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INTRODUCTION

The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal of India as
established under the Constitution of India, which makes the Supreme Court the highest
constitutional court and guardian of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of India consists of the
Chief Justice of India and 30 other Judges.

Before discussing about Supreme Courts Jurisdiction lets define jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction basically means Territory within which a court or government agency may properly
exercise its power. Jurisdiction generally describes any authority over a certain area or certain
persons. In the law, jurisdiction sometimes refers to a particular geographic area containing a
defined legal authority. For example, the federal government is a jurisdiction unto itself. Its power
spans the entire United States. Each state is also a jurisdiction unto itself, with the power to pass
its own laws. Smaller geographic areas, such as counties and cities, are separate jurisdictions to
the extent that they have powers that are independent of the federal and state governments.

Jurisdiction also may refer to the origin of a court's authority. A court may be designated either as
a court of general jurisdiction or as a court of special jurisdiction. A court of general jurisdiction
is a trial court that is empowered to hear all cases that are not specifically reserved for courts of
special jurisdiction. A court of special jurisdiction is empowered to hear only certain kinds of
cases. Jurisdiction can also be used to define the proper court in which to bring a particular case.
In this context, a court has either original or appellate jurisdiction over a case. When the court has
original jurisdiction, it is empowered to conduct a trial in the case. When the court has appellate
jurisdiction, it may only review the trial court proceedings for error.

Finally, jurisdiction refers to the inherent authority of a court to hear a case and to declare a
judgment. When a plaintiff seeks to initiate a suit, he or she must determine where to file the
complaint. The plaintiff must file suit in a court that has jurisdiction over the case. If the court does
not have jurisdiction, the defendant may challenge the suit on that ground, and the suit may be
dismissed, or its result may be overturned in a subsequent action by one of the parties in the case.
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can broadly be categorized as:-
1. Appellate Jurisdiction

2 .Original Jurisdiction

3. Advisory Jurisdiction.

ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OF SUPREME COURT

Article 131 in The Constitution of India 1949 talks about the original jurisdiction of the Supreme
Court
Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the
Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute
(a) Between the Government of India and one or more States; or
(b) Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other
States on the other; or
(c) between two or more States, if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of
law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends: Provided that the said
jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant,
engagements, and or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before
the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or
which provides that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute.

WHAT IS ORIGINAL JURISDICTION?

Original jurisdiction means the power to hear and determine a dispute in the first instance. The
Supreme Court has been given exclusive original jurisdiction which extends to disputes (a)
between the Government of India and one or more States, (b) between the Government of India
and one or more States on one side and one or more States on the other, (c) between two or more
States. However, this jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of treaty, agreement, etc.
which is in operation and excludes such jurisdiction.
ACCEPTNCE AND EXCEPTIONS

It is to be noted that Article 131 accords not only original but also exclusive jurisdiction to the
Supreme Court in certain matters which means that in those matters no other court has authority
to hear or determine a case.

Disputes which can be raised before the Supreme Court in its exclusive original jurisdiction
under Article 131:

(a) Between the Government of India and one or more States; or

(b) Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other
States on the other; or

(c) Between two or more States.

Parliament may, by law, exclude the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in:

(i) Disputes between States regarding the use, distribution or control of waters of any inter-state
river or river valley.

(ii) Matters referred to the Finance Commission

(iii) Adjustment of certain expenses between the Union and the states under Article 290.

(iv) Disputes specified in the provision to Articles 131 and 363(1).

(v) Adjustment of expenses between the Union and the states under Articles 257 (4) and 258(3).
WRITS

Article 32 of the Constitution of India,1950 guarantees the right to move the Supreme Court for
enforcement of fundamental rights. Supreme Court has power to issue directions or orders or writs
including the writs in the nature of Habeaus Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo Warranto and
Certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for enforcement of these rights.

1. Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is a Latin term which literally means you may have the body. The writ is issued
to produce a person who has been detained , whether in prison or in private custody, before a court
and to release him if such detention is found illegal.

2. Mandamus

Mandamus is a Latin word, which means We Command. Mandamus is an order from the
Supreme Court or High Court to a lower court or tribunal or public authority to perform a public
or statutory duty. This writ of command is issued by the Supreme Court or High court when any
government, court, corporation or any public authority has to do a public duty but fails to do so.

3. Certiorari

Literally, Certiorari means to be certified. The writ of certiorari can be issued by the Supreme

Court or any High Court for quashing the order already passed by an inferior court, tribunal or

quasi-judicialauthority.

conditions necessary for the issue of the writ of certiorari .

1. There should be court, tribunal or an officer having legal authority to determine the
question with a duty to act
2. judicially.
3. Such a court, tribunal or officer must have passed an order acting without jurisdiction
or in excess of the judicial authority vested by law in such court, tribunal or officer.
4. The order could also be against the principles of natural justice or the order could
contain an error of judgment in appreciating the facts of the case.

4. Prohibition

The Writ of prohibition means to forbid or to stop and it is popularly known as Stay Order. This
writ is issued when a lower court or a body tries to transgress the limits or powers vested in it. The
writ of prohibition is issued by any High Court or the Supreme Court to any inferior court, or
quasi-judicial body prohibiting the latter from continuing the proceedings in a particular case,
where it has no jurisdiction to try. After the issue of this writ, proceedings in the lower court etc.

5. The Writ of Quo-Warranto

The word Quo-Warranto literally means by what warrants? or what is your authority? It is a
writ issued with a view to restrain a person from holding a public office to which he is not entitled.
The writ requires the concerned person to explain to the Court by what authority he holds the
office. If a person has usurped a public office, the Court may direct him not to carry out any
activities in the office or may announce the office to be vacant. Thus, High Court may issue a writ
of quo-warranto if a person holds an office beyond his retirement age.

Conditions for issue of Quo-Warranto

1. The office must be public and it must be created by a statue or by the constitution itself.
2. The office must be a substantive one and not merely the function or employment of a
servant at the will and during the pleasure of another.
3. There must have been a contravention of the constitution or a statute or statutory
instrument, in appointing such person to that office.
ORIGINAL SUITS

Article 131 of the Constitution of India, 1950 grants exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court
in any dispute between a) Government of India and one or more States or b) between Government
of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other side c)
between two or more States, insofar as such disputes involve any question on which the existence
or extent of a legal right depends.

TRANSFER OF CASES
(a) Article 139A(1) of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides that where cases involving the
same or substantially the same questions of law are pending before the Supreme Court and one or
more High Courts or before two or more High Courts, and the Supreme Court is satisfied, on its
own motion, or on an application made by the Attorney-General for India or by a party to any such
case, that such questions are substantial questions of general importance, the Supreme Court may
withdraw the case or cases pending before the High Court or the High Courts and dispose of all
the cases itself.

(b) Article 139A(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides that the Supreme Court may, if
it deems it expedient so to do for the ends of justice, transfer any case, appeal or other proceedings
pending before any High Court to any other High Court.

(c) Section 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides that Supreme Court may transfer
any suit, appeal or other proceedings from a High Court or other civil court in one State to a High
Court or other civil court in any other State.

(d) Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that Supreme Court may
transfer any particular case or appeal from one High Court to another High Court or from a criminal
court subordinate to one High Court to another criminal Court of equal or superior jurisdiction,
subordinate to another High Court.

Election disputes:
Article 71 of the Constitution of India, 1950, provides that all doubts and disputes relating to
election of a President or Vice President are required to be enquired into and decided by the
Supreme Court.
Legal Right - The Crucial Expression Implied In Article 131
The principal provision in the Constitution that is relevant to the subject of the project is contained
in article 131 of the Constitution. The proviso itself was amended by the Constitution (7th
Amendment) Act, 1956. The article (in its present form) reads as under:-

Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. - Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the
Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute

(a) Between the Government of India and one or more States; or

(b) Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other
States on the other; or

(c) Between two or more States,

If and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence
or extent of a legal right depends:

Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement,
covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or
executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such
commencement, or which provides, that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute..

Although article 131 of the of the Constitution is very widely worded - covering, as it does, both
questions of fact and of law it must be kept in mind, that it is applicable, only if and in so far as
the dispute involves any question, on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.

In this connection, it would be proper to refer to a judgment of the Federal Court, on section 204
of the Government of India, Act 1935. In that case, the plaintiff brought a suit against the defendant
for the recovery of certain sums of money, which, he alleged, were wrongfully credited to the
Cantonment fund. The defendant, inter alia, pleaded that since no suit could be instituted by a
Province against the Government of India under the law prevailing at the relevant period, the
dispute was one which was not justiciable before the Federal Court in its original jurisdiction. The
Federal Court held, that the suit would lie, because the dispute involved a question on which the
existence or extent of a legal right depended. In the course of the judgment, Sulaiman, J. said:
The term legal right', used in section 204, obviously means a right recognised by law and capable
of being enforced by the power of a State, but not necessarily in a court of law. It is a right of an
authority recognised and protected by a rule of law, a violation of which would be a legal wrong
to his interest and respect for which is a legal duty, even though no action may actually lie. The
only ingredients seem to be a legal recognition and a legal protection. The mere fact that under the
previous Act the Provincial Governments were subordinate administrations under the control of
the Central Government and could only have made a representation to the Governor-General-in-
Council or the Secretary of State, would not be sufficient, in itself, for holding that the former
could not possibly possess any legal right, at all, against the Central Government, even in respect
of rights conferred upon them by the provisions of the Act or the rules made there under.

The crucial expression in article 131, is the expression legal right. This expression has the effect
of excluding all controversies involving only non-legal issues from the jurisdiction of the Court.
However, unlike the scheme of the Code of Civil Procedure, which requires (inter alia) that the
person coming to court (i.e. the plaintiff) must have a cause of action in his favour, article 131
does not prescribe that the legal right, asserted or denied in the proceeding in question, must be
that of the party invoking the jurisdiction of the court or of the party against whom such jurisdiction
is invoked - as the case may be.

State of Rajasthan Vs. Union of India, AIR 1971 SC 1361.

In 1977 (after 19 months of the Emergency), a peculiar situation arose. In the country as a whole,
one party was voted to power (through Parliamentary election) by an overwhelming majority. At
the same time, in nine States, another party was already in power. The Central Government was
of the view, that in these States, the Government should seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.
A letter to that effect was addressed by the Home Minister to the Chief Ministers of the States.
Apprehending that the letter would be followed by the issue of a Presidential Proclamation under
article 356 of the Constitution, the States moved the Supreme Court, questioning the validity of
such a Proclamation in the circumstances of the case.

The Supreme Court held that it had jurisdiction to entertain the proceeding. In the end, however,
the court decided that the apprehended Proclamation would be valid [Incidentally, the judgment
also contains a detailed discussion of the scope of judicial review, in regard to Presidential action
under article 356].

State of Karnataka Vs. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 68

In that case, the Central Government had issued a notification under section 3 of the Commissions
of Inquiry Act, 1952, to inquire into the conduct of certain Ministers of the State Government of
Karnataka (including the Chief Minister). The State Government challenged the legality of this
notification, mainly raising a constitutional issue connected with federalism. The principal point
raised was, that the scheme of the Constitution was that the State Cabinet was collectively
responsible to the State Legislative Assembly [article 164 (2) of the Constitution]. The
Constitution did not contemplate a parallel overseeing of the State Cabinet (or its members) by the
Centre. In the end, the contention of the State Government failed. But the jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court (under article 131) to go into the above question was upheld. The point that is
relevant for the present purpose, is the fact that by a majority judgment, the proceeding was held
to be maintainable and it was specifically held, that in this context, the supposed distinction
between the State (an abstract entity) and the State Government (its concrete representative), was
immaterial.

Conclusion
The spirit of the Constitution might demand that the Supreme Court's jurisdiction should be
exclusive in such matters. It is not proper, that a court lower than the Supreme Court should decide
such questions. The Supreme Court should be given exclusive jurisdiction in controversies
concerning the distribution of legislative powers, which have an all-India repercussion. For
example, if a State law imposing a tax on, say, the assignment of copyright, is challenged by a
publisher, the decision (of a court other than the Supreme Court) upholding or invalidating the
State law, may have an impact which far transcends the frontiers of the particular State in which
the decision is pronounced. Similar questions can arise in other States. Uniformity of approach is
the first desideratum in regard to such questions. Besides this, if the matter is allowed to be decided
by, say, the High Court and thereafter taken (if necessary) by appeal to the Supreme Court, the
process would be time-consuming and most inconvenient. In the intervening period, there is bound
to prevail considerable confusion and uncertainty; and serious inconvenience would be occasioned
thereby.

A reasonable interpretation should, therefore, be placed on article 131 of the Constitution and the
Supreme Court should be regarded as having exclusive jurisdiction, if a question involving the
distribution of power arises, and at least one of the parties is a Government. The accidents of
litigation, and the question whether the point arises between two Governments or between
Government and other parties, should not be regarded as conclusive.