Polity Notes

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Supreme Court is the Constitutional body under Article 124 of the Constitution. Supreme Court is guardian of our constitution, Highest Constitution Court, Final Court of Appeal and Highest Judicial forum. Originally the strength of Supreme Court was 1 + 7 = 8 (1 Chief Justice and 7 Judges). Present strength is 1 + 33 = 34 (1 Chief Justice and 33 Judges). Supreme Court was established on 28th January, 1950 and replaced Federal Court of India. Before Federal Court of India, Privy Council used to be the Highest Court of India.

Motto of Supreme Court

Motto of Supreme Court is Whence Law (Dharma), Thence Victory (Yatho Dharma Statho Jaya) meaning that when law or dharma (rightiousness) is there, then there is victory.

Appointment of Chief Justice of India and Judges of Supreme Court

Chief Justice and other Judges of Supreme Court are appointed by the President. The collegiums of Supreme Court recommends the names for appointment as Chief Justice of India, judges of Supreme Court, Chief Justice and judges of various High Courts & transfer of Chief Justice & Judges of a High Court from one High Court to another.

Supreme Court collegiums consists of Chief Justice of India & 4 senior Judges of Supreme Court. Recently Collegium of Supreme Court recommended 9 names for appointed as new judges of Supreme Court. President Sh. Ram Nath Kovind gave his accent on the recommendations of collegiums and appointed 9 new judges of Supreme Court w.e.f. 31/8/21. Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana administered the oath of office to nine new judges on 31/8/21. Three women judges including Justice BV Nagarathna, who is in line to be the first woman Chief Justice of India in September, 2027 were sworn in along with two another women judges-Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Bela M Trivedi. Justice Indira Banerjee has already been serving as a judge since Aug 2018. The apex court now has four sitting women judges – the highest ever in its history. Sh. Justice PS Narsimha is a senior advocate and is appointed judge (direct from Bar to Bench) while rest of 8 judges were Chief Justice/Judges of various High Courts.

After their swearing in, the strength of Supreme Court now goes up to 33 including Chief Justice of India, out of total sanctioned strength of thirty four.

Oath of Office

Oath of office to Chief Justice of India is administrated by President and oath of office to the Judges of Supreme Court is administered by Chief Justice of India.

Tenure

Tenure of Chief Justice of India of Supreme Court is upto the age of 65 years. Tenure is fixed. Removal before completion of the tenure is not possible. The only exception is removal (impeachment word is used only for removal of President) by Parliament.

Removal motion can be introduced in either house of Parliament and has to be passed by both houses separately by 2/3rd (Special majority).

Justice H.J. Kania was our first Chief Justice of India. 47th Chief Justice of India was Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde and Presently (48th) Chief Justice of India is Justice N.V. Ramana.

Bibi Fatima was 1st woman Judge of Supreme Court. No woman till date has become Chief Justice of India and Justice B.V. Nagarathna may become 1st woman Chief Justice of India in September, 2027.

Justice Mrs. Leila Seth was the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court (Himachal Pradesh).

Chief Justice of India Mohd. Hidayatullah held the post of Acting President in 1969 and later he was also appointed as Vice-President of India.

Jurisdiction of Judicial Court

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court can be classified under 3 categories as:

Jurisdiction

i) Original

ii) Appellate

iii) Advisory

(1) Original Jurisdiction

The following areas comes under the Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court:

(a) Any dispute between centre vs State/States or among two or more than two states is resolved by Supreme Court.

(b) Direct transfer of Civil or Criminal Case from one High Court to another.

(c) Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies) any Indian citizen can approach to the Supreme Court for protection of his Fundamental Rights if violated or breached by any action of the Government and Supreme Court can protect our Fundamental Rights by issuing five different types of writs (Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition & Quo-warranto).

Note:- We can also move High Court for protection of our Fundamental Rights under article 226. Similarly High Court too can issue these five types of writs to protect our Fundamental Rights.

(d) If in the opinion on Supreme Court a matter is of National importance and it should be decided by Supreme Court then Supreme Court can direct various High Courts to transfer all such cases to Supreme Court and Supreme Court alone will decide the matter to avoid multiplicity of the decisions.

(e) Constitutional Review Supreme Court can review provisions of our constitution and can make/dictate necessary changes.

(f) Self cognisance Supreme Court can take self cognisance on any matter of local or national importance.

(g) May dictate parliament to make law on any specific subject.

(h) Under Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, International Commercial Arbitration can also be initiated in Supreme Court.

(2) Appellate Jurisdiction

(a) The decision of a High Court in both Civil/Criminal case can be challenged in Supreme Court if certified by High Court.

(b) If in the opinion of High Court in Civil case a matter is of National Importance and it should be decided by Supreme Court, the same can be transferred to Supreme Court.

(c) In Criminal case if High Court awards ten years of imprisonment, more than 10 years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or death penalty to a person earlier not convicted by the Lower Court then that Criminal case will be referred to Supreme Court. No certification by High Court is needed.

(d) Supreme Court can accept appeal on its own discretion against decision of any court or tribunal in India.

(3) Advisory Jurisdiction (ARTICLE 143)

We have borrowed this feature in our Constitution from Canadian Constitution. Only our President can seek legal advice on any question of National or International importance from the Supreme Court. This process is also known as Presidential reference to Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court is under an obligation to answer the questions put to it but it discretionary for the Supreme Court to answer or not the questions put to it. If not then with valid reasons. The minimum number of Judges on bench of advisory opinion on the reference by the President must be one half of the total strength of Supreme Court.

In Delhi Laws Act Case, Cauvery. Dispute Tribunal Case etc., legal advice was given by Supreme Court to the President but in Ismail Faruqi vs Union of India Case regarding Ram Janmbhoomi – Babri Masjid Dispute, Supreme Court did not provide legal advice to the President. Supreme Court contended that the Presidential reference seeking the Court’s opinion on whether there was initially a temple where the Babri Masjid later stood was unnecessary and superfluous and also against the concept of secularism favouring one religious section over another and hence, doesn’t need to be answered.

Some of other cases that were referred to Supreme Court for legal advice by the President include Kerala Education Bill, Beru Bari Case, Sea Customs Act, Special Court Reference Case, Special Courts Bill etc.

WRITS

Supreme Court under Article 32, (Fundamental Right to Constitutional Remedies) can issue five different types of writs to protect our Fundamental Rights. Writs are issued against lower courts, Tribunals, Govt. Authorities etc. and not against private individuals, bodies, organisations etc but in exceptional circumstances, writs can be issued against private individuals, bodies & organisations too. These writs are as:

(1) Habeas Corpus (Produce the body) – to release a person who has been detained unlawfully.

(2) Mandamus (we order/we command) – to secure the performance of Public duties by lower court, tribunal or public authority.

(3) Certiorari (we certify) – we certify that this case is fit to be reviewed. Review the case so that justice can be granted to the victim.

(4) Prohibition (To Prohibit) – to prohibit an inferior court from continuing the proceedings in a particular case where it has no jurisdiction to try.

(5) Quo Warranto (By What Authority) – to restrain a person from holding a public office which he is not entitled.