ARTICLE 142 OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION (Syllabus GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     21st February 2024        
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Context: In overturning the results of the January 30 elections for the post of Mayor of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, the Supreme Court invoked the sweeping powers conferred on the court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Article 142 of the Constitution

  • About: Article 142 provides the Supreme Court with exceptional authority to ensure "complete justice" in situations where statutory laws may be insufficient to address a dispute adequately.
  • Exercise of Powers: Over time, the Supreme Court has elucidated and defined the boundaries within which it can exercise its powers under Article 142 through various judgments.
  • Prem Chand Garg Case: In the Prem Chand Garg case, the Supreme Court delineated the parameters for exercising its powers under Article 142(1). It emphasized that orders for complete justice must align with constitutional rights and statutory laws.
  • Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case: The Bhopal gas tragedy case demonstrated the expansive interpretation of Article 142(1). The Supreme Court ordered compensation, showcasing the wide reach of its powers beyond ordinary laws.
  • Constitutional Supremacy of Article 142: The Supreme Court underscored the supremacy of Article 142, emphasizing that it operates at a constitutional level, not bound by ordinary statutory limitations.
  • Overriding Statutory Prohibitions: The court clarified that Article 142 powers are not subject to express statutory prohibitions, asserting that constitutional provisions hold primacy over ordinary laws.

Criticism of Article 142

  • Ambiguity in Interpretation: The Supreme Court's attempt to elucidate the concept of 'complete justice' remains opaque.
  • Confusion in Judgments: Decisions by the Apex Court have spawned confusion, particularly regarding the invocation of Article 142.
  • Against Separation of Powers: Critics argue against Article 142 on the basis of the separation of powers doctrine, cautioning against judicial intrusion into legislative domains.
  • Potential for Judicial Overreach: Article 142's application, particularly in cases of statutory silence, raises concerns about judicial overreach and its role in filling legal voids.

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