The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India is often considered the temple of justice and is the apex court of law in the territory of India. “Yato Dharmastato Jayah” (Where there is righteousness and moral duty, there is victory) is the motto of the Supreme Court of India. As the highest and final court of appeal for civil and the Supreme Court of India is respected as the custodian of the Constitution and is the interpreter of the tenets of the situation. It has the last word on the constitutionality of a provision. The judiciary in India is both integrated and independent. The Supreme Court is empowered to review its judgment. 

The provisions relating to the Supreme Court of India are mentioned in Articles 124 to 147 in Part 5 of the Indian Constitution. The court comprises 33 judges and the Chief Justice of India(CJI). At present, Shri Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud is serving as the CJI of the apex court. Shri HJ Kania was the first person to hold the seat of the honourable CJI. 

The history of the creation of the Supreme Court goes back to the Government of India Act 1935 when the Federal Court of India (1937) was constituted. The Supreme Court was set up on the 28th of January 1950 as a replacement for the Federal Court of India and the Privy Council. Presently its premises are located at Tilak Marg, New Delhi. However, from its inception as the Federal Court to the year 1950 it was situated at the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament building. 

The composition of the court has significantly increased from the original strength of 8 judges(including the CJI) to the present 34 keeping up with the necessities of time. The proceedings are conducted in the form of division benches (2-3 judges take part) and the Constitution bench (5 or more judges). The Kesavananda Bharati Case holds the distinction of having the most number of judges in a single case I.e. 13. 

The judges are appointed by the President in pursuance of the constitutional provisions. The President consults judges of the Supreme Court to appoint the CJI and consults the CJI plus other judges to appoint the remaining judges of the court. 

The First, Second and Third Judges cases have led to the evolution of a collegium system to appoint the judges of the Supreme Court. With this method, the President gives appropriate weight to the views of judges while making appointments to the office of the Supreme Court. 

The qualifications for getting appointed as the Supreme Court judge are as follows

  • 1. Citizen of India 
  1. Should be a judge of the High Court (or high court in succession) for five years, Or an advocate of a high court (or in succession) for 10 years, Or, should be a distinguished jurist in the President’s opinion. 

The judges of the Supreme Court take an oath before the President of India. The term of the judges is not set by the Constitution. The Parliament is empowered to decide on such matters. The judges had office till the age of 65 and can resign anytime from the President.

The removal/impeachment of judges of the Supreme Court is difficult to ensure the independence of the office and the security of tenure. The judges are removed by the President on the recommendations of the Parliament. The Parliament must pass the resolution by the special majority in each House and follow the provisions under the Judges Enquiry Act 1968. The grounds of impeachment are listed as proven misbehaviour or incapacity. 

As per the constitution of India, Delhi is declared as the seat of the Supreme Court. However, further, the provision reads that the CJI can appoint any other location as the Supreme Court’s seat after seeking President’s approval. 

The jurisdiction and power of the Supreme Court are wide-ranging and include 1. Original Jurisdiction- The Supreme Court has the exclusive and original jurisdiction overhearing the cases relating to disputes between the Centre and one/more states, the Centre and one or more states versus other states, between states 

However, it does not consider a suit by a private citizen under this head. 

  1. Writ Jurisdiction- Article 32 contained in Part 3 of the Constitution I.e. called the heart and soul of the Constitution by Dr. Ambedkar has provisions of writs. The Supreme Court can issue writs as Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Certiorari and Quo Warrento. These are applied to enforce fundamental rights. A citizen can directly approach the apex court for demanding justice under this article. High Courts under Article 226 can also issue writs. 
  2. Appellate Jurisdiction- The apex court being the highest court of appeal listens to appeals against the orders of lower courts in Constitutional matters, Civil matters, Criminal matters and Special Leave petitions. 
  3. Advisory Jurisdiction- Under Article 143, the President can seek the view of the honourable Supreme Court on matters of public importance and issues stemming from the pre-constitution treaty, agreement etc. 

The court has to give its opinion in the latter case as a matter of compulsion. 5. A court of record – The judgements, and decrees of the Coirtvare kept as records for maintaining the memory. They hold high value as evidence. The court can also punish people for their contempt- both civil and criminal for not following its orders. 

As discussed earlier the Court also has the power to review the legislative and executive actions of the central and state governments. If the laws are found to be discrepant with the constitutional values, they can declare them invalid/void. 

Several other powers- 

  • It has the sole authority to decide on disputes in the election to the office of the President, and the Vice-President. 
  • Enquires about the conduct and behaviour of the members of the UPSC and can hold them guilty. 
  • It can take a case from the high courts for itself. 
  • The judgment of the Supreme Court is the final law of the land and is enforceable throughout the length and breadth of the country. 
  • The CJI has the power to appoint the staff of the Supreme Court.

The Parliament can enhance the powers of the Supreme Court but cannot diminish it. The Supreme Court holds an incomparable stature and is truly the temple of justice in India.

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