Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, which appears to be a benign procedural adjunct to the Supreme Court’s powers based on its phraseology, has emerged as one of the court’s most powerful tools for judicial activism and innovation. In reality, it has evolved into a new source of substantive power. The origins, evolution, and dispute around its use in derogation of express statutory provisions are all covered in this article. This power has been used in a variety of situations, but primarily in two ways: the first is to grant relief to do “complete justice” in a given case outside of the applicable statutory provisions, and the second is to issue directions to fill “legislative gaps” that the court perceives, with the directions acting as
the law of the land.
The first of the two exercises are the centre of this article. While tracing such activity in the context of equity jurisdiction to “particular equity” and defending such exercise, this article solely takes issue with the Court’s habit of explicitly stating that the relief it has granted in a specific case is not to be considered precedent. While it is obvious that a judgement is only precedent to the extent of its ratio decidendi (rather than every direction or observation), the country’s final court, which declares law under Article 141 of the Constitution, should be required to provide a rational justification for its directions aimed at “complete justice.”
Not only does granting relief or giving directives without any reasoning or pointing out the underlying premise, justification, or principle for posterity go against the notion of precedent, but it also brings confusion into the judicial process. This uncertainty affects: I how citizens behave themselves, including adherence to statute law; (ii) the outcome of their litigation; and, most importantly, (iii) the parties’ obedience to judicial instructions, i.e., their compliance. Such irrational commands, which are clearly in violation of the law, also obscure legal rules and requirements that are otherwise clear as to how they should be followed. This uncertainty turns into a game of chance for a plaintiff, which promotes more speculative litigation, adding to the Supreme Court’s already overburdened docket.
As a result, while it is not advisable, and perhaps impossible, to provide an all-encompassing normative prescription for the manner and circumstances in which the power under Article 142 should be exercised, particular equity cannot be supported in the absence of underlying reasoning, basis, or principle, whether pre-existing or not.
Power Of Supreme Court Under Article 142
Article 142 gives the Supreme Court plenary powers, allowing it to pass any decree or order in the exercise of its jurisdiction that is necessary for complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and those decrees or orders are enforceable throughout the country in the manner prescribed by or under any law passed by Parliament. This means that the Supreme Court can act under Article 142 in cases where there is a clear violation of the law or when a clear injustice has occurred, and the relief sought is outside the statutory framework.
It also includes a power of equity, which is used when rigorous application of the law fails to create a just result. The needs of justice include paying great attention not only to positive legislation but also to its silences in order to find an equitable and just remedy within its cracks. The legal profession is based on applying broadly stated statutes to the facts of a case before the courts.
Even where positive law is obvious, the intentionally broad scope of Article 142’s jurisdiction permits a court to issue an order that is consistent with justice, as justice is the foundation that brings home the objective of any legal endeavour and on which the legitimacy of the rule of law rests. The confluence of the general and specific is highlighted by Article 142’s equitable power. For law to keep its humanitarian and compassionate face, courts may find themselves in situations where the law’s silences need to be filled with meaning or the rigours of its rough edges need to be smoothed.
The Supreme Court stated in Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India that when exercising Article 142 powers and assessing the needs of complete justice in a case or matter, the apex Court will take note of any express prohibitions in any substantive statutory provision based on some fundamental principles of public policy and regulate the exercise of its power and discretion accordingly. The argument has nothing to do with the Court’s powers under Article 142, but rather with what constitutes perfect justice in a case or matter, as well as the ultimate examination of the power’s proper implementation.
The Supreme Court has used its plenary powers under Article 142 in the following cases.
The term “full justice” is used in Article 142, and its scope was explained in the case of Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secretary, where the Supreme Court was able to deal with extraordinary circumstances that interfered with the public interest in order to build trust in the rule of law. It was established in the case of A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak that any discretion granted by the court shall not be arbitrary or in any way conflict with the terms of any statute. In Laxmi Devi v. Satya Narayan, the Supreme Court ordered the accused to pay compensation to the victim with whom he had sexual intercourse with a promise to marry
under Article 142 of the Indian Penal Code.
Because of the statute’s blunt language, many interpretations have been developed, and it has occasionally resulted in minor injustice in the interest of obtaining perfect justice. In the case of State of Tamil Nadu v. K. Balu, where alcohol sales were prohibited on state and national highways, this power was abused. The Central Government had imposed a restriction on national highways only through a notification, but the prohibition had been extended to state highways as well due to the lack of a corresponding notification from the State Government.
The Supreme Court has a special and extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to issue an order or decree to bring complete justice to litigants who have been through a slew of proceedings tainted with evident illegality or unfairness. This provision, as envisioned by the Constitution’s authors, is critical for those who are concerned about delays in receiving necessary remedies due to the rotten state of the law’s reach and the court system’s disadvantageous position.
It has the authority to issue any order it sees fit based on the facts and circumstances of the case. It must, however, not only be consistent with the Constitution’s fundamental rights, but also with the substantive provisions of relevant statutes. Any order issued by the Court shall not be construed as supplanting substantive laws. Invoking Article 142 requires judicial restraint, and utilising the authority only on the basis of sympathy should not be done, as this immense plenary power is also a discretionary power that should not be exercised as part of the Court’s normal exercise of jurisdiction.
As such powers are designed to be employed in order to promote the needs of justice, there must be strong and compelling reasons for exercising this discretionary jurisdiction. This power of plenitude should be utilised wisely to achieve the goals of justice, to defend against injustice that is obvious to the Court’s eyes, and to ensure the Supreme Court’s role as the saviour of justice in today’s world.
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