Advisory Jurisdiction of Supreme Court: Navigating Legal Complexities

October 17, 2023
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The Advisory Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in India is a unique facet of its constitutional role, allowing it to provide advice on questions of law or fact referred to it by the President. While the primary function of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate disputes, its advisory jurisdiction serves as a consultative mechanism, contributing to the interpretation and development of constitutional principles.

Constitutional Provisions

1.1 Article 143: The Cornerstone

The advisory jurisdiction finds its roots in Article 143 of the Indian Constitution. This provision empowers the President of India to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on questions of law or fact that have arisen or are likely to arise. However, the jurisdiction is not unfettered; it comes with limitations to ensure its judicious application.

1.2 Judicial Discretion and Limitations

While Article 143 grants the Supreme Court the authority to provide advice, it also places restrictions. The court cannot render opinions on hypothetical or abstract issues, ensuring that its advisory function remains tied to concrete legal questions of significance.

Circumstances under Which Advisory Jurisdiction Is Invoked

2.1 Presidential Reference: A Common Occurrence

The most prevalent scenario triggering the advisory jurisdiction is a Presidential Reference. The President, faced with matters of great public importance or legal complexity, seeks the opinion of the Supreme Court. This often occurs when constitutional interpretation or the validity of legislation is in question.

2.2 Treaty Obligations: A Global Perspective

Another avenue through which advisory jurisdiction is invoked is concerning treaty obligations. When a question arises regarding the interpretation of a treaty, the President, acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers, may refer the matter to the Supreme Court for its opinion, ensuring coherence in international legal obligations.

Procedure and Considerations

3.1 Presidential Reference Initiation

The process commences with a formal reference from the President to the Supreme Court, outlining the specific questions that require elucidation. The court, in exercising its judicial discretion, decides whether to accept the reference, considering factors such as the significance and complexity of the legal issues involved.

3.2 Deliberations by the Supreme Court

Once accepted, the Supreme Court engages in a comprehensive examination. It may summon all relevant documents and persons, conduct investigations, and hear arguments. This meticulous process ensures that the advice rendered is well-informed, addressing the intricacies of the legal questions posed.

Significance of Advisory Jurisdiction

4.1 Clarity on Constitutional Issues

The advisory jurisdiction plays a pivotal role in bringing clarity to constitutional issues. By seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court, the executive branch gains access to the judiciary’s expertise, navigating complex legal questions with a nuanced understanding of constitutional principles.

4.2 Enhancing Legal Certainty

In cases involving treaty obligations, the advisory jurisdiction contributes significantly to legal certainty. By providing authoritative interpretations, the Supreme Court ensures that India upholds its international agreements and obligations with precision and clarity.

Criticisms and Debates

5.1 Potential Judicial Activism

Critics argue that the exercise of advisory jurisdiction might lead to judicial activism, as the court is not confined to resolving disputes between parties but is providing guidance on broader legal and constitutional issues. This raises concerns about the court potentially overstepping its role.

5.2 Resource Utilization

There are valid concerns about the utilization of judicial resources for advisory opinions. As the court is engaged in a consultative capacity, there is a risk that this could divert attention and resources from its primary role as an adjudicatory body.


The advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Indian law adds a nuanced layer to the judiciary’s role in upholding the rule of law. It exemplifies the delicate balance between the executive and judicial branches, providing a mechanism for resolving complex legal questions. As India’s legal landscape continues to evolve, the advisory jurisdiction remains a dynamic tool that requires thoughtful consideration, ensuring its judicious application in the service of constitutional principles.

The above article tries to clear the concept of this very topic for students who are preparing for judiciary exams. Students can also join any institute which provide RJS coaching.

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