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Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact

The Supreme Court of India, the country’s highest judicial body, serves as the ultimate appellate court for all civil and criminal matters. Comprising the Chief Justice of India and up to 33 other judges, it possesses a broad range of powers, including original, appellate, and advisory authorities.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily

This paramount court primarily handles appeals against the decisions of various state High Courts and tribunals. It functions as an advisory body when referred to by the President of India and holds the authority to invalidate legislation and constitutional amendments that contravene the Basic Structure doctrine through its judicial review power.

Its core responsibilities include protecting citizens’ fundamental rights and resolving disputes between the central and state governments.

The decisions of the Supreme Court are obligatory for all other courts in India and both the union and state governments. Article 142 of the Constitution grants the court unique jurisdiction to issue any necessary orders to ensure complete justice, binding even upon the President.

Since January 28, 1950, two days post India becoming a republic, the Supreme Court has superseded the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the country’s highest court of appeal.

Endowed with the constitutional power to exercise extensive jurisdiction and review legal statutes and amendments, the Supreme Court of India is recognized as one of the most influential supreme courts globally, highlighting its critical role in shaping India’s legal framework.

Let’s delves into the history, functions, and significant impacts of the Supreme Court, shedding light on its pivotal role in shaping Indian jurisprudence.

History and Structure of The Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India was established on January 28, 1950, following the adoption of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court subsequently replaced the British-era Federal Court of India which Britishers established as a means of justice system during their colonial rule in India.

Located in New Delhi, it started with eight judges, including the Chief Justice. Today, the number has increased to accommodate the growing needs of Indian justice.

The Court’s architecture, designed by Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar, is a symbol of India’s legal sovereignty and reflects its judicial gravitas.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
Photo of Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar

With the passage of the Indian High Courts Act in 1861, high courts were established in several provinces.

The Supreme Courts in Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, as well as the Sadar Adalats in presidential cities, were abolished as a result of this act, and their jurisdictions were integrated into the new high courts.

Prior to the Federal Court of India’s establishment under the Government of India Act 1935, which gave it the power to hear appeals against high court rulings as well as settle disputes between federal states and provinces, these high courts acted as the highest court in the legal system for all cases.

When the Federal Court was established, the Indian legal system underwent a dramatic transformation, and H. J. Kania became the country’s first Chief Justice (CJI).

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
India’s First Chief Justice H. J. Kania

Following these events, on January 28, 1950, the Supreme Court of India was formally established. It replaced the Federal Court of India and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, taking its place as the highest court in the Indian judicial system.

On the same day as its inaugural sitting, the Supreme Court held its formal inauguration, ushering in a new chapter in Indian jurisprudence.

The Federal Court of India met at the Chamber of Princes in the legislative building, where the Supreme Court first convened until its dissolution. The new Supreme Court’s first Chief Justice, H. J. Kania, was named.

The court moved to its current location in 1958, ushering in a new era in its history.

According to the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court would initially consist of a Chief Justice and seven judges, with Parliament having the authority to increase this number as needed.

The court’s early years were marked by a strict schedule that included 28 days a month of sessions from 10 am to noon and 2 to 4 pm, respectively. This demonstrated the court’s dedication to the administration of justice.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
Logo Of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s logo, which depicts the capital city of Ashoka from Sarnath, a Lion, with a 32-spoke wheel at the top, embodies the authority and integrity of the legal system.

This emblem bears witness to the court’s fundamental function in maintaining the rule of law and administering justice in the context of India’s democracy.

Key Powers and Functions of The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has extensive powers, ranging from original jurisdiction over disputes between states or between the union and states to appellate jurisdiction over lower court decisions.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily

It is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution and has the power to adjudicate on fundamental rights. Additionally, it has advisory jurisdiction, allowing the President of India to seek its opinion on legal matters.

Constitutional and Legal Framework

The Supreme Court was strictly established in accordance with the Constitution of India, which outlines its structure, jurisdiction, and functions. As the highest court in the land, it has been entrusted with a wide array of responsibilities and powers, aimed at administering justice and upholding the constitution.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News DailyOriginal Jurisdiction

One of the primary functions of the Supreme Court is its original jurisdiction, meaning the cases that can be directly submitted to it without going through any lower court.

This includes disputes between different states of India or between the Union and one or more states. Additionally, the Supreme Court handles cases involving the enforcement of fundamental rights, underlining its role in protecting individual liberties and human rights.

Appellate Jurisdiction

The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is perhaps its most well-known function. It hears appeals against the judgments and orders of lower courts, including high courts.

This can cover a wide range of matters, including civil, criminal, and constitutional law cases. The ability to hear appeals ensures that there is a final adjudicatory authority on legal matters, providing closure and certainty to litigants.

Advisory Jurisdiction

Under the Constitution, the President of India has the authority to seek advice from the Supreme Court on questions of law or fact that have public significance.

While the advice provided by the Supreme Court is not binding on the President, this function underscores the court’s role in clarifying legal issues and contributing to governance based on constitutional principles.

Judicial Review

Perhaps the most significant power of the Supreme Court is the power of judicial review. This enables the court to assess the constitutionality of legislative enactments and executive actions, thereby acting as a guardian of the Constitution.

Through judicial review, the Supreme Court ensures that the laws and policies of the country conform to constitutional values and principles, such as equality, freedom, and justice.

Power to Ensure Justice

Under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has been granted the power to pass any order necessary to do “complete justice” in any case or matter pending before it.

This unique power underscores the Supreme Court’s role as the final arbiter of justice and allows it to provide relief in a manner that might not be strictly within the confines of existing laws, thereby upholding the spirit of justice and equity.

Public Interest Litigation

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily

The Supreme Court of India has also pioneered the concept of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India, allowing the court to address the grievances of the public at large, especially the underprivileged sections of society.

This has enabled the court to tackle a range of issues, from environmental protection to human rights issues, thereby broadening the scope of judicial intervention.

Landmark Verdicts of the Supreme court and Their Impact

Over the years, the Supreme Court has passed numerous landmark verdicts that have reshaped Indian society and law.

Notable among these are the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), which established the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution, and the Navtej Singh Johar case (2018), which decriminalized homosexuality.

These decisions, among others, highlight the Court’s role in evolving societal norms and legal precedents and set benchmarks for the justice system.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
Source : India Kanoon
Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
Source : India Kanoon

Here are Few Landmark Supreme Court Cases of India-

1. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)

  • Established the Basic Structure doctrine
  • Parliament cannot alter the basic structure of the Constitution

2. Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975)

  • Election of the Prime Minister was declared void
  • Reinforced the doctrine of the basic structure

3. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)

  • Expanded the interpretation of the right to life and personal liberty
  • Introduced the concept of procedural and substantive due process

4. Shah Bano Case (Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, 1985)

  • Right to alimony for a Muslim woman after divorce
  • Led to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act

5. Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997)

  • Guidelines against sexual harassment at the workplace
  • Led to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

6. S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994)

  • Defined the use of Article 356 (President’s Rule)
  • Limited the power of the Central Government to dismiss State Governments

7. Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018)

  • Decriminalized homosexuality
  • Struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

8. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1986)

  • Environmental protection case
  • Introduced the concept of ‘Absolute Liability’ for harm to the environment

9. R.C. Cooper v. Union of India (1970)

  • Also known as the Bank Nationalization case
  • Strengthened the protection of property rights

10. Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985)

  • Right to livelihood was recognized as part of the right to life
  • Eviction of slum dwellers without notice was declared unconstitutional

11. NALSA v. Union of India (2014)

  • Legal recognition to the third gender
  • Directed the government to provide them with quotas in jobs and education

12. A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950)

  • Interpreted personal liberty under Article 21 narrowly
  • Overruled by Maneka Gandhi case

13. K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2017)

  • Right to Privacy declared a fundamental right
  • Implications for Aadhaar and personal freedom

14. I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007)

  • Reaffirmed the Basic Structure doctrine
  • Ninth Schedule laws are not immune from judicial review

15. Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India (1989)

  • Bhopal Gas Tragedy case
  • Led to the settlement for victims and stricter industrial regulations

16. T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002)

  • Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions
  • Laid down guidelines for the same

17. Shah Faesal v. Union of India (2019)

  • Challenges against the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir
  • Ongoing and significant for federalism and autonomy

18. Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018)

  • Decriminalized adultery
  • Held that it discriminated against women

19. Aruna Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011)

  • Legalized passive euthanasia under strict guidelines
  • Recognized the right to die with dignity

20. L.K. Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan (1988)

  • Defined the right to a healthy environment as part of the right to life
  • Led to significant developments in environmental law

Current Chief Justice and Notable Judges

The Supreme Court is headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI), with Justices appointed based on their experience and legal acumen.

The current CJI, along with notable past justices, has contributed significantly to the development of Indian law through judicious verdicts and legal interpretations.

The current Chief Justice of India is Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, who took office on November 9, 2022, becoming the 50th Chief Justice.

Exploring the Supreme Court of India: Landmark Verdicts and Judicial Impact - The Hard News Daily
The current Chief Justice of India – Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud

He has an illustrious background, having served on the Supreme Court since May 2016 and as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court prior to that. He’s noted for his role in significant judgments including the decriminalization of homosexuality, the right to privacy, and the Sabarimala case.

Justice Chandrachud was born into a distinguished family, the son of Y.V. Chandrachud, India’s longest-serving chief justice.

He boasts a rich educational background with degrees from Delhi University and Harvard Law School.

His professional journey includes practicing law in both the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court, and he has been involved in various landmark rulings during his tenure.

The role of the Chief Justice in India extends beyond presiding over court cases. He is responsible for the allocation of cases and the appointment of constitutional benches, dealing with matters of law.

Additionally, the Chief Justice carries out administrative functions, maintaining the roster, appointing court officials, and overseeing the overall functioning of the Supreme Court.

As established by the Indian Constitution, the Chief Justice is appointed by the President of India, based on recommendations typically coming from the incumbent Chief Justice, and serves until the age of 65.

Notable Chief Justices of India include Hiralal Jekisundas Kania, the first Chief Justice after India’s independence, and Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud, the longest-serving Chief Justice from February 1978 to July 1985. Other significant figures are M. Hidayatullah, who also served as Vice President of India, and K. G. Balakrishnan, the first Chief Justice from the Dalit community.

CLICK here To see the complete list of Chief Justices of India.

Public Perception and Judicial Activism

The Supreme Court’s decisions often reflect its proactive role in addressing societal issues, a concept known as judicial activism.

This has led to a mixed public perception, with the Court being seen as a guardian of rights but also critiqued for overreaching into legislative domains.

The Supreme Court of India’s role has expanded over the years, significantly impacting public perception through its approach to judicial activism.

This activism is seen when the court actively steps in to make decisions that directly address pressing societal issues, going beyond just interpreting the law.

This has led to landmark judgments on environmental protection, human rights, and corruption, profoundly influencing Indian society and governance.

While many laud this as necessary for justice and reform, others criticize it as overreach, arguing it encroaches on legislative and executive domains.

The balance between judicial activism and overreach continues to be a subject of debate, reflecting the evolving relationship between the judiciary and Indian democracy.

Challenges and Criticisms of The Supreme Court

Despite its esteemed position, the Supreme Court faces challenges such as case backlogs and allegations of judicial overreach.

Criticisms also focus on the opaque nature of the collegium system used for appointing judges, calling for more transparency and accountability.

Challenges Facing the Supreme Court

One of the most pressing challenges is the massive backlog of cases, leading to prolonged delays in justice delivery.

With millions of cases pending across various courts in India, the Supreme Court is not immune to this logjam, affecting its efficiency and the public’s trust in the judicial process.

Another significant issue is the lack of transparency in the appointment process of judges. The collegium system, though intended to ensure independence and meritocracy, often faces criticism for its opaqueness and alleged nepotism.

This has led to calls for reforms in the judicial appointment process to make it more transparent and accountable.

Moreover, the Supreme Court, like much of the Indian judicial system, grapples with infrastructure and resource constraints.

Inadequate facilities, staffing issues, and outdated technology hinder the court’s efficiency and accessibility.

Criticisms of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has also faced its share of criticisms, notably regarding perceived biases and allegations of corruption within the judiciary. These accusations undermine the integrity of the court and erode public trust.

Another area of concern is judicial overreach, where the court is perceived to interfere in legislative and executive matters beyond its jurisdiction. This has sparked debates about the separation of powers and the limits of judicial intervention.

Additionally, the lack of diversity among the justices, in terms of gender, regional representation, and socio-economic background, has been a point of contention. Critics argue that this lack of diversity affects the court’s understanding and handling of various social issues.

Recent Controversies and Cases

Recent years have seen the Supreme Court at the center of several controversies and landmark cases.

Decisions on issues such as the Ayodhya dispute, the right to privacy, and the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir have been highly polarizing, eliciting varied reactions from different sections of society and the legal community.

Efforts Towards Reform

In response to these challenges and criticisms, there have been efforts towards judicial reform, both from within the judiciary and from civil society.

Proposals have included increasing the number of judges, improving judicial infrastructure, and revising the collegium system to enhance transparency and accountability.

Additionally, there have been initiatives to adopt technology and digitalize processes to make the judiciary more accessible and efficient.

However, these reforms face their own set of challenges and resistance, highlighting the complexity of judicial reform in India.


The Supreme Court of India remains a cornerstone of the Indian democracy, shaping legal frameworks and societal norms through its verdicts.

While it faces various challenges, its role in upholding justice and democratic values continues to be of paramount importance to the nation’s fabric.

From the Desk of TheHardNewsDaily


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