Special Leave Petition

Special Leave Petition: A Unique Mechanism

Ayaskanta Parida & Manali Chotalia

Special Leave Petition is a petition filed by the aggrieved party in the apex court. When any party is unsatisfied with the High court or any Tribunal’s judgement/verdict, it can make a further petition to the Supreme Court of India. SLP is not an appeal but a petition filed for an appeal in the apex court. The Supreme Court on hearing the matter may grant the special leave if it finds it fit to do so and thus, the petition turns into an ‘appeal’.

The Supreme Court of India has been granted the power to give special leave by the Article 136 of the Indian Constitution in which the absolute power is vested with the Supreme Court regarding the interpretation of the petition for special leave.

Article 136 states: 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 judgement, 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 judgement, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.

The procedure for filing SLP is laid out in order XVI of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966.

Under this, whenever there is a question of law involved or extreme injustice done in a case, then SLP can be made. It can be filed against any High court/Tribunal’s judgement or decree and also when the High court refuses to grant certificate of fitness for appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

This petition should state all the facts which are necessary for the Supreme Court to determine whether the ‘leave’ should be granted or not. Against the judgement of the High court, the SLP can be filed within 90 days from the judgement given and in case where certificate of fitness for appeal is denied then it can be filed within 60 days.

Any aggrieved party can approach the Supreme Court under Article 136 and be heard under criminal or civil appeal, however, ‘discretionary power’ has been given by the Constitution to the Supreme Court and its decision to grant an appeal or not will be final. It was observed in the case of Ashok Nagar Welfare Association Vs. R.K. Sharma that in cases where special leave is granted, the discretionary power vested in the Court continues to remain with the Court even at the stage when the appeal comes up for hearing.

All the facts necessary in the case for which SLP is filed should be stated clearly in the petition and should be signed by the advocate in record. A statement that the petitioner has not filed any other petition in the High Court should also be produced, a certified copy of the judgement given in the case and an affidavit for the same should be given by the petitioner along with all the lower court pleadings.

If the ‘leave’ is granted by the Supreme Court, then the case shall be heard and a modified judgement may be given accordingly.

The Supreme court may also deny the SLP, like in the case of Kunhayammed v State of Kerala, AIR 2000 SC 2587 where

the petitioner had filed a petition for grant of SLP which was denied by the Supreme Court. Here, the denial of SLP does not mean there is res judicata but only that the case was not fit for granting SLP and it was at the discretion of the petitioner to approach the court for a review under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

In the case of

Pritam Singh v State, AIR 1950 SC 169:1950 SCR 45 in which

a petition was filed for SLP on the order given by the High Court in which the conviction of the appellant was upheld on charge of murder and a death sentence passed by the sessions court was confirmed. The SLP, was however, not granted as the Supreme court explained how will the discretionary powers be exercised.

“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. By virtue of this article, we can grant special leave in civil cases, in criminal cases, in income tax cases, in cases which come up before different kinds of tribunals and in a variety of other cases. The only uniform standard in which our opinion can be laid down in the circumstances is that the Court should grant special leave to appeal only in those cases where special circumstances are shown to exist”.

The Supreme Court has also expressed anguish over the way SLPs were being used. In the case of Mathai @Joby v. George, it was alleged that the will of the defendant was not legitimate and hence should be sent for forensic testing. This request was denied by the Trial Court and the High Court, after which SLP was invoked to bring the matter up before the Supreme Court. The Court rejected the request and referred the use of SLP in such a manner as trivialization of the discretionary power of the court. It was also in the case of Bengal Chemicals v.Their Workmen where the court restricted the scope of SLPs to cases where there was a violation of the principles of natural justice, inflicting substantial and grave injustice to parties.

In the case of CCE v National Tobacco Co of India Ltd., AIR 1972 SC 2563

, special leave was granted as there was interpretation of statute on the basis of the new

plea. The primary objective of SLP was laid out by the apex court in the case of Laxmi & Co v Anand R Deshpande, AIR 1973, SC 171, where

it was held that “the court takes notice of subsequent events while hearing appeals under Article 136 to shorten litigation, to preserve the rights of both the parties and to sub serve the ends of justice.”