Extraordinary power of Supreme Court under the Constitution of India-Article 142

Ashutosh Rajput | Hidayatullah National Law University | 20th May 2020

The Supreme Court of India is the ultimate body of ensuring justice to people who are under its ambit, and no appeal after this court can lie. This court pertains to acquire more power than those respective lower courts. One such extraordinary power is enshrined under Article 142 of the Constitution of India by which ‘complete justice’ can be done by the Supreme Court with respect to facts of the case. By this complete justice the court can ensure justice by passing a decree or order with regards matter pending before the court within the territorial jurisdiction. In Sanchalakshri v. Vijayakumar Raghuvirprasad[1]the Supreme Court observed that only the Supreme Court can exercise this power. The basic aim of this section is to cover the lacunae of insufficient laws. 

But the scope and extent of this extraordinary power are not clear which makes one think for its validity. In Prem Chand v. Excise Commissioner U.P[2]. the Supreme Court held that in order to do complete justice not only the fundamental right but also the non infringement of statutory provisions should be ensured. But in Delhi Judicial Service Assn.[3] case the court held that Constitutional powers cannot be restricted by any legislative enactment but the legislative enactment should be taken into consideration in a matter of dispute. Hence, article 142 is only supplemental in nature and cannot supplant the majoritarian view, but can supplant provisions of the statute. 

This article basically works on the utility principle which is propounded by Bentham, which states that “out of various possibilities in a given case, one must choose that option that gives the greatest happiness to the greatest number” and to ensure the greatest happiness, the Supreme Court has invoked this section many a time. One such instance arose in the case of Mohammad Amin v. Union of India[4]wherein the Supreme Court through its extraordinary power transferred the investigation to CBI from Inspector General, by citing that they have done for greater public interest. In Zahira Habibulla Sheikh v. State of Gujarat[5]the Supreme Court transferred the criminals from one state to another state. In Jayalalitha v. State[6]the Supreme Court gave one more opportunity to produce evidence though the High Court has given them sufficient opportunity. In Vijay Shekhar v. Union of India[7]Supreme Court quashed the proceedings which were filed against the eminent jurists. Complete justice also includes giving justice with respect to the personal laws in its ambit. For instance, in Ashok Hurra v. Rupa Bipin Zaveri[8]the Supreme Court granted divorce to the parties instantly by invoking article 142(1) by which proceedings under section 13 of Hindu marriage Act, 1955 can be converted to that of section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 without waiting of the statutory period.

Though Article 142 is of immense importance to fill the lacunae of laws but the same should be used with a high level of scrutiny. The misuse of this such article 142 can be seen in the case of State of Tamil Nadu v. K Balu[9],wherein the State government put a ban on the sale of liquor on the national highway while the Supreme Court by using its extraordinary power limited the ban to 500 meters from the liquor shop, as a result of which many hotels and shops closed down which created many people as unemployed, therefore, directly lead to the infringement of the right to employment to work and most importantly the death caused by the drunk and driving is only 4.2% whereas death caused by the over speeding is 44.2% as per the 2015 statistics. This shows court’s inadequacy.

[1] (1998) 8 SCC 245

[2] 1963 AIR 996

[3] 1991 AIR 2176

[4] [1994 SCC, Suppl. (1) 145]

[5] (2005) AIR SC 972

[6] 16(2005)1 SCC 1299

[7] (2000)9 SCC 754

[8] Air 1997 SC 1299

[9] (2016) SCC 1487

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