Supreme Court says it has sky-high powers to chase injustice
J VENKATESAN IN THE HINDU
The limits of power exercised by the Supreme Court when it chases injustice are the sky itself, a Bench of the apex court has said.
“It is plenary power exercisable outside the purview of ordinary law to meet the demand of justice. Article 136 of the Constitution is a special jurisdiction. It is residuary power. It is extraordinary in its amplitude. The limits of Supreme Court when it chases injustice are the sky itself,” said the Bench of Justice J. M. Panchal and Justice H. L. Gokhale.
“The appellate power vested in the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution is not to be confused with the ordinary appellate power exercised by appellate Courts and appellate Tribunals under specific statutes. The powers under Article 136 can be exercised by the Supreme Court in favour of a party even suo motu when the Court is satisfied that compelling grounds for its exercise exist,” it said.
Writing the judgment, Justice Panchal said: “Where there is manifest injustice, a duty is enjoined upon this Court to exercise its suo motu power by setting right the illegality in the judgment of the High Court as it is well-settled that illegality should not be allowed to be perpetuated and failure by this Court to interfere with the same would amount to allow illegality to be perpetuated.”
Rejecting the contention that the Supreme Court should not do anything which was not prayed for or challenged, the Bench said: “When an apparent irregularity is found by this Court in an order passed by the High Court, the Supreme Court cannot ignore substantive rights of a litigant while dealing with the cause pending before it. There is no reason why the relief cannot be and should not be appropriately moulded while disposing of an appeal arising by grant of special leave under Article 136 of the Constitution.”
The Bench was of the view that the power under Article 136 “is meant to supplement the existing legal framework. It is conceived to meet situations which cannot be effectively and appropriately tackled by the existing provisions of law.”
In the instant case, the appellant, A. Subash Babu, a police officer in Andhra Pradesh, was alleged to have entered into a second marriage by suppressing the fact of his first marriage which was in subsistence. Aggrieved, the second wife filed a complaint for offences of bigamy, suppression, cheating, dowry and cruelty. The Andhra Pradesh High Court quashed the charges of dowry and cruelty, holding that the second marriage was void but allowed other charges to remain. The present appeal was directed against this judgment.
Dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court held that the woman with whom the second marriage was contracted by suppressing the fact of former marriage would be entitled to maintain complaint against her husband under Sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code. Further without any appeal against quashing of charges under Section 498 A, the Bench said it could order reopening it to render justice.
Height of perversity
“A bare reading of the complaint together with statutory provisions makes it abundantly clear that the appellant having a wife living, married the second wife by concealing from her the fact of former marriage and, therefore, her complaint against the appellant for commission of offence punishable under Section 494 and 495 IPC is maintainable and cannot be quashed on this ground. To hold that a woman with whom second marriage is performed is not entitled to maintain a complaint under Section 494 IPC though she suffers legal injuries would be height of perversity,” said the Bench.
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