Powers of the Supreme Court for Protecting and Interpreting the Constitution of India

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Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India is the final court of appeal for all criminal and civil cases in the country with a single and unified judicial system with a three-tier structure (Supreme Court, High Court, and Subordinate Court). It came into existence on January 26, 1950, and is located in New Delhi. The Supreme Court’s building is designed by Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar who was the first Indian to head CPWD (Central Public Works Department) and designed it in an Indo-British architectural style. As per Article 124(1) of the Indian Constitution, “There shall be a Supreme Court of India constituting of a Chief justice of India and, until Parliament by law prescribes a larger number, of not more than seven other Judges”. At present, the Supreme Court consists of thirty-four judges, one Chief Justice of India, and thirty-three other judges. Earlier, there were 31 judges including CJI but after the enactment of the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956, an increase in the number of judges excluding CJI was provided. Until now, 49 CJIs have served the Supreme Court and the 50th CJI shall remain in term till November 2024. The Supreme Court is entitled to various powers and functions which are discussed briefly in this article. 

Supreme Court of India: Powers/Jurisdiction

Original Jurisdiction

Under original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has the power to deal with matters related to any dispute between ”the Centre and one or more states; the Centre and any state or states on one side and one or more states on the other; or between two or more states” as per Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. The top Court has exclusive original jurisdiction in the above-mentioned federal disputes. It also handles the resolution of disputes related to the election of the President and Vice President. Being the highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court protects the fundamental rights of every individual from infringement. According to the provisions of Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court gave the power to an individual to approach it in case their fundamental rights are violated. In such a case, the court issues writs or orders which include mandamusquo-warrantohabeas corpuscertiorari, and prohibition.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Under the appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of India has the authority to deal with different matters related to constitutional, civil, criminal, and appeals by special leave according to Articles 132, 133, 134, and 136 of the Indian Constitution. It refers to the authority of a higher court to review and reconsider decisions made by a lower court. The role of the Appellate Court is not to retry the case or assess the guilt or innocence of the parties involved but rather to review the legal issues and errors that may have occurred during the lower court proceedings. In short, the appeals made by people are heard by the Supreme Court when they disagree with the decisions of the lower Courts. 

Advisory Jurisdiction

The President has the right to seek opinion in any matter from the Supreme Court. Article 143 of the Constitution of India authorizes Supreme Court to advise the President on any question of law, fact of public importance, or any dispute arising out of any agreement, engagement, pre-constitution treaty, or covenant. It is often exercised in situations where there is no actual dispute or controversy between parties, but where there is a need for legal clarification or guidance on a specific issue. 

Review Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court of India has the authority under Article 137 of the Constitution of India to review laws approved or passed by the legislature. It ensures that legal proceedings are conducted fairly and consistently, and helps maintain the integrity and stability of the judicial system. Article 137 gives the Supreme Court the power to review its own judgment subject to any law made by the Parliament or any rule made under Article 145. This Article states that “the Supreme Court shall have power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it”.

Court of Record

A court of record is a judicial body whose proceedings and judgments are meticulously recorded and preserved as an authoritative and permanent legal record. It is typically a higher court or a court with special privileges and powers, such as a Supreme Court or a High Court. These records serve as a historical account of the court's actions and decisions and can be used as evidence in future legal proceedings. The records are carefully maintained, and its judgments are considered binding and conclusive evidence of the matters decided within its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, as a court of record, has the power to punish for contempt of court either with six months of imprisonment or with a fine of Rs. 2000, or with both.

Other Powers

Apart from the aforementioned powers, the Indian Constitution gives various other powers to the Supreme Court, some of which are listed as follows:

  • Article 129: It illustrates that the top Court has the authority to punish anyone found guilty of contempt of court, “The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself”. 
  • Article 140: According to this Article, the Parliament may bestow additional powers, not mentioned in the Constitution, to the top Court for its effective functioning.
  • Article 141: It states that “The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India”.
  • Article 145: It gives rule-making power to the Supreme Court on different matters with the approval of the President. The matters may include a procedure for appeals, cost of proceedings, bail, Court proceedings regarding the transfer of cases, stay of proceedings, and others.

Supreme Court: Functions

The Supreme Court serves several important functions within a legal system. Here are some of its key functions:

  • The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and delivers the final verdict against an appeal from lower courts such as High Court, ensuring consistency and uniformity in the interpretation.
  • A law passed by the Supreme Court is binding to all courts within the Indian territory.
  • The top Court is empowered to deal with issues between the federal government, state government, and other governmental entities.
  • It safeguards individual rights by adjudicating cases involving civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, religion, and due process.
  • The Supreme Court can pass suo moto, meaning ‘on its own motion’ and guards the judiciary so that it remains free from external pressures and influences.


To conclude, the Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in India with a very wide jurisdiction and duty to protect the fundamental rights of every individual. It ensures the uniform interpretation of laws, safeguards individual rights, resolves disputes, and upholds the integrity of the judiciary. Indian people have great expectations from the judiciary as it is granted freedom to perform fearlessly. At times, the judiciary has been quintessential in the interpretation of the Constitution. The laws formed by the top court are binding on the lower courts that prevent differences of opinion amongst judgments of various courts. 

1. Who designed the building of the Supreme Court of India which is located in New Delhi?
2. Who is the current Chief Justice of India?