New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to limit its power to entertain appeals against any court or tribunal order, disposing of the first of 29 constitution bench matters it is hearing.
“In our opinion, no effort should be made to limit powers under Article 136 (of the Constitution),” said a five-judge bench.
Article 136 allows citizens to file so-called special leave petitions (SLPs) to appeal before the Supreme Court against any “judgement, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India”. It is up to the apex court to decide whether it wants to hear an appeal or not.
On 19 March 2010, a two-judge bench comprising justices Markandey Katju and R.M. Lodha—later the chief justice—asked a constitution bench to decide the “kinds of cases in which discretion under Article 136 should be exercised”.
The bench had listed five grounds based on which SLPs could be admitted by the court—cases with substantial questions of law; matters of public or national importance; cases based on the validity of central or state laws; those related to the validity of constitutional amendments; and where there was a difference of opinion between two high courts.
The court added two more grounds for the constitution bench to consider—if there had been a miscarriage of justice and if the fundamental rights of a person had been violated. In making its suggestions, the bench pointed out that SLPs were increasing the case load on the apex court.
But on Monday, the constitution bench comprising justices Anil R. Dave, Kurian Joseph, Shiva Kirti Singh, A.K. Goel and Rohinton F. Nariman refused to go into these questions. Instead, the bench cited decisions of two constitution benches to rule that these cases had explained the contours of Article 136.
Lawyers argued that Article 136 was part of the Constitution’s so-called “basic structure” and could not therefore be changed—even by Parliament.