Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Courts

Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Courts

In this article, we will discuss the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of India.

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction. Its exclusive original jurisdiction extends to any dispute between the Government of India and one or more States or between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more States on the other or between two or more States, if and insofar as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or of fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.

The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked by a certificate granted by the High Court concerned under Article 132(1), 133(1), or 134 of the Constitution in respect of any judgment. The Supreme Court can entertain an appeal against a High Court’s “judgment, decree or final order” provided that the High Court certifies that the matter involves a “substantial question of law”.

The Supreme Court has also a very wide appellate jurisdiction over all Courts and Tribunals in India in as much as it may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any Court or Tribunal in the territory of India.

The Supreme Court has special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Similar to the original jurisdiction, the advisory jurisdiction also stems from the Government of India Act, of 1935. Section 213(1) of the Government of India Act, 1935, provided for the advisory jurisdiction of the Federal Court. The essence of this Section was incorporated in Article 143 of the Constitution.

It is pertinent to note that the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 143 is merely advisory in nature and is not binding on the President or the Government. The Court does not pass any orders or decrees but merely gives its opinion, on the matter concerned, to the President.

The supreme court furthermore enjoys The writ of Jurisdiction also. Any individual can approach the Apex Court in case of violation of fundamental rights, and the Court can issue writs for granting the appropriate remedy. India adopted the concept of Writs from the British legal system, which empowers the courts to issue Prerogative Writs. Article 32 provides that the Court can issue the following for enforcement of fundamental rights:

  1. Habeas Corpus: Writ ordering the production of the detainee before the Court in order to ascertain whether the detention is legal or unlawful. By virtue of the effect of the 44th Constitutional Amendment, which provides that Article 21 cannot be suspended even at the time of a declaration of emergency, the writ of Habeas Corpus can be effectively issued at the time of emergency as well.
  2. Quo warranto: This writ is issued by a court to a public officer requiring him to explain the authority behind his actions. The public officer is required to prove the authority by which he is holding the office and exercising the powers of the public office. This writ is ordinarily issued against executive officers holding public offices.
  3. Mandamus: The Court issues a writ of Mandamus to direct a public official to resume the discharge of his public duty. It is pertinent to note that this writ cannot be issued against a private person, a high court chief justice, President of India or the Governor of any state.
  4. Prohibition: The Court issues this writ to prevent a subordinate court from exceeding or usurping its jurisdiction or from acting in contravention of the law. This writ is issued at the time when a subordinate court decides to try a matter in excess of its jurisdiction.
  5. Certiorari: Where the Subordinate Court decides a matter which is beyond its jurisdiction or where the matter is decided in contravention of the natural justice principles, the Court is empowered to issue the writ of certiorari, thereby setting aside or quashing the erroneous decision.

Jurisdiction of High Courts –

The High Court is the highest court of appeal in every state having the power to interpret the Constitution. The High Court is considered to be the protector of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens, along with the supervisory and consultative roles. At present, a High Court enjoys the following jurisdictions:

  • Original jurisdiction
  • Writ jurisdiction
  • Appellate jurisdiction
  • Supervisory jurisdiction
  • Control over subordinate courts
  • A court of record
  • Power of judicial review

Original Jurisdiction: Under Article 225, every High Court has original jurisdiction in revenue matters as well as those related to admiralty, contempt of court, probate, and marriages. In such cases, the applicant can directly approach the High Court and does not require to raise any appeal.

Appellate Jurisdiction: It is for the cases where the applicant has raised a complaint challenging the judgment given by a subordinate court of that territory. This power is divided into two categories-

  1. Civil Jurisdiction: This includes the orders and judgment from the district, civil and subordinate courts.
  2. Criminal Jurisdiction: This includes the orders and judgments from the session and the additional sessions court.

Writ Jurisdiction: Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Courts are vested with the rights to issue writs for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens. The different types of writs that the High Courts can issue are-

  1. Habeas Corpus
  2. Mandamus
  3. Certiorari
  4. Quo Warranto
  5. Prohibition

Power of Superintendence – It a special power enjoyed only by High Court and no other subordinate court has this power of superintendence. Under this, the High Court holds the right to order its subordinate offices and courts the way of maintaining records, prescribe rules for holding proceedings in the court and also settle the fees paid to sheriff clerks, officers and legal practitioners.

Court of Record – It involves recording the judgments, proceedings, and acts of high courts for perpetual memory. These records cannot be further questioned in any court. It has the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Control over Subordinate Courts – This is an extension of the supervisory and appellate jurisdiction. It states that the High Court can withdraw a case pending before any subordinate court if it involves a substantial question of law. The case can be disposed of itself or solve the question of law and return back to the same court.

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