Introduction Powers and Functions of Supreme Court

To know about the powers and functions of supreme court, it is necessary to know first, about the working structure of the supreme court.

The Judiciary plays a significant role in the present-day democratic system as it is considered as the ‘Guardian of the Constitution’, ‘Watchdog of democracy’ and the ‘Champion of the rights and liberties’. In the federal state, the judiciary plays a significant role as it protects and interprets the constitution and settle the dispute between the centre and states.

At the apex of the judicial hierarchy of the country stands the Supreme Court which was inaugurated on January 26, 1950, along with the promulgation of the Constitution of India. It was given all those powers which were earlier with the Privy Council situated in England. The decision given by it are final and cannot be questioned in any other Court of law.

Article-124 of the Indian Constitution provides ‘There shall be a Supreme Court of India’. It enjoys supreme judicial authority in the country. Its decision is binding on all the courts.

Composition of Supreme Court – 

Originally, the Supreme Court consisted of a Chief Justice and seven other judges, but under Article-124, the parliament is authorized to change the number of judges. On account of the increase in its load of work, the strength of the judges of the Supreme Court has been raised from time to time.

At present, it consists of 9 Chief justice and 31 other judges.

Sharad Arvind Bobde is the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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Appointment of the Judges of Supreme Court –

Article-124(2) of the Constitution provides that the judges of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice, shall be appointed by the President of India.

In the appointment of Chief Justice, the President consults other judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as he may deem necessary.

Or in the appointment of other judges, the president must consult the Chief Justice of India. ‘Consultation’, however, does not mean ‘Concurrence’.

Qualifications for the Judges of Supreme Court –

According to Article-123(3), following are the qualification of the judges-

(i) He must have worked as a judge in the High Court for a period of not less than 10 years.

(ii) He must have worked as an advocate in the High Court for a period of not less than 10 years.

(iii) He should be an eminent jurist in the opinion of the President.

Tenure of the Judges of Supreme Court –

The judges of the Supreme Court hold office until they attain the age of 65 years.

Seat of Supreme Court –

According to Article – 130 of the constitution, the supreme court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place, as the chief justice of India may with the approval of president from time to time appoint.

Method to remove them from office –

The judges may resign before they are 65 years of age or may be removed from office. Article-124 provides that the President can remove a judge from office after an address passed by the parliament in each house by a majority of its total membership and 2/3rd majority of its members present and voting is presented to the president.

(Powers and Functions of Supreme Court)

Powers and Functions of Supreme Court
Powers and Functions of Supreme Court

Powers and Functions of the Supreme Court – 

(1) Original Jurisdiction – 

Our Constitution confers some original jurisdiction on the Supreme Court and the cases with some under this category can be taken straight to the supreme court.

The Supreme Court can directly hear several cases which cannot be heard by any other courts. The Supreme Court enjoys original or exclusive jurisdiction in the following cases under Article-131-

  •  The dispute between the Union Government of India and one or more States.
  •  The dispute between two or more States.
  •  The dispute between the Union Government and the State Government of one or more States on one side and other states on the other side.

(2) Appellate Jurisdiction – 

The Supreme Court can hear appeals against the decision of the high court in the following cases –

(i) Constitutional Appeals

According to Article-132 – if the High Court certifies that a particular case is fit for appeal and a substantial question of law is involved which needs further interpretation of the constitution, the appeal can be made in the Supreme Court.

–  In case High Court refuses to certify the case, the Supreme Court can it-self certify to that effect and hear the appeal.

(ii) Civil Appeals

According to Article-133 all types of civil cases can be taken to the Supreme Court as an appeal against the decision of the High Court.

But, the High Court must certify to the effect that the case is fit for appeal. In the case the High Court refuses to certify, the Supreme Court can itself certify to that effect and allow appeal before itself.

(iii) Criminal Cases (Appeals)

According to Article-134, in criminal cases, an appeal can be taken before the Supreme Court against the decision of the High Court in the given ahead cases – 

  • When the High Court has in an appeal reversed the order of acquittal of an accused person and sentence him to death.
  • When the High Court has drawn before itself any case from a Court subordinate to it and has sentenced the accused person to death.
  •  When the High Court certifies that the case is fit for appeal to the supreme court.

(iv) Special Appellate Jurisdiction

According to Article-136, the Supreme Court can itself grant special leave to appeal from the judgments of any Court or Tribunal in the territory of India. (Powers and Functions of Supreme Court)

(v) Right to hear Appeal against the decision of Special court 

The Special Court Act provides that appeals against the decisions of the Special Courts can be made only in the Supreme Court. But such an appeal must be made within 30 days on the decision of the Special Court.

(3) Protection of the Constitution –

Next powers and functions of supreme court is that it protects our constitution. Our constitution is the supreme law of the land and the Supreme Court is empowered to uphold the constitution.

As a Watchdog of Constitution, the Supreme Court sees to it that no organ of the government abuses its power and resulting in the encroachment of the constitution.

The Supreme Court can declare laws passed by the Union Parliament or State legislature as Unconstitutional which are violative of the constitution.

(4) Power to Interpret the Constitution –

The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the constitution as the final interpreter of the constitution.

It is necessary to who vest this power in the Supreme Court to protect the constitution against arbitrary interpretation by other organs of the government.

(5) Power of Judicial Review –

Another powers and functions of supreme court are of Judicial review, which with the use of it sees whether the laws passed by the Union Parliament or State Legislatures, the Constitutional Amendments, Ordinances issued by the President or Governor…Etc… are in consonance within the constitution or not.

In case any of these is not in consonance with the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to declare it unconstitutional. 

(6) Court of Record –

The Supreme Court is a court of record which means that as a Superior Court its decision and judicial proceedings are recorded for a perpetual memory and the court subordinate to it accept this decision as judicial precedents.

(7) Administrative Functions – 

  • Supreme Court supervises and superintends the working of the lower courts and makes rules of procedure for them.
  • It makes the appointments of the staff other than judges working in the Supreme Court.
  • It makes rules and regulations for the advocates working in the Supreme Court.
  •  It investigates charges leveled against the members of UPSC 

Conclusion – Powers and Functions of Supreme Court

The study of the powers and functions of Supreme Court of India leads one to conclude that it is one of the most powerful courts in the world.

Being a single judicial system in India, the Supreme Court is at the apex of the judicial system and has both original and appellate jurisdiction and no appeals can be made against its decision.

The Supreme Court is also known as the guardian of Fundamental Rights. (Powers and Functions of Supreme Court)

Independence of Judiciary – Supreme Court

Independence of Judiciary is one of the cornerstones of the democratic political system because only an independent judiciary – 

a) can protect the rights and liberties of the individuals 

b) can maintain the supremacy of the constitution  

c) rightly interpret the constitution

d) can maintain faith of people in the administration 

e) can make the administration responsible

The Constitution of India has made the following arrangements to maintain the independence of the judiciary –

a) Impartial method of Appointment –

Of all the methods of the appointments, the appointment of the judges by the executive on the basis of fixed qualifications is considered the best. According to Article-124 of the constitution of India, the judges of the supreme court are appointed by the president out of the persons who fulfill the qualification mentioned in the constitution.

Apart from this, in the appointment of Chief Justice, the president consults the judges of the Supreme Court and High Court and in the appointment of the judges, consults the Chief Justice of India.

b) Difficult method to remove them from Office –

The judges can be removed from their office only through impeachment for which both the houses of the Parliament have to pass a resolution with 2/3 majority of the members present and voting and this has to be an absolute majority of the total members. 

This is a difficult method and ensures security to the judges.

c) Long tenure of the Judges –

The independence of the Judiciary also depends on the long tenure of the judges. The short tenure makes the judges feel insecure.

In our country, the judges of the Supreme Court stay in their office up to 65 years of age and High Court up to 62 years of age, whereas the government employees stay in their office up to 60 years of age.

d) High Qualifications –

Only a judge who is highly qualified can maintain his independence and such a person does not become a puppet in the hands of lawyers.

Article 124(3), makes mention of the qualifications of the judges of the supreme court.

e) High Salaries –

The judges must be paid high salaries so that they remain free from their economic worries. In India, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court gets a monthly salary of Rs. 1 Lakh and other judges Rs. 90,000.

Apart from this, they get many other facilities and allowances.

The salaries of the judges cannot be reduced during their tenure.

f) No practice after Retirement – 

The constitution of India has also provided that a judge of a High Court after retirement cannot plead in a court other than High Court or Supreme Court and that a judge after his retirement from the Supreme Court cannot work as a private practitioner of law in any court of the country.

g) Special privileges to the Judges –

Under Article-121 of the constitution, it is specially provided that the actions and decisions of the judges in their official capacity are immune from criticism in the sense that no motives may be imputed to them.

Even the parliament cannot discuss the conduct of the judges unless a  substantive motion of impeachment is moved into the house.

h) Oath of Office –

While assuming their office the judges are administered an oath that they shall discharge their duty without any fear and favour.

So, oath also makes them to work independently. 

Share this article on powers and functions of supreme court in your study groups.

What are the powers of Supreme Court of India?

Protection of the Constitution – Our constitution is the supreme law of the land and the Supreme Court is empowered to uphold the constitution.
As a Watchdog of Constitution, the Supreme Court sees to it that no organ of the government abuses its power and resulting in the encroachment of the constitution.
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What is the composition of the Supreme Court?

Originally, the Supreme Court consisted of a Chief Justice and seven other judges, but under Article-124, the parliament is authorized to change the number of judges. On account of the increase in its load of work, the strength of the judges of the Supreme Court has been raised from time to time.

Who appoints the judges of Supreme Court?

Article-124(2) of the Constitution provides that the judges of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice, shall be appointed by the President of India.

What is the tenure of the judges of Supreme Court?

The judges of the Supreme Court hold office until they attain the age of 65 years.

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