DMPQ-Though the provision was used many times for the good of deprived sections, the Supreme Court’s vast powers under the Article 142 raise important concerns. Discuss, along with the need for checks and balances to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers.

  • Article 142 empowers the Supreme Court to make such order as is necessary for doing “complete justice” in any matter before it. Article 142 is conceived to give the apex court the powers to meet the situation(s) which cannot be effectively tackled by existing provisions of law.
  • Over the years, the apex court has often used this provision to ensure justice to ordinary people who, on account of poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance, were unable to seek remedies from the courts. Example: Relief for undertrials in jails for long periods.

Concerns with the use of Article 142:

  • No limitations on its use: Article 142 does not lay down any limitations regarding causes or the circumstances in which the power is to be exercised, and it gives the Court complete discretion
  • Doesn’t consider impact of judgement: The court has also, in some cases, failed to account for the far-reaching effects of its judgments, which may result in the deprivation of the rights of many individuals who are not party to the case. Example: The recent ban by Supreme Court on liquor shops/establishments within 500 metres of highways by invoking Article 142 resulted in lakhs of employees losing jobs and States losing a vital source of revenue. The constitutional issue on whether the Supreme Court can impose a decision on state governments – even thought the subject matter of liquor is within the exclusive domain of state legislatures – also arises.
  • Against the doctrine of separation of powers: In recent years, the Supreme Court through Article 142 has been foraying into the domains of legislature and executive.
  • It is true that Article 142 has been invoked for the purpose of doing good to the people and nation as a whole. But its purpose should not be interpreted as that of judiciary’s wisdom replacing/overriding the wisdom of other institutions. The power of the Supreme Court under Article 142 must have checks and balances.

Checks and balances:

  • Sparing use: Article 142 is an extraordinary power which must be sparingly used where there is a legislative or executive void.
  • Restricting the extent of Article 142: The Supreme Court should clearly state the extent and scope of its powers under Article 142 thereby defining its limits within which it may opt to exercise its power.
  • Referring to Constitution bench: All cases invoking Article 142 may be referred to a Constitution bench of at least five judges.
  • Studying pros and cons of Article 142 judgements: In all cases where the Court invokes Article 142, the government must bring out a white paper to study the beneficial as well as the negative effects of the judgment after a period of six months from its date.

Unlimited powers in the hands of any one institution, judiciary in this case, violates the spirit of democracy. The checks and balances against Article 142 are needed to ensure that the doctrine of separation of powers, which is a feature of the basic structure of Indian Constitution, is upheld.

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