Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court


The Supreme Court is the apex court of the country. It has the power to hear matters that come up from lower courts and also the matters that directly come to it. The Supreme court has original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction. The most powerful jurisdiction of this court is the Original Jurisdiction. In this, the Supreme Court directly takes up the matters that are of much national importance or that can be directly heard before being heard in any lower court.

This jurisdiction provides the court with the power of taking decision solely without relying on any previous judgement in the matter by any lower court.

The original jurisdiction of Supreme Court is mentioned in Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. Along with this, the supreme court also hears petitions directly under article 32 of the Constitution.

In addition, there are different kinds of matters that can be heard by Supreme Court under Original Jurisdiction of it.

Article 131 of Indian Constitution

Article 131 of the Constitution states that the Supreme Court has the power to hear the cases directly between the parties that are mentioned in the article. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in the cases where the parties in dispute are:

1. Government of India v. one or more states.

2. Government of India and one or more states v. other states.

3. One or more states v. other states.

The matter of dispute between these parties must include the question either related to law or a fact, which has the importance of a legal right involved in it. The legal right infringement must be included in such matters for the Supreme court to exercise its original Jurisdiction. Such matters are also of national importance because the dispute between the above-mentioned parties can create tension in the whole country.

The first case that was filed under this article was State of West Bengal v Union of India.[1]

In this case, the validity of Acquisition and Development Act, 1947 was challenged. The case was heard by the Supreme Court and the petition of the State of West Bengal was dismissed on the stance that Constitution is not totally federal and the powers of states have some limitations too. Therefore, the act was held to be valid.

There are also some matters that are not capable of being heard by the court under this jurisdiction.

For example, in the case of State of Haryana v. State of Punjab [i]where the dispute was related to the construction of water dam between the states. The Supreme Court stated that the matter cannot be heard under Article 131 as it was the personal matter of the states and no common interest of any other state is involved. The matter can be heard in High Court of any of the states too.

Article 32 of Indian Constitution

Article 32 of the Indian Constitution provides for original jurisdiction of Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights. The petitions under this article can be filed when the fundamental rights of a person or a group of people are being infringed. Under this article, the Court has the power to issue writs and directions. The writs that are included under this article as follows:

a. Habeas Corpus: This writ can be issued when a person claims that he or she has been illegally kept in detention. In this case, the public official needs to answer the valid reason about the detention of that person.

b. Mandamus: it is the order from the court to a lower court or to a public authority to perform their legal duty properly. To issue this writ, the public authority must be capable of performing that duty and also the duty must have legal rights connected to it. This is issued to check whether all the duties are being discharged properly or not.

c. Prohibition: the writ is issued by a higher court to order a lower court to prohibit it doing from something which the law prohibits. The writ is important for keeping the lower courts in order and to keep a check whether the courts are not taking advantage of their powers.

d. Quo Warranto: under this writ, the higher court has the power to question the lower court that under what authority they are working. It is to keep a check that every body is working to the authority which they are answerable to and are not violating any of them.

e. Certiorari: the higher court under this can ask the lower court to send the record of a case for the review.

Filing of Public Interest Litigation

The Public Interest Litigation can be filed in the Supreme Court to safeguard the fundamental rights of public as a general right. It is filed for the interest of public in general and no personal interest od someone is involved.

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India,[ii] the Supreme Court observed that, apart from safeguarding fundamental rights and looking after the working of lower courts, it also has the duty and power of safeguarding the general interest of public under Article 32.

In Public’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India,[iii]the Supreme Court has observed that the PIL is a strategic movement because due to this the voice of poor people can reach till court. Under Article 32, court gives this opportunity to [poor mass to get their petition filed through NGOs.

Thus, this is a way for the people to avail their rights and to get themselves heard. It promotes the public interest in general and this is an important aspect for a country like India as it has a huge population. It helps in the enforcement of their civil rights and political rights. The economically backward class gets advantage from this.


The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in different aspects and under different articles. It has a wide aspect and it helps the Supreme Court to formulate its own decision without depending in any previous decision.

The conditions are also incorporated and this includes that the PIL that is filed should be bona fide. Hence, the original jurisdiction of Supreme Court lays down many advantages for its citizens.

References: [1] 1963 AIR 1241

[i] 15 January, 2002 [ii] AIR 1987 AIR 1086 [iii] AIR 1982 SC 1473

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