्यायालय

“The Supreme Court of India has more powers than any other Supreme Court of the world.”

— Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer

The jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court can be classified as follows –

1. Appellate jurisdiction 

2. Original jurisdiction 

3. Extraordinary original jurisdiction

4. Advisory jurisdiction

5. Court of records

6. Judicial Power of judicial review

7. Other powers

1. Appellate Jurisdiction

As mentioned above, the Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. It happens that if someone does not find the decision of the subordinate court appropriate, then appeals to the High Court, if the decision of the High Court also does not seem appropriate, then appeals it to the Supreme Court. Now the question is what kind of appeal is made in the Supreme Court. So it can be seen by dividing it into the following four parts.

(1) Appeal in constitutional matters,
(2) Appeal in civil matters,
(3) Appeal in criminal matters, and
(4) Appeal by special leave. [Let us understand it one by one.]

(1) Appeal in constitutional matters – Under Article 132 , an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court in constitutional matters from any decision of the High Court, whether it is a criminal case or a civil matter. But the High Court has to state under Article 134 (A) that (1) this is a matter which can only be disposed of by the Supreme Court, and (2) it will require constitutional interpretation .

Constitutional interpretation simply means what is meant to be something. For example, if we take privacy itself, then everyone has their own thinking in this regard, some consider it necessary and some do not. But in August 2017, the Supreme Court, while interpreting privacy, said that from now on it is a fundamental right and if you are living then privacy is a part of your life which no one can take away from you.

(2) Appeal in civil cases – Under Article 133 , civil matters can be appealed from the High Court to the Supreme Court. (The disputes which are related to household matters are called civil matters, such as matters related to marriage, related to divorce, related to adoption, etc.)

Here also it is the same provision that the High Court has to certify that (1) it is not in its power, that is, which needs to be decided by the Supreme Court and (2) that the matter calls for some kind of interpretation.

(3) Appeal in criminal cases – Under Article 134, the Supreme Court hears appeals against the decisions of the High Court in criminal cases if the High Court (1) has reversed the order of acquittal of the accused person and sentenced him to death. (2) Taking the case from a subordinate court, has convicted the accused person and sentenced him to death. (3) If the High Court certifies such case under Article 134(A) that it is fit to be taken to the Supreme Court.

In 1970, Parliament expanded the criminal appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. That is, since then any decision of the High Court can be appealed even if the accused has been acquitted.

(4) Appeal by special permission – In respect of any kind of cases of any court other than the cases of military courts, the Supreme Court has the right to give an opportunity of being heard directly to the case of any aggrieved or aggrieved person by special leave. Even if any court has given its judgment in that case.

It is a privilege granted to the Supreme Court under Article 136 which it can exercise if it feels that (1) the matter demands constitutional interpretation, or (2) great injustice has been done to that person. But the point to be remembered here is that it is a discretionary power and hence cannot be claimed as a right by any person or institution. It depends on the Supreme Court whether they exercise this right or not.

Thus, the scope of this provision is very wide and its full hearing lies in the Supreme Court. This power is used with caution by the Supreme Court only in special circumstances because it is difficult to exercise this power under any rule.

2. Original jurisdiction

The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has been described under Article 131 . In any federal system country, it is natural to have a dispute between the center and the state or the state and the state, the power to settle such a dispute is with the Supreme Court, that is called original jurisdiction .

The same thing has been written in the constitution in such a way that any dispute which is between (1) the center and one or more states. or (2) the Center and any State or States on one side and one or more States on the other side. or (3) between two or more States. If any dispute involves any question on which the existence or extent of any legal right depends, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction.

In such a case, the Supreme Court has to keep in mind two things. First , the dispute raises a question of some sort which calls for the interpretation of a law, a fact or the Constitution. Second , the cases of such disputes should not have been brought to the court by any citizen.

However, there is also a limitation of this jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which is as follows-

(1) Any such treaty or agreement in which it is written that its jurisdiction will not be the Supreme Court, then the disputes arising under that treaty or agreement shall be outside the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

2. Inter-state water dispute cases are also outside its original jurisdiction, you can read this article for why they happen. 

(3) The matters relating to the Finance Commission or the matters relating to settlement of certain expenses between the Center and the States and ordinary disputes of commercial nature between the Center and the States are also outside its jurisdiction. 

(4) The matter of compensation for any loss to the state against the Center is also far away from its jurisdiction.

The case was brought against the Center by West Bengal for the first time under original jurisdiction in 1961. The state government challenged the constitutional validity of the ‘Coal Mines Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act 1957’ passed by the Parliament. The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the suit considering the legality of the Act.

3. Extraordinary original jurisdiction

We had understood the power of the Supreme Court to issue writs under Article 32. It’s about that. The Supreme Court can issue writs like habeas corpus, mandamus, Certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.

There is a provision in this that the citizen can go directly to the Supreme Court without an appeal petition. This means that when the fundamental rights of a citizen are being violated by the state, then anyone can directly go to the Supreme Court. 

(Remember here that this power is also with the High Court)

There is another difference between the Supreme Court and the High Court in terms of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court can issue judgments only with respect to the implementation of Fundamental Rights and not for other purposes, whereas the High Court on the other hand can issue orders not only for fundamental rights but also for other purposes.

This means that the jurisdiction of the High Court is much wider on the issue of jurisdiction. But the Parliament can confer on the Supreme Court the power to adjudicate for other purposes.

Compoundable and Non-Compoundable OffencesHindiEnglish
Cognizable and Non- Cognizable OffencesHindiEnglish
Bailable and Non-Bailable OffencesHindiEnglish

4. Advisory jurisdiction of Supreme Court

Under Article 143 , the President has the right to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court. This opinion is of two types – (1) When a legal question arises on an issue of public importance. That is, if at any time it appears to the President that a question of law or of any fact has arisen, or is likely to arise, on any matter of public importance and it is necessary to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court thereon, he shall may refer the matter to the Court for consideration. But remember here that the court is not bound to give its view, it can give it if it wants or not.

(2) In case of any dispute arising on any pre-constitutional treaty, agreement, etc. In this case it is mandatory for the Supreme Court to give its opinion to the President.

In both the cases the opinion of the Supreme Court is only advice. Thus, the President is not bound to follow this advice. However, in respect of the decisions taken by the Government, it obtains legal advice authorized by it.

Some of the matters entrusted by the President to the Supreme Court under his advisory jurisdiction are as follows:

1. Ramjanmabhoomi case in 1993, 2. Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004, 3. Decision in 2G spectrum case and making auction of natural resources binding in all areas, in 2012

5. Court of record

As a court of records under Article 129 , the Supreme Court has two powers – (1) The proceedings and decisions of the Supreme Court are kept in the form of record and evidence for a period of time. The special thing is that these records cannot be questioned during the case going on in other courts. Rather it is used for guidance or in legal contexts.

(2) It has the power to punish for contempt of court. It is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 years or with fine which may extend to 2000 rupees or with both. In 1991, the Supreme Court ruled that this power to impose punishment is not only vested in the Supreme Court, but similar powers are also vested in the High Courts, subordinate courts, tribunals.

Contempt of court can be either civil or criminal. Civil contempt means voluntarily disobeying any decision, order, whereas criminal contempt means publication of any material and doing an act which undermines or defames the power of the court or obstructs the judicial process, or otherwise Withholding the administration of justice by any means.

However, innocent publication of a case and its distribution, fair, reasonable criticism of the judicial proceedings report and comment on it from the administrative direction is not considered contempt of court.

6. Power of judicial review

The power of judicial review is vested in the Supreme Court. Under this, the constitutionality of legislative and executive orders is checked at both the central and state levels. If some malpractices are found in it, they can be declared unconstitutional and illegal (void) and then they cannot be implemented by the government. This is a very important power of the Supreme Court, to understand it better, read this article – ( Judicial Review in India)

Apart from all this, the Supreme Court has the power to review its own decision under Article 137. As such, it is not bound to stick to the earlier decision and can take a departure from it in the interest of community interest and justice. In short, the Supreme Court is a self-correcting institution. For example, in the Kesavananda Bharti case, 1973, the Supreme Court departed from its earlier decision in the Golaknath case, 1967.

7. Other jurisdictional powers of the Supreme Court

Apart from the above powers, the Supreme Court also has many other powers, such as 

(1) it settles any kind of dispute regarding the election of the President and the Vice-President. In this respect it is the original, special and final administrator.

(2) It inquires into the behavior and conduct of the Chairman and the members of the Union Public Service Commission, in respect of which such reference has been made by the President. If it finds him guilty of misbehavior, it can recommend to the President his removal. The President is bound to accept this advice given by the Supreme Court.

(3) Under Article 139 (A), the Supreme Court can summon and dispose of cases pending in the High Courts. It can also transfer any pending case or appeal from one High Court to another.

(4) Under Article 141 , the laws of the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts in India. Its decrees or orders are applicable throughout the country. All the authorities work in aid of the Supreme Court.

(5) It is the sole interpreter of the Constitution. It gives final shape to the various provisions of the Constitution and the elements contained therein.

(6) It has the power of judicial superintendence and has control over the activities of all courts and tribunals in the country.

(7) The jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court under Article 138 may be extended by Parliament on matters relating to the Central List and its jurisdiction and power may be extended to other matters by special agreement between the Center and the States.

(8) Under Article 139 the powers to issue certain writs can be conferred on the Supreme Court. Parliament by law to the Supreme Court for any purposes other than those mentioned in clause (2) of article 32; Power to issue orders or writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, writs of questioning and abetment, or any of them.

(9) Under Article 140, Parliament may by law provide for the Supreme Court to confer such supplementary powers not inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Constitution. and which appear to be necessary to enable that Court to more effectively exercise the jurisdiction conferred by or under this Constitution.

(10) Under Article 142, the Supreme Court, while giving a verdict in a case, can give such order, which is necessary to give justice to any person, within the framework of the constitutional provisions. To put it in other words, the Supreme Court can use Article 142 to take the process of justice to its logical conclusion in a particular case.

(11) Under Article 144, all civil and judicial authorities in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.

(12) Subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament under article 145 , the Supreme Court may, from time to time, with the approval of the President, make rules for regulating the practice and procedure of the Court. such as—

(a) the rules as to persons practicing law in that Court;
(b) the rules as to the procedure for hearing appeals and as to other matters relating to appeals;
(c) the rules as to the proceedings in that court for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III; e.t.c.

(13) Subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament under article 146, the conditions of service of the officers and servants of the Supreme Court shall be such as may be prescribed by the Chief Justice of India or such other Judge or officer of that Court. Provided that rules made under this clause shall, in so far as they relate to salaries, allowances, leave or pensions, require the approval of the President.

Secondly, that the administrative expenses of the Supreme Court including all salaries, allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of the officers and servants of that Court shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. and the fees and other sums taken by that Court shall form part of that fund.

(14) Article 147 empowers the Supreme Court of India to interpret the Constitution of India and other laws. This is a very controversial article.

So here is the Jurisdiction of Supreme Court , hope you have understood. After this, the article is given below, must read it.

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