SUPREME COURT AS FINAL PEDESTAL OF JUSTICE


By-Mahima Agrawal

Article 124 of the Indian Constitution provides a mandate for the establishment of a Supreme Court of India. Through the incorporation of this article the Constitution-makers ensured that all the citizens of India have an independent body for redressal and protection of their rights.


As per the Indian Constitution, the judicial powers of this Apex Court extend to all cases arising in the Indian territory and resolves all cases of law and equity and these functions and jurisdictions are conferred and controlled by the Constitution of the land. The Constitution specifies that the court will have an original jurisdiction, Article 131, for resolving all matters arising between Ambassadors and ministers and all matters in which both the parties are States (both Centre and State). The court is given appellate jurisdiction, Article 132, to hear and adjudicate all matters of law and fact, in form of appeals against judgments from lower courts and high courts.


The Apex Court is also provided certain powers to prescribe newer and efficient rules or to amend the current rules of procedure to be followed by lower courts all across the nation. Indian Constitution makers ensured that all the organs of the democratic nation are able to dispense their functions without unduly interference from each other, hence ensured that there is adequate separation of power between them. Therefore, the SC can advise the government to reform or introduce new laws but is not allowed to make laws however they can scrap the prevalent laws in favour of the interest of the citizens.


The decisions of the court are binding on all the lower courts, Article 141, since India follows the common law- Doctrine of Precedent, hence the judgements and concurring and dissenting opinions and orders of the Justices are duly recorded and published nationwide. The judgments and orders of the Supreme Court are final and binding thereby making it the final body for dispensing relief and justice to the aggrieved.


Yet the decisions of the court are not binding on itself. Since there are certain matters which require different approach to justice with a change in times, hence the court can reverse its decisions on a particular matter if they think it was an erroneous verdict previously or if it requires reformed approach for general benefit of the public.[1] Similarly the Apex Court reversed its previous decisions[2] in Golaknath v. State of Punjab. [3]


The ultimate responsibility of the Top Court can be summarized in four words- "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW". It has the highest authority to resolve and adjudicate all controversies arising under the Indian Law in the interests of the citizens. Since it is the final adjudicator, it is charged to ensure promise of equal justice to all while serving as a faithful guardian and wise interpreter of the Constitution. This structural superiority of the Apex Court ensures the smooth and continued functioning of Constitutional Government and Rule of Law.

Over the years, Supreme Court of India has met the needs of the Republic by protecting the rights of citizens while maintaining a balance between popular demands, individual rights and society’s need for order. For this purpose, the Court is provided authority to evaluate, assess or invalidate executive as well as legislative actions, which is in form a conflict with the Constitution. However, this essential power of "judicial review" provides a crucial responsibility to the judiciary to ensure that the rights and liberty of the citizens are not compromised. Thus, the SC also maintains the position of a "living Constitution", whose opinions and judgments are of contemporary relevance and hence are continually applied to complicated new situations.

The court has to adopt a creative and purposive methods and approach to dispense justice to all the citizens. Interpretation is key in law and the SC is burdened with the heavy duty to ensure the guaranteed protection of Fundamental Rights. It is only due to their substantive expansion of the rights mentioned under Article 21 that the citizens of India have been guaranteed various essential Rights such as Education, Sleep, Health and Privacy as Fundamental Rights.


The Apex judiciary also has a heavy responsibility of safeguarding Human Rights in the light of our Constitutional mandate. For this the Court has, numerous times, taken Suo moto cognizance of matters which are either not being dealt properly by the concerned authorities or pose as an immediate threat to the law and order of the nation and the rights of the citizens. Such as the present issue of improper disposition of COVID-19 bodies, issue of migrant crisis, assessment of the criminal justice system in response to sexual offences etc.


For this very purpose, the court agreed[4] for live streaming of cases of national importance since the rational and logic of justices and justice in cases is of importance to not only people from legal background but also to the general public of the nation. Additionally, this will also ensure transparency, and will lead to cultural, educational, historical, and civic benefits. Moreover, Indian people could watch lawyers and judges argue over controversial, divisive issues with mutual respect, civility, and deference for each other. All these cases deals with issues of public interest and these historical debates could prove to be a learning lessor for people over all age groups.


Laws like adultery laws, abortion laws, same sex marriage laws are laws and decisions made by the Apex Court while relying on popular opinion and demands of the people of present era. Therefore, the Top Court is not only the highest pedestal of justice in the nation but also the highest authority for promoting socio-economic and legal changes in the nation.


For a democratic nation it is imperative that the rule of law is maintained and the highest court of the nation has to adopt liberal methods for interpretations of laws so that the present judgments are contemporaneous to present times. However, when we discuss about the judicial review in spite of many precedents the courts decisions keep changing. The power of courts to interpret laws passed by Parliament is conflicted and seems to be driven by politics and bureaucracy. Conflicting interpretations and views regarding confluence of legislature and judiciary and interpretation of Article 21 and 19 for ensuring liberty of citizens can be answered by the Top court alone.


A growing range of controversial or interpretational issues are brought to Courts on daily basis. There are always conflicting issues on how the case should be decided since citizens are divided over the matter. Moreover, the same holds true for the judges also, since it is seldom that the cases are decided unanimously. Courts where there three or more judges making decisions the differences of opinions are quite evident. This in turn reflects the divided perception of the citizens too since the reasoning behind concurring opinions is sometimes vastly different.


Fundamental differences in the functioning of judiciary, the delays, the conflict between sitting judges, the questioning of process of case allotment and judge allotment are some of the major issues in today’s world that malign the image and dignity of the Apex Court. An institution as important as the Supreme Court needs stabilised administration while following all long-standing principles of justice. The allegation of biased actions and political control against the CJI are serious issues which demand immediate actions. It continues to adopt deferential methods for judicial review while depicting doctrinal incoherence in its administration and functions. Huge arrears and delays are against the principle of justice since justice involves timely relief.


The functional fallacies of the Court have long been ignored however now is the time to evaluate the procedure of the Apex Court so as to ensure that all cases are treated in a similar manner. Since misusing or even favouring group PILs and SLPs is undermining the individual rights of the citizens. The Court has long relied on judicial independence however in the present times we also need to ensure proper mechanism for judicial accountability. The political pressure, corruption within the institution and enormous power of a single person, the CJI are certain threats to this independence of the judiciary. We need proper case management and allotting techniques so as to reduce corruption and malpractices among the Justices and advocates in the SC.


Idolizing a single court as a legal agency for maintaining justice within the nation is an impractical perspective since the court and justices interpret the law based on criteria and choices other than the very letter of the law. The intersection of law and politics is real, fascinating and inseparable, it can only be limited and checked. Therefore, it is upon the provisions and mechanisms devised to implement limits and checks to divert the current ‘insular’ state of the Highest Court to more ‘accountable’ one.


References [1] Bengal Immunity Co. Ltd vs State Of Bihar & Ors, Appeal (civil) 159 of 1953 [2] Shankari Prasad vs Union of India (AIR 1951 SC 455) and Sajjan Singh vs State Of Rajasthan,1965 AIR 845, 1965 SCR (1) 933 [3] Golaknath v. State Of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762) [4] Swapnil Tripathi V. Supreme Court of India Note- Views and opinions as expressed in this article are solely of the author and Indian Legal Wing is not liable for the same. The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. We endeavour to keep all the information up to date and try our level best to avoid any misinformation or any kind of objectionable content. If you found any misinformation or objectionable contents in this website please report us at indianlegalwing@gmail.com

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