Judiciary: Internal Fight Over Jurisdiction

The Supreme court, empowered by Article 131 of the Constitution, comes at the redressal of any disputes between the Centre and the state or centre on one side and two or more states on the other or between two or more states, exercising its power under original jurisdiction. While Article 131 talks about the matter being addressed by SC it as well provides an exception to it, which says that if it is decided between the parties that the conundrum would be addressed by an adjudicatory mechanism that is well within the course of its jurisdiction and will not vitiate the Article 131 or 262.

In the case named State of Karnataka vs. Union of India, Bhagwati J pointed out that the primary purpose of Article 131 is to address any dispute when the parties to the dispute are the central government on one side while a state is on the other. 

Following this directive, in the case named the State of Bihar vs. UOI, a private individual who owned the Railways and Hindustan Steel brought a suit against the central government on behalf of the state of Bihar for a short supply of the agreed amount of materials. In this case, the main objection raised by the UOI was that a private individual could not bring a suit against the government before the SC under Article 131 of the constitution. While to this the exciting argument put forward was that Hindustan Steel being regarded as a “State” under Article 12 of the constitution is well within its ambit to carry out this suit.

To this, the SC pointed out that the word “State” used in Article 131 of the constitution is not the same as it has been defined under Article 12. Article 131 is the mechanism that is used only to address the “inter-governmental” dispute, and no private party, be it a corporation or firm, can bring suit under Article 131.

This judgment clearly pointed out who could be the parties to bring a suit under Article 131.

The next question that crops up is what disputes could be called into question under Article 131 of the constitution.

The case, State of Rajasthan vs. UOI, pointed out that it must be a vindication or violation of a legal right of the government of India or the state, which forms the subject matter of the dispute. It also pointed out that there needs no violation of the legal rights all the time for bringing in the matter under Article 131. Even if any legal or constitutional right which is said to be possessed by one party could also well be challenged by the other party.

While the case named State of Bihar vs. UOI, pointed out that any political dispute between the parties should not form the subject matter for the dispute under Article  131.

Another concern that was pointed out was whether “State” and “State governments” are the same entity or not?

In the case named, State of Karnataka versus Union of India, it was pointed out that there exists an integral relationship between the State and its government, therefore, what affects the minister or the government in turn affects the state. As per Bhagwati J, it was pointed out that the “State government” is the agent through which the “State” operates, and therefore both are the same entity.

Moreover, in this case, it was pointed out that there need not to be a violation of legal or constitutional rights all the time if the matter involves questions involving the existence or extent of legal rights it as well as form the subject matter of the dispute for taking a suit under Article 131 of the constitution.

Thus, these cases are well enough to set the contours of the subject matter of disputes between the parties for addressing a dispute under Article 131 of the constitution.

The Supreme Court is a court of appeal, as a result of which it enjoys extensive appellate jurisdiction.An appeal can only be made upon final order of the HC and by issuance of certificate.

Firstly, Supreme Court, upon appeal, can take in a constitutional matter under article 132(1) of the constitution. Having said that, the constitutional matter should involve a “substantial question of law.” If the high court feels that the matter involves a substantial question of law, then through the issuance of a certificate by the High court, pointing out the substantial question of law and the reason for issuing the certificate, that matter could be brought before the Supreme court for the proper constitutional interpretation as Supreme Court is said to be the final Court of constitutional interpretation. Now the question arises of what encompasses a matter of constitutional importance, or substantial question of law is subjective in nature. Thus, it becomes difficult to ascertain it.

Secondly, the SC upon appeal can take in civil matters under Article 133, but it should as well involve a substantial question of law of general importance and those matters in which the HC thinks it should be decided by the SC.

Now, what is a substantial question of law of general importance or a matter of public importance is as well subjective narrative rather it could be well said as the “discretionary subjective narrative of the court.”

This is because what is a substantive question of law is to be decided by the SC and if it feels it is not important and does not require any constitutional interpretation of law then it could as well revoke it as seen in the case named Express Newspapers Limited vs. State of Madras.

Thirdly, the SC as well takes in criminal matters under Article 134, but that should involve exceptional criminal standards or matters.

Moreover, if an order of acquittal has been reversed by the HC then those matters can be appealed in the SC as a matter of right under Article 134(1)(a).

While under Article 134(1)(b), it says that in matter, where the HC has taken up a case from a lower court and had sentenced the accused to death sentence in such cases as well the appeal, could be made to the SC.

And finally under Article 134(1)(c), if the HC certifies the matter to the SC, which involves exceptional and special circumstances. This provision is also a discretionary provision with the HC as it depends on its “discretionary subjective narrative”.

This section as well points out the internal tussle between the SC and the HC, at times try to prove who is superior to the other and as well to put up the laxity in taking into account important matters regarding the rights of people at large or of masses on street, by playing with the shuttle of that the contention (may or may not matter) “involves questions of substantial importance for its consideration”.

Hence, it could be argued that it is not the right of the people that are tried to be addressed it is actually the superior nature of the court which is tried to be put up.

Author: Anurag Mondal

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