From Guardians of Law to Arbiters of All: The Erosion of the Supreme Court’s Core Mission

From Guardians of Law to Arbiters of All: The Erosion of the Supreme Court’s Core Mission



The Supreme Court of India was formed as the ultimate custodian of the Constitution and the last adjudicator in major legal issues. Its major function was to handle cases with complex legal concerns, basic rights, and national relevance. However, the Supreme Court’s roster continues to expand over time, incorporating matters that were formerly handled by lesser courts. This move has far-reaching repercussions for India’s legal system.

The framers of the Indian Constitution envisioned the Supreme Court as a body that would handle only the most important cases. Its purpose was to interpret constitutional provisions, defend individual rights, and guarantee that the laws of the land were enforced consistently throughout the country. The court’s primary focus was supposed to be on cases of great public interest, such as electoral changes, important economic policies, and serious human rights concerns.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has taken on a broader range of cases, including those that do not entail important legal issues. Bail petitions, routine criminal appeals, and small civil disputes now account for a large percentage of the Court’s time. This tendency has various negative repercussions.

1. Dilution of Core Responsibilities: By devoting time to matters that may be handled by lesser courts, the Supreme Court is unable to focus on problems of national importance. Landmark cases regarding electoral bonds, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the repeal of Article 370 in Kashmir are all postponed, resulting in extended uncertainty and, in some cases, irrevocable changes on the ground before a judicial ruling is issued.

2. Judicial Backlog: The Supreme Court’s increased docket adds to the rising backlog of cases. This backlog implies that crucial decisions are frequently postponed, compromising the judiciary’s overall efficacy. Delays in settling major issues can lead to the denial of justice; as the saying goes, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

3. Inconsistent Jurisprudence: When the Supreme Court treats routine cases, it risks setting contradictory precedents that might perplex subordinate courts and litigants. The court’s position as a stabilising factor in the legal system is jeopardised when it is mired down by matters with no substantial constitutional or legal ramifications.

4. Loss of Effectiveness: The Supreme Court’s delay in ruling on the constitutionality of electoral bonds has enabled possible routes for anonymous political finance to remain unchecked, compromising electoral openness. The Supreme Court’s failure to provide timely decisions not only affects its efficacy, but also allows political parties to exploit gaps, endangering the basic underpinnings of democratic administration.

The Way Forward

To return to its original purpose, the Supreme Court must implement a number of measures, including Strict Case Selection, for cases with serious legal challenges, constitutional concerns, and subjects of great public interest. By encouraging subordinate courts to handle routine cases and providing them with enough resources and training, the judiciary may guarantee that justice is delivered effectively at all levels.

A recent discussion among notable legal personalities like Kapil Sibal, Mukul Rohatgi, and Abhishek Singhvi puts light on the essential issue of delayed hearings in matters involving individual freedoms inside the court system. They urge for substantial structural reforms, beginning with the Supreme Court, to realign priorities and focus on cases with important ramifications for personal liberties. They criticise the Supreme Court’s current status, claiming that it has veered from its basic function and now handles a multiplicity of matters, many of which are insignificant and should be handled at lesser levels. The discussion emphasises the importance of reconsidering the court’s mission and reorienting it to its intended function as a protector of constitutional rights and liberties. Furthermore, the discussion emphasises the serious consequences of delayed justice, as demonstrated by the electoral bonds case, in which the damage inflicted by delays is irreparable even if the proper decision is ultimately rendered. Finally, the discussion emphasises the need of a legal system that prioritises individual liberties and provides prompt justice to all.

The Supreme Court of India has the potential to be a light of justice and a defender of the Constitution. To accomplish this duty successfully, it must target its efforts on the most pressing concerns confronting the country. By doing so, it may guarantee that its judgements are prompt, effective, and adhere to the highest standards of justice and equality.

Saad Ahsan Siddiqui ( Assistant Professor )

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