An Overview On Special Leave Petition

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Index 

  1. Introduction 
  2. What Is A Special Leave Petition  
  3. Conditions And Limitations Of A Special Leave
  4. Unique Features Of Article 136
  5. Established Rules For Special Leave Petitions
  6. Procedure And Implications Of Filing A Special Leave Petition
  7. Filing Deadlines For Special Leave Petitions
  8. Discretionary Power Of The Supreme Court Under Article 136
  9. Conclusion 

Introduction 

Knowing the law is important for everyone to some extent. We all live by certain rules and principles of social conduct. Every day, we face situations where knowing some legal information helps us make the right decisions. In this series, let’s explore what a special leave petition is and the significance of article 136 of the Indian constitution. 

What Is A Special Leave Petition

Special Leave Petition (SLP) is a legal remedy available in certain jurisdictions, notably in India’s legal system. It allows an aggrieved party to seek permission or leave from a higher court, typically the Supreme Court, to appeal against a judgement or order of a lower court or tribunal.  

Every legal system has a hierarchy of courts and tribunals. Typically, if a party disagrees with a lower court’s decision, they can appeal to a higher court, like the High Court in India. If dissatisfied still, they can appeal to the Supreme Court as per Articles 132 to 136 of the Indian Constitution.

However, Article 136 provides a unique avenue. It grants the Supreme Court the authority to grant special leave to appeal against any judgement or order from any court or tribunal in the country. This provision enables the Supreme Court to address cases that require its attention, bypassing the usual hierarchy if necessary. As the guardian of the Constitution, the Supreme Court holds the power to interpret it and ensure justice prevails.

Conditions And Limitations Of A Special Leave

An appeal can be made through a Special Leave Petition (SLP) when a substantial question of law is involved or when there has been a gross injustice. The judgement, decree, or order being appealed must have the character of judicial adjudication, meaning purely administrative or executive orders cannot be appealed through an SLP. Additionally, the authority whose judgement or order is being appealed must qualify as a court or tribunal.

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However, an SLP cannot be applied to any judgement or order issued by a court or tribunal involving the armed forces. This is the sole exclusion stated in Clause 2 of Article 136.

Unique Features Of Article 136

Article 136 stands out from the general appeals listed in Articles 132-135 in several key ways. First, it allows for appeals not only against judgments, decrees, and final orders of the High Court but also against those of lower courts. Second, Article 136 is more fluid and flexible compared to the specific appeals covered in Articles 132-135. This means that appeals can be made even against interlocutory and interim judgments, not just final decisions, and can arise from criminal, civil, or other types of cases. However, it is generally expected that the appellant has exhausted all other legal remedies before invoking Article 136. Additionally, there is no law limiting the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under this article, giving it broad discretionary power to ensure justice.

Established Rules For Special Leave Petitions

Leading case laws have established several key rules regarding Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) under Article 136:

  1. Special leave can be granted in civil, criminal, income tax cases, cases from various tribunals, and a wide range of other matters.
  2. An SLP can be filed even when a High Court does not grant a certificate of fitness for appeal to the Supreme Court.
  3. Typically, a private party other than the original complainant is not permitted to appeal.

Procedure And Implications Of Filing A Special Leave Petition

The petition must include all relevant facts necessary for the Supreme Court to decide whether to admit a Special Leave Petition. This petition should be duly signed by the Advocate on record and include a statement from the petitioner confirming that no other petition has been filed in the High Court. It must also contain a copy of the judgement being appealed, a verifying affidavit, and all relevant documents.

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After the petition is filed, the court hears the case and, based on its merits, allows the opposing party to present their views in a counter affidavit. The court then decides whether to grant special leave. If granted, the Supreme Court will exercise its appellate jurisdiction, and its subsequent decisions are binding on both parties.

In the case of Kunhayammed v. State of Kerala, the discussion centred on whether the jurisdiction under Article 136 involves both granting the SLP and hearing the appeal. The court may choose to grant the SLP, but if it decides not to, the appellate jurisdiction does not come into effect. However, the mere dismissal of an SLP does not imply res judicata, it simply means the case was not suitable for SLP. The aggrieved party can still seek a review under Article 226 in the concerned court.

Filing Deadlines For Special Leave Petitions

An SLP can be filed against any High Court judgement within 90 days from the date of the judgement, with some flexibility at the Supreme Court’s discretion. Alternatively, an SLP can be filed within 60 days if the High Court refuses to grant a certificate of fitness for appeal to the Supreme Court.

Discretionary Power Of The Supreme Court Under Article 136

Article 136 grants the Supreme Court discretionary authority to entertain appeals in situations not specifically covered by the Constitution. The Court may choose to grant special leave to appeal any judgement or decree, but this is not an automatic right, it depends on the circumstances. Parties can approach the Supreme Court through Article 136 for clarification on constitutional or legal issues in civil, criminal, or other cases. This power is residual and not limited in definition.

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The Supreme Court typically grants leave only in exceptional situations and follows established judicial procedures in exercising this discretion. This discretionary jurisdiction is invoked more frequently in criminal appeals, with the Court emphasising that special leave is granted only in cases of special and exceptional circumstances or grave injustice. 

Conclusion 

The Special Leave Petition is a vital tool for dispensing justice from the country’s apex court. However, due to its inherent flexibility, the SLP process can be quite dynamic. This leads to a significant number of leave petitions reaching the Supreme Court, which can sometimes strain its resources. Nevertheless, many of these petitions are rejected at the admissions stage, which helps maintain a balance in the workload of the Supreme Court.

The SLP is considered special because it grants discretionary power to the court to decide whether to entertain the appeal or not. This discretionary power enables the apex court to focus on cases of substantial importance, significant legal questions, or instances of gross injustice, bypassing the usual hierarchy of appeals in certain circumstances.

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