Special Leave Petitions can be described as a residual power present in the hands of the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution. It states that,
‘136. Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India
(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces (Emphasis Supplied)
As the article suggests, the Supreme Court has the discretion to grant special leave to appeal. This makes it clear that this power is discretionary in nature and cannot be claimed as a right which the court must mandatorily enforce.
When does the court maintain a suit of SLP?
The power bestowed under this article is in the nature of a residuary power. The words of the article grant sweeping powers to the Supreme Court with regards to the grounds it has to set in order to entertain a plea under Special Leave Petitions.
(i) Substantial and Grave Injustice
The Supreme Court has been cautious about the usage of this Article. In Pritam Singh v. The State, a nine-judge bench observed that this power has to be exercised sparingly and only in special circumstances where substantial and grave injustice has been committed against an individual.
It said that,
‘On a careful examination of article 136 along with the preceding article, it seems clear that the wide discretionary power with which this Court is invested under it is to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional cases only, and as far as possible a more or less uniform standard should be adopted in granting special leave in the wide range of matters which can come up before it under this article.’ (Emphasis Supplied)
(ii) Exceptional Power for Extraordinary Matters
The court reaffirmed its stance in Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Ltd. v. CIT and said that power per se is exceptional and has overriding effects, and therefore can only be used in equally special and extraordinary circumstances.
It said that,
‘It was said that the power conferred on this Court by article 136 of the Constitution being an extraordinary power, its exercise should be limited to cases of patent and glaring errors of procedure, or where there has been a failure of justice because of the violation of the rules of natural justice or like causes but that this discretionary power should not be exercised for the purpose of reviewing findings of fact when the law dealing with the subject has declared those findings as final and conclusive.’ (Emphasis Supplied)
(iii) Element of generosity
In Narpat Singh Vs. Jaipur Development Authority, the court discussed the positive aspect of this wide power bestowed in the hands of the apex court. There are instances which demand the court to use its extensive powers in order to impart justice and it is this time when the court must be generous with the exercise of available powers.
“The exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Art.136 of the Constitution on the Supreme Court is discretionary. It does not confer a right to appeal on a party to the litigation; it only confers a discretionary power of widest amplitude on the Supreme Court to be exercised for satisfying the demands of justice. On one hand, it is an exceptional power to be exercised sparingly, with caution and care and to remedy extraordinary situations or situations occasioning a gross failure of justice; on the other hand, it is an overriding power whereunder the Court may generously step in to impart justice and remedy injustice.” (Emphasis Supplied)
Different aspects around the maintainability of a Special Leave Petition were discussed through the course of this article. The concerns revolving around the unlimited powers bestowed under Article 136 of the constitution were evident in the judgements. The courts of law were cautious about the blunt use of this section and laid down certain grounds on which this section can be invoked like a grave and substantial injustice, extraordinary matter et cetera. However, there has been no uniform codification of the meanings that can be attached to these terms. The quest for concrete grounds to invoke a Special Leave Petition has not yet been completed.