Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 07 June 2023

Review petition

Source: By The Indian Express

The Central government moved the Supreme Court, filed a review petition against the Court’s judgment that gave control over the subject of administrative services to the Delhi government.

This was a day after the government promulgated an ordinance to create a National Capital Civil Service Authority, empowered to recommend transfers, postings and disciplinary actions relating to all Group A and DANICS officers (Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli civil services).

Why has this review petition been filed?

The Centre’s ordinance has reinstated the final authority of the Delhi lieutenant governor in transfers and postings of bureaucrats and solidified his role as an administrator empowered to take decisions on proposals considered or decided by the elected government.

The dispute over whether the Lieutenant Governor or the Chief Minister would have powers over these administrative services in Delhi went to the Supreme Court and a judgment was delivered ten days ago.

The ruling places three constitutional principles – representative democracyfederalism and accountability – to an elected government within the interpretation of Article 239AA.  In 1991, when Article 239 AA was inserted, Parliament also passed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 to provide a framework for the functioning of the Legislative Assembly and the government of Delhi.

The Court also clearly held that Part XIV of the Constitution that contains provisions for regulating the employment of persons to the public services under the union and States is applicable to union territories, which includes Delhi.

The current ordinance takes away this power from the Delhi government and places it with a statutory body that comprises the chief minister of Delhi and the Chief Secretary and principal Home Secretary of the Delhi government.

How does a review petition get heard in court?

judgment of the Supreme Court becomes the law of the land, according to the Constitution. However, the Constitution, under Article 137, gives the Supreme Court the power to review any of its judgments or orders. This departure from the Supreme Court’s final authority is entertained under specific, narrow grounds. So, when a review takes place, the law is that it is allowed not to take fresh stock of the case but to correct grave errors that have resulted in the miscarriage of justice.

The court has the power to review its rulings to correct a “patent error” and not “minor mistakes of inconsequential import”. In a 1975 ruling, Justice Krishna Iyer said a review can be accepted “only where a glaring omission or patent mistake or like grave error has crept in earlier by judicial fallibility”.

Is it unusual for review petitions to be filed?

Yesit is rare for the Supreme Court to admit reviews. For instance, in the past the court refused to review its December 2018 ruling seeking a probe into the Rafale deal. But the court allowed the Centre’s petition seeking a review of a March 2018 judgment that had effectively diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Act.

What grounds can a petitioner seek a review of an SC verdict?

In a 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court itself laid down three grounds for seeking a review of a verdict it has delivered:

*The discovery of new and important matter or evidence which, after the exercise of due diligence, was not within the knowledge of the petitioner or could not be produced by him;

*Mistake or error apparent on the face of the record;

*Or any other sufficient reason. In subsequent rulings, the court specified that “any sufficient reason” means a reason that is comparable to the other two grounds.

In another 2013 ruling (Union of India v. Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd), the court laid down nine principles on when a review is maintainable. “A review is by no means an appeal in disguise whereby an erroneous decision is reheard and corrected but lies only for patent error,” the court said. It added that the mere possibility of two views on the subject cannot be a ground for review.

Who can file a review petition?

It is not necessary that only parties to a case can seek a review of the judgment on it. As per the Civil Procedure Code and the Supreme Court Rules, any person aggrieved by a ruling can seek a review. However, the court does not entertain every review petition filed. It exercises its discretion to allow a review petition only when it shows the grounds for seeking the review.

What is the procedure the Court uses to consider a review petition?

As per 1996 rules framed by the Supreme Court, a review petition must be filed within 30 days of the date of judgment or order. While a judgment is the final decision in a case, an order is an interim ruling that is subject to its final verdict. In certain circumstances, the court can condone a delay in filing the review petition if the petitioner can establish strong reasons that justify the delay.

The rules state that review petitions would ordinarily be entertained without oral arguments by lawyers. It is heard “through circulation” by the judges in their chambers. Review petitions are also heard, as far as practicable, by the same combination of judges who delivered the order or judgment that is sought to be reviewed. If a judge has retired or is unavailable, a replacement is made keeping in mind the seniority of judges.

In exceptional cases, the court allows an oral hearing. In a 2014 case, the Supreme Court held that review petitions in all death penalty cases will be heard in open court by a Bench of three judges.

What happens if a review petition fails?

As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court’s verdict cannot result in a miscarriage of justice. In Roopa Hurra v Ashok Hurra (2002), the court itself evolved the concept of a curative petition, which can be heard after a review is dismissed to prevent abuse of its process. A curative petition is also entertained on very narrow grounds like a review petition, and is generally not granted an oral hearing.

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