Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
What is Article 142?
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview and applicability of Article 142.
For Mains: Need for and significance of these powers for the Supreme Court.
Context: Invoking special powers under Article 142, the Supreme Court has deemed all restrictions imposed on people from entering, attending or taking part in court hearings as lawful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Important observations made by the Court:
- These restrictions were in tune with the social distancing norms and best public health practices advocated to contain the contagion.
- Every individual and institution is expected to cooperate in the implementation of measures designed to reduce the transmission of the virus. The scaling down of conventional operations within the precincts of courts is a measure in that direction.
- This is not a matter of discretion but of duty. It is necessary that courts at all levels respond to the call of social distancing and ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus.
Rationale behind these observations:
Access to justice is fundamental to preserve the rule of law in the democracy envisaged by the Constitution of India. The challenges occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 have to be addressed while preserving the constitutional commitment to ensuring the delivery of and access to justice to those who seek it. However, public health takes precedence over conventions.
Guidelines by the Supreme Court:
- Judiciary would have to improvise and continue to bank heavily on “videoconferencing technologies” in the wake of this “unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic”.
- High Courts should decide the modalities for the temporary transition to the use of videoconferencing technologies in their respective States.
- District courts in each State would adopt the mode of videoconferencing prescribed by the respective High Courts.
- Helplines would be set up to receive and rectify technical complaints.
- The courts should make available videoconferencing facility for litigants who do not have it or appoint an amicus curiae.
- In no case shall evidence be recorded without the mutual consent of both the parties by videoconferencing. If it is necessary to record evidence in a courtroom, the presiding officer shall ensure that appropriate distance is maintained between any two individuals in the court.
What is Article 142?
Article 142 “provide(s) a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the parties, i.e., where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute in a manner which would befit the facts of the case.
Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
- Disqualification of MLAs under 10th
- Exceptions under the schedule.
- Examples of invocation of Article 142 by the Supreme Court.
- Similar powers to High Courts.
- Original vs Appellate jurisdictions.
- Judicial review of Speaker’s decisions.
“The Supreme Court’s use of its vast powers under the Article 142 has done tremendous good to many deprived sections. However, it is time to institute checks and balances.” Discuss.
Sources: the Hindu.