Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

The scope of powers of the Supreme Court to hear and decide cases is called its jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court has three types of jurisdictions namely original, appellate and advisory.


[1] Original Jurisdiction

There are certain cases that fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

It means that all such cases begin or originate in the Supreme Court, only.

It also means that such cases cannot be initiated in any other court.

The cases or disputes that come under the original jurisdiction are given below:

[1] Disputes between the Government of India on the one side and one or more States on the other side;

Disputes between the Government of India and one or more States on one side and one or more States on the other side; Disputes between two or more States.

[2] The Supreme Court has been invested with special powers in the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. In this connection, it has the power to issue directions or writs.

[3] Cases under Public Interests Litigation (PIL) can also be heard directly.

(This is an extra-Constitutional practice; there is no mention of PIL in the Constitution).

This jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not extend to the following—

[a] Inter-state water disputes.

[b] Matters referred to the Finance Commission.

[c] Ordinary dispute of Commercial nature between the Centre and the states.


[2] Appellate Jurisdiction

The power of a superior/higher court to hear and decide appeals against the judgment of a lower court is called appellate jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court has vast appellate jurisdiction.

It hears appeals against the judgment of the High Courts.

Thus, it is the highest and the final Court of Appeal.

If one of the parties to a dispute is not satisfied with the decision of the High Court, one can go to the Supreme Court and file an appeal.

The appeals can be filled in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional cases.

[a] Appeals in Civil Cases

Disputes relating to property, marriage, money, contract, and service etc are called civil cases.

If a civil case involves a substantial point of law of public importance needing interpretation of the Constitution or law, an appeal against the High Court decision can be made to Supreme Court.

Earlier the financial limit of such civil cases was Rs. 20,000/- but now according to the 30th Amendment of 1972, there is no minimum amount for taking a civil appeal to the Supreme Court.

If a substantial question of interpretation of law or Constitution is involved, an appeal may be made against the decision of the High Court.

[b] Appeals in Criminal Cases

An appeal may be brought to the Supreme Court against a High Court decision in a criminal case in a number of situations.

Firstly, if a High Court sets aside an appeal or an order of acquittal passed by a lower court and awards death sentence to the accused, he may bring an appeal to the Supreme Court by right.

Secondly, an appeal can also be made to the Supreme Court if the High Court withdraws a case from a lower court to itself, declares the accused guilty and awards death sentence.

In this situation also appeals can be made as a matter of right and without a certificate from the High Court.

The appeal in cases other than these two categories may also be brought to the Supreme Court provided the High Court grants a certificate that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a case where the High Court refuses to certify a case to be fit for appeal to the Supreme Court, one may seek special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court itself.

The Supreme Court may grant such a special leave in its discretion but only in rare cases.

[c] Appeals in Constitutional Cases

A constitutional case is neither a civil dispute nor concerning a crime.

It is a case arising out of different interpretations of the Constitution, mainly regarding fundamental rights.

In such Constitutional Cases, an appeal can be taken to the Supreme Court only if a High Court certifies that the matter in dispute involves a substantial question of law.

If the High Court denies a certificate of fitness to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court can use its discretion and grant special leave to appeal to itself in any case it deems fit.


[3] Advisory Jurisdiction

This power implies the Court’s right to give advice if sought.

Under advisory jurisdiction, the President of India may refer any question of law or public importance to the Supreme Court for its advice.

But the Supreme Court is not bound to give advice.

In case, the advice or the opinion of the Court is sent to the President, he may or may not accept it.

The advice of the Court is not binding on the President.

So far, whenever the Court has given its advice, the President has always accepted it.


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