(Last Updated on : 30/04/2014)
Supreme Court came into being on January 28, 1950. The inauguration took place in the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament
building. The Chamber of Princes had earlier been the seat of the Federal Court of India for 12 years, between 1937 and 1950, and was the seat of the Supreme Court until the Supreme Court acquired its present premises in 1958. After its inauguration on January 28, 1950, the Supreme Court started its sittings in the Chamber of Princes in the Parliament House.
Composition of the Supreme Court of India
The original Constitution of India in 1950 supplied the Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 lower-ranking Judges leaving it to Parliament to increase this number. In the past, a full bench of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the Court increased and cases began to compile, Parliament increased the number of Judges from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978 and 26 in 1986. As the number of the Judges has increased, they sit in smaller Benches of two and three coming together in larger Benches of 5 and more only when required to do so or to settle a difference of opinion or controversy. Any bench may refer the case up to a larger bench if the need arises.
The Supreme Court of India comprises the Chief Justice of India
and not more than 25 other Judges appointed by the President of India
. However, the President must appoint judges in consultation with the Supreme Court and appointments are made on the basis of experience and seniority and not on political pressure. A Supreme Court Judge retires after attaining the age of 65 years.
In order to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be a citizen of India and must have been, for at least five years, been a Judge of High Court or of two or more such Courts in-continuation, or he must be an Advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession for at least 10 years, or the person must be, in the opinion of the President, a Renowned Legal Expert. The Supreme Court has always maintained a wide regional representation. It also has had a good number of Judges belonging to different religious and ethnic minorities. The first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court was Justice Fatima Beevi in 1987. She was later succeded by Justices Sujata Manohar and Ruma Pal. The first Dalit
to become a judge was Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in 2000. He also became the Chief Justice of India in 2007. Justice B.P.Jeevan Reddy was so intellectual that he was appointed as the Chairman of the Law Commission of India even though he was not the chief justice of India.
Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India
Original Jurisdiction: It has exclusive original jurisdiction over any conflict between the Government of India and one or more States or between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more States on the other or between two or more States, if and insofar as the dispute involves any question on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends. In addition, Article 32 of the Constitution grants an extensive original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court in regard to enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
Appellate (appeal) Jurisdiction:
The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be raised by a certificate granted by the High Court concerned under Articles 132(1), 133(1) or 134 of the Constitution in respect of any judgement, enactment or final order of a High Court in both civil and criminal cases, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. The Supreme Court can also grant special leave to appeal from a judgement or order of any non-military Indian court. Parliament has the power to enlarge the appeal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and has exercised this power in case of criminal appeals by enacting the Supreme Court Act, of 1970.
Appeals also lie to the Supreme Court in civil matters if the High Court certifies:
That the case involves essential question of law of general importance, and
That, in the opinion of the high court, the said question needs to be decided by the supreme court.
In criminal cases, an appeal lies to the supreme court if the high court:
Has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death or to imprisonment for life or for a period of not less than 10 years, or
Has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any Court subordinate to its authority and has in such trial convicted the accused and sentenced him to death or to imprisonment for life or for a period of not less than 10 years, or
Certified that the case is a fit one for appeal to the Supreme Court. Parliament is authorised to confer on the Supreme Court any further powers to entertain and hear appeals from any judgement, final order or sentence in a criminal proceeding of a High Court.
The Supreme Court has special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.
Judicial independence of the Supreme Court of India
The Constitution ensures the independence of Supreme Court Judges in various way. A Judge of the Supreme Court cannot be removed from office except by an order of the President passed after an address in each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting, and presented to the President in the same Session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is prevented from practising in any court of law or before any other authorization in India.
Powers of the Supreme Court of India to Punish Contempt
Under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution the Supreme Court has been given the power to punish anyone for contempt of any law court in India including itself. The Supreme Court took an exceptional decision by giving the sitting Minister of the state of Maharashtra
to be prisoned for a month on the charge of contempt of court on May 12, 2006. This was the first time that a serving Minister was ever put behind bars.