Media & Tort of Defamation

Freedom of Media

One of the paradoxes is that Freedom of the Media to which our Founding Fathers were greatly attached finds no mention in Part III of our Constitution which guarantees certain fundamental rights. There is no specific guarantee of Freedom of the Media as in the Constitutions of other countries.

In the course of the Constituent Assembly debates, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar expressed the same view, and thought that “no special mention is necessary of the Freedom of the Media at all”. This view has been vindicated by the Supreme Court of India. In a series of decisions from 1950 onwards the Supreme Court has ruled that Freedom of the Media is implicit in the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Thus Freedom of the Media by judicial interpretation has been accorded the constitutional status of a fundamental right. However there is a strong body of opinion which favours specific mention of Freedom of the Media as a fundamental right.

The fundamental right guaranteed is not merely the individual right of the proprietor of the newspaper, or the editor or the journalist. It includes within its capacious content the collective right of the community, the right of citizens to read and to be informed, to impart and receive information. In substance, it is right of the people to know.

When we are speaking about the Freedom of the Media it must be remembered that freedom of expression and Freedom of the Media are not absolute and unlimited. Under our constitutional scheme Freedom of the Media also can be restricted provided three distinct and independent prerequisites are satisfied. The restriction imposed must have the authority of law to support it. The law must fall squarely within one or more heads of restrictions specified in Article 19(2), namely,

a)      Security of the State

b)      Sovereignty and integrity of India

c)      Friendly relations with foreign States

d)       Public order

e)      Decency or morality

f)       Contempt of court

g)      Defamation

h)      Incitement to an offence.


The restriction must be reasonable.

One of the permissible heads of restrictions is defamation. In our country there can be criminal prosecution for defamation with imprisonment up to two years and fine. There is also the civil remedy for damages for defamation. The possibility of criminal prosecution and imposition of heavy damages in civil suits against the press can have a chilling effect which can at times be freezing. Thus the potentiality of clash between Freedom of the Media and laws or measures protecting reputation which is the purpose of the law of defamation is inevitable. This is a real problem.

The constitutional guarantee of free speech and Freedom of the Press does not confer a fundamental right to defame persons and harm their reputations by false and baseless allegations and by innuendoes and insinuations. The Press enjoys no talismanic immunity from legal proceedings when it has indulged in malicious falsehoods. A person’s right to good name and honor is also a basic human right.


Salmond define the wrong of defamation as publication of a defamatory statement about a person without any lawful justification. Blackburn and George define tort of defamation as publication of a statement which brings down reputation of a person before the right thinking members of the society generally. The word “to bring down reputation of a person before the right thinking members of the society generally” is taken from the test suggested by Lord Atkin.

The difference between libel and slander

As mentioned above, libel is tends to be in permanent form whereas slander is spoken words. Legislation has made clear that TV broadcasts or theatre plays are to be treated as libel. For other methods of communication it is necessary to consult the common law which applies a test of permanence or transience of the statement.

In Monson vTussauds, the court had to decide whether a wax statue was capable of being libel. The court hold that it was, the court said that anything which has a permanent of lasting form can be libel including an effigy or chalk marks on a wall. Lopes, J. said that libel need not be always written and can be of any other permanent form.

Another important distinction is that libel is actionable per se, which means without any proof of damage. Whereas slander, like most areas of law, requires proof of some injury before a lawsuit can be brought.


What kind of injury can be shown?

Mere damage to reputation is insufficient, so is the loss of friends (though losing out on the hospitality of friends may be sufficient). Something like loss of a job or reduced business profits would be sufficient.

As an aside, the requirement of damage has often been criticized. It is not clear why libel should be more easily actionable. It is true that words in permanent form, such as book, have more potential to reach large numbers of people than simply spoken words, but this may not necessarily be the case where someone is making a speech to large groups of people.

There are, however, some types of slander actionable per se:

• Imputation of criminal conduct – Where a Defendant accuses the Claimant of criminal conduct which is punishable by imprisonment; there is no need for proof of damage. However, words which express suspicion will not be actionable per se.

• Imputation of a contagious disease – This rule is largely outdated but would have had significance during the periods where serious diseases were rampant. Clearly an imputation that someone has a disease can lead to job loss or social exclusion. This exception would be applicable today for something like HIV/AIDS.

• Imputation of unchastity – This applies to the imputation of adultery or unchastity to a woman or girl or even homosexual is actionable per se. The imputation of unchastity was introduced throughout England by Slander of Women Act 1891.  There is no version for men.

• Imputation in unfitness to run a business – It used to be the case that the exception only applied to comments directed at specific professional tasks, thus accusing the boss of an affair with the caretaker would not be under this exception. It would have been if they were accused of an affair with an employee as that affects how they do their job. Now, however, the exception is much broader and applies to the whole job generally.

Requirements to Take Defamation Action

1.      The Statement must be Defamatory

The first requirement for a defamation action is that the statement is defamatory. A defamatory comment is one that injures a person’s reputation. The basic test is from Partimerv. Coupland“[Was the statement] calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

It does not matter if the statement is not believed in fact by the people they are published to, but it does matter if no reasonable person would believe them, in which case they are not actionable. The statement must be assessed in its context and regard must be had to the characteristics of the Claimant. In Monson v. Tussuads, a wax statue of the Claimant had been placed in the same room as some murders next to the Chamber of Horrors. The Claimant had been tried for murder but a verdict of ‘not proven’ was entered and he was successful in his claim.

Defamation must go beyond mere insults and strike at the claimant’s reputation. Insults and jokes may hurt people and even be the cause of a civil action in employment law i.e. between employees, but discourtesy and insults are not on the same level as defamation. Defamation is one of the only areas of civil law to retain a jury, and it would be for the jury to decide whether the words were defamatory.

2.      The Statement Must Refer to the Claimant

The Claimant doesn’t have to be identified by name but as long as a reasonable inference can be made this criterion is satisfied.

However, it is important to remember that the question is not who the publisher intended to hit, but who they actually hit. Thus in Hulton v Jones, Artemus Jones was a barrister who brought an action against the defendants in respect of a newspaper article which allegedly referred to him. The article referred to a man called Artemus Jones who worked as a warden and alleged that he had behaved immorally during a motor festival. The Claimant had contributed pieces to the newspaper before. The Defendants argued that they had never intended the ‘real’ Artemus Jones but instead had created a fictional character and given it a fancy name. The Defendants lost at trial, in the Court of Appeal and in the House of Lords. This case has been called ‘the most famous case in the law of libel’ and has been heavily criticized. Arguably it is quite unfair to the newspaper. At the same time, however, it is not open to anyone with the same name to sue. Rather the jury must reasonably believe that the person in the statement is the Claimant. It will be hard to convince them when the Claimant has no connection at all with any of the facts.

However, in Morgan v.Odhams Press, the court said that ordinary members of the public do not read a newspaper article surgically, as a lawyer would, but simply skim over it. Thus if a person would think the article was referring to the Claimant after a brief skim then that will be sufficient, even if upon a close reading it is clear that it did not refer to the Claimant. However, what often happen in cases where the evidence against the Defendant isn’t strong is that the jury will find the Defendant liable but only give nominal damages.

In cases where there the article accidentally refers to an unintended person, the publisher can make an offer of amends. This is situations where the Defendant neither knew nor had reason to suspect that the statement referred to the claimant or was likely to be understood as referring to the claimant. The offer of amends requires the Defendant to publish an apology and offer to pay compensation.

3.      The Statement must be published

In defamation, ‘publish’ does not have its ordinary definition meaning the printing of words in a book or leaflet. Publishing, here, means communicating the defamatory statement to a third party, whether that is in a conversation or the people at home who are watching a television show in which a defamatory comment is made.

A statement can be published in many ways including by omission, such as where you have a duty to clear graffiti from the walls. The one exception is that communication to the Defendant’s spouse is not publication but communication to the Claimant’s spouse may be.

In Theaker v. Richardson, a husband opened a letter which defamed his wife. It was held that the defamation had been published to the husband as it natural and probable that the husband would open it.

A particular problem for the courts is not the first communication by the Defendant himself but any subsequent communication. Every repetition of a defamatory statement gives rise to a new cause of action against the Defendant provided it was foreseeable the document would be passed on.

In Slipper v BBC, the Claimant was a retired police officer was the subject of a film about trying to capture some men who had committed the Great Train Robbery. The Claimant alleged that the film showed him as a complete idiot. The film had been shown to some journalists before its release to the public and those journalists had published reviews contained the defamatory sting of the film i.e. that he was an incompetent police officer. The Claimant sued not only for the release to the public but the repetitions in the journalists’ reviews. The defendants argued that the repetitions are only actionable where the defendant has authorized them. The court rejected this argument and said that the Defendant can be liable for any re-publication of the defamatory material as long as it was reasonably foreseeable.

The rule of re-publications is stricter in respect of publication on the internet. Every time an internet user accesses an article on a website there is a fresh publication. In Loutchanksyv. Times Newspapers, the defendant argued that the court should adopt a single publication rule as in some US states where an article put online is published once regarding of many times it is accessed. The court rejected this though accepted that the rule may be disproportionate and was somewhat at odds with the 12 limitation period for defamation.

Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd. and anr.v. ParshuramBabaramSawant2011(113)BomLR3801


The progress of the case, Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd. and anr.v.ParshuramBabaramSawantwas watched closely by all news media, politicians, celebrities and other targets of alleged defamation. The verdict of this case is expected to change the face of media reporting forever and also verdicts in pending defamation cases. The verdict of this case was applauded as well as criticized by different sections of judiciary and media. Some argued that this will make media and press more responsible in their reporting while other said that this will discourage media reporting as verdict was too harsh on the defendant. The verdict of this case is also expected to encourage more number of people to file defamation case for damages. Also, some critics of this case expressed their concern because they felt that the verdict was partial because the plaintiff belongs to the legal fraternity and wondered if same damage would have been awarded if the plaintiff would have belonged to some other section of the society.

Facts of the case:

  • The plaintiff has stated that, he is the former judge of Supreme Court, former chairman of the Press Council of India, the former president of the World Association of Press Councils.
  • The defendant no. 1 is a duly incorporated company in the business of news reporting and broadcasting. It belongs to well known “Times Group”. It runs a news channel by the name “Times Now”.
  • The defendant no. 2 is the employee of defendant no. 1 and is the Editor in chief of the said News Channel and as such responsible for all its publication.
  • On 10.9.2008, while the News relating to Provident Fund scam was being telecast by the said channel, a photograph of the plaintiff was flashed as that of Justice P.K. Samantha (an accused in the said scam).
  • The said flashing of photograph created false impression amongst all the viewers in India and abroad that plaintiff was involved in PF Scam which is per se highly defamatory.
  • The said channel stopped publishing the photograph of the plaintiff when the mistake was brought to their notice.

Proceedings before the trial court:

  • The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendant stating that the defendant took belated action which cannot undo the wrong committed.

Questions before the trial court

  • Was the telecast defamatory per se of the plaintiff?
  • Whether the plaintiff is entitled for the damages?

Arguments of the respondent:

  • The defendants argued that the photograph of the plaintiff was only flashed only once for a short duration. It was without malice and without any intention.
  • The defendants have corrected the mistake by withdrawing it from all subsequent news on the channel. Therefore, the act of the defendants was quick and therefore denied carrying any defamation.
  • The defendants have submitted that they have not received any queries from the public.
  • The claim with regard to compensation is baseless and therefore is liable to be dismissed.

Decision of the trial court

  • The court gave decision in the favour of the plaintiff.
  • The court held that:
  • In the light of broadcasting of photo of the plaintiff, according to him, the act of the plaintiff is nothing but a tort for which the plaintiff defamed in the society.
  • The plaintiff is entitled to damage for Rs.100 Crores.

Question before the high court

  • Whether the trial court is correct in its finding?
  • Whether the damages awarded to the plaintiff viable or not?

Decision of the high court

  • The high court gave decision in the favour of the plaintiff.
  • The court asked the defendant to deposit the damage amount to the bank as directed by the court.



Independency Of Judiciary


The question was been asked by the framers of our Indian constitution that what would be the status of your judicial System would be and this was the answer given Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the following words:

“There can be no difference of opinion in the House that our judiciary must be both independent of the executive and must also be competent in itself. And the question is how these two objects can be secured“(1)

Then the question comes into our mind that what made the framers of our constitution to make the judicial system independent and make it self sufficient in itself. The answer to this question lies in the very basic understanding that so as to secure the stability and prosperity of the society, the framers at that time understood that such a society could be created only by guaranteeing the fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary to guard and enforce those fundamental rights. Also in a country like India, the independence of the judiciary is of utmost importance in upholding the pillars of the democratic system hence ensuring a free society. It is so because it is a known fact that the independence of judiciary is the basic requirement for ensuring that there is a free and fair society under the rule of law. Rule of Law that is responsible for good governance of the country can be done through unbiased judiciary.

The doctrine of Separation of Powers which was brought together to have a check or make boundaries for the functioning of all the three organs of the country i.e.: Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. It provides the judiciary to act as a guardian for the protection of law and it also act as body that checks that Legislature and Executive are working within their limits and they are not interfering in the functioning of each other and the task given to the judiciary to supervise the doctrine of separation of powers cannot be carried on in true spirit if the judiciary is not independent in itself. An independent judiciary supports the base of doctrine of separation of powers to a large extent.

It is easy to talk about the independence of the judiciary as the provisions are been provided in our constitution but these provisions introduced by the framers of our constitution can only be initiated towards making of the judiciary independent. The huge task lies in creating a free environment for the proper functioning of the judiciary in which all the other organs function in a harmonies way such that the independence of the judiciary can be achieved in the real sense. The independence of the judiciary has also to be guarded against the changing economic, political and social scenario.

In the words of Churchill: “Our aim is not to make our judges wealthy men, but to satisfy their needs and to maintain a modest and a dignified way of life suited to the gravity, and indeed, the majesty, of the duties they discharge.”


The meaning of the independence of the judiciary is still not completely clear after many years of its existence. Our constitution by the way of the Articles just talks about the independence of judiciary but it is no where defined what actually is meant by independence of judiciary.

The primary talk on the independence of the judiciary is based on the doctrine of separation of powers which holds its existence from several years. The doctrine of separation of powers talks of the independence of the judiciary as an institution from the executive and the legislature.

The other meaning of judicial independence can be hatched out by looking at the writings of the scholars who have done research in this field. Scholars have followed the “constituent mechanism” (i.e. what constitutes the judiciary) to define the independence of the judiciary. Scholars tried to define judiciary by propounding the independence of the judges which constitutes judiciary. Therefore the independence of the judiciary is the independence of the exercise of the functions by the judges in an unbiased manner i.e. free from any external factor.

So the meaning of independence of the judiciary can be understood as the independence of the institution of the judiciary and also the independence of the judges which forms the part of the judiciary.

Some scholars in their work tried to explain the words “Independence” and “Judiciary” separately, and said that the judiciary is “the organ of the government not forming a part of the executive or the legislative, which is not subject to personal, substantive and collective control, and which performs the primary function of adjudication”.

The final outcome them can be derived is that the independence of the judiciary as an institution and the independence of the individual judges both have to go hand in hand as the independence of the judiciary as an institution is not possible without the independence of the individual judges and is the institution of the judiciary is not independent, there is no question of the independence of the individual judges.


Independence of Judiciary is sine guenon of democracy. In a democratic polity, thesupreme power of state is shared among the three principle organs constitutionalfunctionaries namely the constitutional task assigned to the Judiciary is no way less thanthat of other functionaries legislature and executive. Indeed it is the role of the Judiciaryto carry out the constitutional message and it is its responsibility to keep a vigilant watchover the functioning of democracy in accordance with the dictates, directives, andimperative commands of the constitution by checking excessive authority of other constitutional functionaries beyond the ken of constitution. So the Judiciary has to act asthe sentinel sine qua vive . Our Constitution does not strictly adhered to the doctrine ofseparation of powers but it does provide for distribution of power to ensure that oneorgan of the govt. does not trench on the constitutional powers of other organs. Thedistribution of powers concept assumes the existence of judicial system free fromexternal as well as internal presses. Under our constitution the Judiciary has been assignedthe onerous task of safeguarding the fundamental rights of our citizens and upholding theRule of Law. Since the courts are entrusted the duty to uphold the constitution and thelaws, it very often comes in conflict with the state when it dries to enforce orders byexacting obedience. Therefore, the need for an independent t and impartial Judiciarymanned by persons of sterling quality and character, underling courage and determinationand resolution impartiality and independence who would dispose justice without fear, ill will or affection. Justice without fear or fervor, ill will or affection, is the cordial creed of our constitution and a solemn assurance of every Judge to the people ofthis great country.

Secondly, the Judiciary, which is a repartee but equal branch of the state, to transform thestatus quo into a new human order in which justice, social, economic and political willinform all institutions of national life and there will be quality of status and opportunityfor all. The Judiciary has therefore a socio- economic distinction and creative function. The Judiciary cannot remain a mere bystander or spectator but it must become an active participant in the judicial process ready to use law in the service of social justice through a pro-active goal oriented approach. But this cannot be achieved unless we have judicial cadres who share the fighting faith of the constitution and are imbued with constitutional values.


The basic need for the independence of the judiciary rests upon the following points:

To check the functioning of the organs: Judiciary acts as a watchdog by ensuring that all the organs of the state function within their respective areas and according to the provisions of the constitution. Judiciary acts as a guardian of the constitution and also aids in securing the doctrine of separation of powers.

Interpreting the provisions of the constitution: It was well known to the framers of the constitution that in future the ambiguity will arise with the provisions of the constitution so they ensured that the judiciary must be independent and self-competent to interpret the provision of the constitution in such a way to clear the ambiguity but such an interpretation must be unbiased i.e. free from any pressure from any organs like executive. If the judiciary is not independent, the other organs may pressurize the judiciary to interpret the provision of the constitution according to them. Judiciary is given the job to interpret the constitution according to the constitutional philosophy and the constitutional norms.

Disputes referred to the judiciary: It is expected of the Judiciary to deliver judicial justice and not partial or committed justice. By committed justice we mean to say that when a judge emphasizes on a particular aspect while giving justice and not considering all the aspects involved in a particular situation. Similarly judiciary must act in an unbiased manner.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS Which Provide Judicial Independency

Many provisions are provided in our constitution to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The constitutional provisions are discussed below:

Appointment of the Judges

The procedure of appointment of the Chief Justice and other judges has created a lot of controversy because it is the key aspect of the independence of the judiciary. Art 124 specifies that the Chief Justice is appointed by the president after consulting with the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts. Further, that while appointing other judges, the CJ must be consulted. Thus, the constitution clearly tried to prevent the executive from having complete discretionary powers in the appointment of the judges.

Until 1973, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court was appointed as the Chief Justice. However, this convention was broken when Justice AN Ray was appointed as the CJ by passing 3 more senior judges. This was seen as a blatant assault on the independence of the judiciary. The govt. pleaded that the word “consult” does not mean that the president is bound by the advice. He is free to make his own decision.

In 1977, in the case of Union of India vs Sankalchand Seth , which was related to the transfer of a Judge from one high court to another under art 222, SC held that the President has the right to differ from the advice provided by the consultants.

Judges Transfer Case 1

In the case of S P Gupta vs Union of India SC unanimously agreed with the meaning of the word ‘consultation’ as determined in the Sankalchand’s case. It further held that the only ground on which the decision of the govt. can be challenged is that it is based on mala fide and irrelevant consideration. In doing so, it substantially reduced its own power in appointing the judges and gave control to the executive.

Judges Transfer Case 2

this matter was raised again in the case of SC Advocates on Record Association vs Union of India . In this case, the SC overruled the decision of the S P Gupta case and held that in the matter of appointment of judges of high courts and Supreme Court, the CJ should have the primacy and the appointment of the CJ should be based on seniority. It further held that the CJ must consult his two senior most judges and the recommendation must be made only if there is a consensus among them.

Judges Transfer Case 3

A controversies arose again when the CJ recommended the names for appointment without consulting with other judges in 1999. The president sought advice from the SC (re Presidential Reference 1999) and a 9 member bench held that an advice given by the CJ without proper consultation with other judges is not binding on the govt.

As of now, due to the decision in Judges Transfer Case 2, the appointment of the judges in SC and High Courts are fairly free from executive control. This is an important factor that ensures the independence of the judiciary.

Security of Tenure:The judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have been given the security of the tenure. Once appointed, they continue to remain in office till they reach the age of retirement which is 65 years in the case of judges of Supreme Court Art. 124(2)

124. Establishment and constitution of Supreme Court.

(2) Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years:

In the case of High Courts judges the age is 62 as per Art. 217(1)

217. Appointment and conditions of the office of a Judge of a High Court.

(1) Every Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court, and shall hold office, in the case of an additional or acting Judge, as provided in article 224, and in any other case, until he attains the age of sixty-two years

They cannot be removed from the office except by an order of the President and that too on the ground of proven misbehavior and incapacity. A resolution has also to be accepted to that effect by a majority of total membership of each House of Parliament and also by a majority of no less than two third of the members of the house present and voting. Procedure is so complicated that there has been no case of the removal of a Judge of Supreme Court or High Court under this provision.

Salaries and Allowances: The salaries and allowances of the judges is also a factor which makes the judges independent as their salaries and allowances are fixed and are not subject to a vote of the legislature. They are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India in case of Supreme Court judges and the Consolidated Fund of state in the case of High Court judges. Their emoluments cannot be altered to their disadvantage (Art. 125(2))

125. Salaries, etc., of Judges

(1) There shall be paid to the Judges of the Supreme Court such salaries as may be determined by Parliament by law and, until provision in that behalf is so made, such salaries as are specified in the Second Schedule.

(2) Every Judge shall be entitled to such privileges and allowances and to such rights in respect of leave of absence and pension as may from time to time be determined by or under law made by Parliament and, until so determined, to such privileges, allowances and rights as are specified in the Second Schedule:

Provided that neither the privileges nor the allowances of a Judge nor his rights in respect of leave of absence or pension shall be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court: Parliament can only add to the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court but cannot curtail them. In the civil cases, Parliament may change the pecuniary limit for the appeals to the Supreme Court. Parliament may enhance the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It may confer the supplementary powers on the Supreme Court to enable it work more effectively. It may confer power to issue directions, orders or writs for any purpose other than those mentioned in Art. 32. Powers of the Supreme Court cannot be taken away.


The jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court are quite wide. The Supreme Court has a threefold jurisdiction.

Original Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court has originally jurisdiction i.e. cases which can originate with the Supreme Court alone over disputes between (a) the Government of India and one or more states (b) the Government of India and any stat and states on one side and one or more state on the other (c) two or more states. No other court in India shall have the power to entertain any such suit. Thus the Supreme Court is a Federal Court.

However this jurisdiction does not extend to disputes arising out of treaty or agreement which is an operation and excludes such jurisdiction. The Supreme Court’s may also be excluded in some other matter, inter-state disputes, matters referred to the Finance Commission, adjustment or certain expenses as between the Union and the States. Furthermore, ordinary commercial matters do not fall in this category. Most scholars include in the original jurisdiction the power of the Supreme Court to decide disputes regarding Fundamental Rights. It is original in the sense that the aggrieved party has the right to directly move the Supreme Court by pressing a petition. However some constitutional experts opine that the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court should be treated separately as the dispute in such cases is not between the units of the Union but an aggrieved individual and the Government.

Appellate Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court is the highest Court appeal from all courts in India. It hears appeals in (i) cases involving interpretation of the constitution- civil, Criminal or otherwise (Article 132) (ii) Civil cases irrespective of any constitutional issue (Article. 133) (iii) Criminal matters irrespective of any constitutional issue (134). Besides the Supreme Court may grant special leave to appeal in certain cases under article136.

In constitutional matters an appeal can be made if the High Court certifies that the cases involves a substantial question of law or general importance or that in its opinion the question needs to be decided by the Supreme Court.

In criminal cases an appeal lays the Supreme Court if the High Court certifies that the case is fit for appeal. But an appeal can be made without the certificate of a High Court if the High Court has in an appeal reversed an order of acquittal of the accused and sentenced him to death or where the High Court has withdrawn a case from the lower court, conducted the trail itself and awarded the accused the death sentence and more than 10 years imprisonment.

The right of the Supreme Court to entertain appeal by Special leave in any cause or matter determined by any court or tribunal is unlimited. The exercise of the power is left entirely to the discretion of the Supreme Court. However the power is clearly to be exercised only under exceptional circumstances where substantial question of law or general public interest is involved, where grave injustice has been done or where a tribunal has exceeded its jurisdiction or has run counter to nature justice.

Advisory Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court renders advice on any question of law or fact of public importance as may be referred to it for consideration by the President. These are no litigation involved and the opinion given by the Supreme Court is not to be considered as a judgment. The advice is not binding on the President who may or not accept it. The main use of this provision is to enable the Government to get an authoritative opinion as to the legal validity of a matter before action is taken upon it. The court however is bound to give its opinions on matters relating to disputes arising out of a treaty or agreement entered into before the commencement of the constitution.

Other powers

Article 129 declares the Supreme Court as a court of record thus its proceedings are recorded for perpetual verification and testimony its records are admitted in evidence and cannot be questioned in any court of law and it has the power to punish by fine and imprisonment any person guilty of contempt or its authority.

ii) The decision of the Supreme Court is binding on all courts within the territory of India. However the Supreme Court is not bound by its earlier decision it can come to a different decision if it is convinced that it had made an error or harmed public interest.

iii) The Supreme Court can make rules regarding the practice and procedure of the court with the approval of the President.

iv) The Supreme Court can appoint its officers and servants in consultation with the UPSC and determine their conditions of service in consultation with the President. The Supreme Court can recommend to the President the removal of the Chairman and members of the UPSC. Under Article 139-A the Supreme Court may transfer to itself cases from one and more High Courts it these involve question of law or of great significance. The Supreme Court may transfer cases from one High Court to another in the interests of Justice.

No discussion on conduct of Judge in State Legislature / Parliament: Art. 211 provide that there shall be no discussion in the legislature of the state with respect to the conduct of any judge of Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties. A similar provision is made in Art. 121 which lay down that no discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of the judge of Supreme Court or High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the judge.

Power to punish for contempt: Both the Supreme Court and the High Court have the power to punish any person for their contempt. Art. 129 provides that the Supreme Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself. Likewise, Art. 215 lays down that every High Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Separation of the Judiciary from the Executive: Art. 50 contains one of the Directive Principles of State Policy and lays down that the state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state. The object behind the Directive Principle is to secure the independence of the judiciary from the executive. Art.50 says that there shall be a separate judicial service free from executive control.

Art 124(7) Prohibition on practicing before any court:

Art 124 prohibits a retired judge of a SC or a High Court from appearing and pleading before any court or tribunal.


I conclude my project on saying that according to me Independence of judiciary is important for the purpose of fair justice. There should be no interference by the legislature or the executive, in the proceedings of the judiciary so that it may take a judgment that seems reasonably fair. In case of intervention, there may be an element of bias on the part of the judges in taking a fair decision. It is difficult to suggest any other way to make the Indian courts more self reliant and keep them away from the influence of the other two organs.

But I would like to support my project by saying that it has a independent status in our country as per the following points:

1) In the time when India got independence and the Supreme Court has given many judgment against the government of the time from 1950 to the late 1980 and most of them were regarded as an landmark judgment in our judicial system and it is till date regarded as the base of Indian Judicial System.

According to Land reform (early confrontation)

After some of the courts overturned state laws redistributing land from zamindar (landlord) estates on the grounds that the laws violated the zamindar’ fundamental rights, the Parliament of India passed the First Amendment to the Constitution in 1951 followed by the Fourth Amendment in 1955 to protect its authority to implement land redistribution. The Supreme Court countered these amendments in 1967 when it ruled in Golaknath v. State of Punjab that Parliament did not have the power to abrogate fundamental rights, including the provisions on private property.

Other laws deemed unconstitutional

On 1 February 1970, the Supreme Court invalidated the government-sponsored Bank Nationalization Bill that had been passed by Parliament in August 1969.

The Supreme Court also rejected as unconstitutional a presidential order of 7 September 1970 that abolished the titles, privileges, and privy purses of the former rulers of India’s old princely states.

The Court ruled that the basic structure of the constitution cannot be altered for convenience. On 24 April 1973, the Supreme Court responded to the parliamentary offensive by ruling in KeshavanandaBharti v. The State of Kerala that although these amendments were constitutional, the court still reserved for itself the discretion to reject any constitutional amendments passed by Parliament by declaring that the amendments cannot change the constitution’s “basic structure”, a decision piloted through by Chief Justice Sikri.

Emergency and Government of India: The independence of judiciary was severely curtailed on account of powerful central government ruled by Indian National Congress. This was during the Indian Emergency (1975-1977) of Indira Gandhi. The constitutional rights of imprisoned persons were restricted under Preventive detention laws passed by the parliament. In the case of Shiva Kant Shukla Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla, popularly known as the Habeas Corpus case, a bench of five seniormost judges of Supreme Court ruled in favour of state’s right for unrestricted powers of detention during emergency. During the emergency period, the government also passed the 39th amendment, which sought to limit judicial review for the election of the Prime Minister; only a body constituted by Parliament could review this election. The court tamely agreed with this curtailment (1975), despite the earlier Keshavananda decision. Subsequently, the parliament, with most opposition members in jail during the emergency, passed the 42nd Amendment which prevented any court from reviewing any amendment to the constitution with the exception of procedural issues concerning ratification. A few years after the emergency, however, the Supreme Court rejected theabsoluteness of the 42nd amendment and reaffirmed its power of judicial review in the case of Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors. Etc. Etc vs Union of India & Ors .From the above cases and the points dealt in them it has shown that how hard it was for the judiciary to maintain its independent status and how much the parliament tries to take away the powers of the Supreme Court especially at the time of Indira Gandhi when she was the Prime Minister. The above mentioned are my view.But in the current time there is a debate going on whether in India is Judiciary really independent in nature because many of them say it is partly independent the people who differ from the Independency of judiciary say that on the base that is appointment of the judges and in the later part that the parliament has the power to appoint the retired Judge of SC in any position as a chairman or head of a commission this way the judge may have influence on giving the judgment.