The Supreme Court used its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution for relaxing the limitations of the time period for filing appeals in all cases, in view of the situation arising out of coronavirus.
The Supreme Court has also invoked this power recently to remove a cabinet minister from the Manipur Government because of inordinate delay by the Speaker of Manipur Assembly in deciding an anti defection case against him.
● Article 142 providessweeping discretionary power to the Supreme Court to pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
● The High Courts or the tribunals do not have similar powers.
Importance of Article 142
Article 142 is conceived to meet the situations which cannot be effectively and appropriately tackled by existing provisions of law.
Examples of uses of Article 142
→ The cleansing of the Taj Mahal, whose marble was yellowing on account of Sulphur fumes from the surrounding industries. Today, on account of the court’s efforts over a period of years, we have had our heritage restored to its original beauty.
→ Release of undertrials rotting in jails for periods greater than the maximum punishment which could have been inflicted on them.
→ Union Carbide case — relating to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy — where the Court felt a need to deviate from existing law to bring relief to the thousands of persons affected by the gas leak.
Need of Judicial Restraint
→ Article 142 also lays down no limitations regarding causes or the circumstances in which the power is to be exercised. The exercise of such power is left completely to the discretion of the highest court.
→ Some of the recent judgements where SC has invoked this article appears to be violating doctrine of “Separation of Power” which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
→ Examples of such judgements include ban on the sale of alcohol along national and State highways leading to loss of employment for lakhs of employees. Cancellation of all telecom licenses was another such judgement with a disruptive impact on the economy.
→ While using Article 142 judges should be careful of not venturing into the domain of policy formulation which will amount to encroaching into the domain of Executive.
→ Article 142 of the Constitution should be used judiciously only when no other recourse is available to do justice.
It is true that Article 142 has been invoked for the purpose of doing tremendous good to large sections of the population and indeed to the nation as a whole. The Supreme Court has perceived its role as one which would require it to ‘wipe away every tear from every eye’, but perhaps it is time that the use of this vast, unlimited power include checks and balances.
PEPPER IT WITH
Separation of power, Basic structure, Anti-Defection