The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the country. It is located in New Delhi.
The Highest Court of India consists of the Chief Justice of India and not more than 25 other judges.
Qualifications required for appointment to the post of judges of the Highest Court are:
- He should be a citizen of India.
- He should been a judge of a High Court for five years or of two and more such courts in succession.
- He should be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the President.
The President appoints the judges of the Supreme Court in consultation with the other judges of the Supreme Court, High Court, and Council of Ministers. The senior-most judge is made the Chief Justice of India.
Appointment of Ad Hoc Judges
Judges of High Courts may be appointed as ad hoc judges of the Supreme Court by the Chief Justice of India as and when necessary. Ad hoc judges are appointed after consultation with the President and with the consent of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Term of Office
- The judge of a Supreme Court holds office until he attains the age of 65 years. He may resign from his office by submitting a letter of resignation to the President.
- A judge of the Highest Court can be removed only by the process of impeachment on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- A judge of the Highest Court can be impeached only if such an order is passed by two-thirds majority of the total membership of both Houses of the Parliament.
Salaries of Judges
The judges of the Supreme Court get their salaries from the Consolidated Fund of India and their salaries and allowances cannot be voted upon by the Parliament. The salaries of the judges cannot be reduced to their disadvantage during their tenure. Their salaries can be reduced only during the period of financial emergency.
Functions of the Supreme Court
- As stated above, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to settle disputes which arise between the central government and various state governments. It also has original jurisdiction over cases which deal with the interpretation of the Constitution and enforcement of fundamental rights.
- The Supreme Court decides cases on appeals which are made to it in respect of original jurisdiction.
- Under appellate jurisdiction, any cases pending in the High Courts or lower courts can be brought before the Supreme Court if it involves the interpretation of the Constitution in civil and criminal cases.
- An important function of the Supreme Court is that it can allow leave to appeal against the judgement of any court of India. This power can be exercised by the Supreme Court only when the civil cases involve the law dealing with the interest of the public. This power can be exercised in criminal cases when the interpretation of laws arises and when it is readily realized that grave injustice has been done.
- Any citizen whose fundamental rights have been violated can directly approach the Supreme Court and the latter can issue writs such as habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto etc. for the enforcement of fundamental rights.
- The Supreme Court can declare any law made by the Government as null and void if it violates the fundamental rights of any individual.
- The Supreme Court of India is the guardian of the Constitution and of democratic principles.
Independence of Judiciary from Executive and Legislature
The Constitution of India has maintained the independence of the judiciary in the following ways:
- The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and other judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court. Thus, both the executive and judiciary participate in the appointment of the judges.
- The procedure to remove the judges is not easy and simple. A judge can be removed by the President only on the grounds of proven misbehavior and incapacity. Charges against the judges first have to be addressed by the President in front of both Houses of the Parliament and have to be passed by two-thirds majorities of both Houses.
- A judge can remain in office till he reaches 65 years of age and cannot be removed from his office except by the process of impeachment.
- The salaries and allowances of the judges are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India and cannot be reduced to their disadvantage.
- The judges are free to announce their decisions, and their decisions cannot be criticized in public or by the press.
- The Court can punish a person for contempt of court if he refuses to abide by the decisions of the Court.
- No debate and discussions could be placed in the Parliament regarding the conduct of a judge or any decision taken by him in the court.
- Judges are not allowed to continue the practice after their retirement. This provision has been made to ensure that they cannot influence their former colleagues in the judiciary.
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