In a modern nation state, judiciary plays an important role of interpreting and applying the law. In a country with within constitution, the judiciary upholds the supremacy of constitutional provisions. In India, within the framework of supremacy of the constitution, parliamentary democracy and a federal set up, the judicial system is unitary in nature and presents a single integrated system of courts for the union and the states which administer both union and state laws. The Indian judiciary is like a pyramid in structure at the top of which is the Supreme Court of India. Below the Supreme Court stand High Courts of different states and below the High Court there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts. These subordinate courts are subordinate to and controlled by the High Courts.
Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
The scope of powers of Supreme Court to hear and decide cases is called its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has three types of jurisdictions namely original, appellate and advisory. Let us now examine the three jurisdictions.
There are certain cases which fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It means that all such cases begin or originate in the Supreme Court, only. It also means that such cases cannot be initiated in any other court. The cases or disputes that come under the original jurisdiction are given below:
(i) (a) Disputes between the Government of India on the one side and one or more States on the other side.
(b) Disputes between the Government of India and one or more States on one side and one or more States on the other side.
(c) Disputes between two or more States.
(ii) The Supreme Court has been invested with special powers in the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. In this connection, it has the power to issue directions or writs.
(iii) Cases under Public Interests Litigation (PIL) can also be heard directly. (This is an extra Constitutional practice; there is no mention of PIL in the Constitution).
The power of a superior/higher court to hear and decide appeals against the judgment of a lower court is called appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has vast appellate jurisdiction. It hears appeals against the judgment of the High Courts. Thus, it is the highest and the final Court of Appeal. If one of the parties to a dispute is not satisfied with the decision of the High Court, one can go to the Supreme Court and file an appeal. The appeals can be filled in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional cases.
This power implies Court’s right to give advice, if sought. Under advisory jurisdiction, the President of India may refer any question of law or public importance to Supreme Court for its advice. But the Supreme Court is not bound to give advice. In case, the advice or the opinion of the Court is sent to the President, he may or may not accept it. The advice of the Court is not binding on the President. So far, whenever the Court has given its advice, the President has always accepted it. The Court refused to give its advice on the question whether a temple existed at the spot, where Babri Masjid was built at Ayodhya.
The Supreme Court is primarily a court of appeal and has extensive appellate jurisdiction. Its primary function is to interpret the Constitution and declare whether or not any legislation or administrative action is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter in all constitutional controversies. The law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts in India, and is the law of the land.
This power is extremely wide and enables the Supreme Court to act as a check against improper exercise of jurisdiction by judicial or quasi-judicial bodies as well as maintain a uniformity of legal approach.
Supreme Court since independence has given many landmark judgments which have impact on the progress of the nation.
In the other files hereby, discussing the different landmark judgments.