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Supreme Court throws out challenge to its power to entertain appeals under Article 136

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to restrict the scope of its discretionary powers, under the constitution’s article 136, to entertain pleas challenging various high court orders, saying that the issue has already been decided by the earlier constitution bench.

Declining to revisit the scope of its discretionary powers under article 136, the constitution bench of Justice Anil R Dave, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said: “No effort should be made to restrict the power of the Supreme Court under Article 136.”

Refusing to answer a 19 March 2010 reference by a two-judge bench to re-examine the scope of discretionary powers under the article, the bench said that it has already been answered by an earlier judgment.

In the course of the hearing of a petition by Mathai alias Joby who had challenged the rejection of his plea by the Kerala high court for another expert opinion (after that of Forensic Science Laboratory) on the genuineness of a will executed on 13 January 2006, the court had taken exception to all types of petition coming to the top court challenging all kind of sundry orders by the high courts and the courts below.

Observing that indiscriminate filing of the petitions was clogging the apex court and adding to its pendency, a bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice RM Lodha (both since retired) by their 19 March 2010 reference order had asked the constitution bench to examine the scope of the top court’s discretionary powers under article 136 and lay down guidelines as there was no uniformity in the nature of petitions being entertained by various benches of the apex court.

By the reference order, Justice Katju and Justice Lodha had said that the apex court lays down the law for the whole country and it should have more time to deliberate upon the cases it hears before rendering judgment.

“Sadly the position today is that it is under such pressure because of the immense volume of cases in the court that judges do not get sufficient time to deliberate over the cases, which they deserve, and this is bound to affect the quality of our judgments,” they had said, adding it was time for “an authoritative decision” by a constitution bench laying down some broad guidelines as to in what kind of cases a petition under article 136 should be entertained.

“If special leave petitions are entertained against all and sundry kinds of orders passed by any court or tribunal, then this court after some time will collapse under its own burden,” the order had said.

At the outset of the hearing on Monday, the court was apprised of various judgments which stated that there could be no strait-jacketed approach in the exercise of discretionary powers under article 136 and it depended on a case to case basis.

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