The Power of Supreme Court to Review its Own Judgment: An In-depth Analysis of Article 142

November 9, 2023
Statue of Lady Justice


The Supreme Court of a country is often regarded as the ultimate arbiter of justice, tasked with interpreting and upholding the Constitution. In India, the Supreme Court is vested with immense powers, one of which is the authority to review its own judgments under Article 142 of the Constitution. This provision grants the Supreme Court the discretionary power to do complete justice in any matter before it. This article delves into the nuances of Article 142, examining its origins, scope, limitations, and the impact it has had on shaping India’s legal landscape.

Origins of Article 142

Article 142 of the Indian Constitution derives its roots from the inherent powers of the judiciary to dispense justice effectively. The framers of the Constitution recognized the need for a provision that would empower the Supreme Court to render justice in situations where the existing legal framework might prove inadequate. Consequently, Article 142 was incorporated to ensure that the court could pass orders and decrees necessary to do complete justice between the parties.

Scope of Article 142

Article 142 grants the Supreme Court the power to pass any order necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. Unlike other articles in the Constitution that define specific powers and limitations, Article 142 is phrased broadly, allowing the court to exercise its discretion in extraordinary circumstances. This broad wording has given the Supreme Court the flexibility to deliver innovative and pragmatic judgments, often in cases where traditional legal remedies fall short.

Limitations on the Power of the Supreme Court

While Article 142 grants expansive powers to the Supreme Court, there are certain limitations imposed to ensure that these powers are not misused. The primary limitation lies in the principle of reasonableness. The court’s exercise of power under Article 142 must be reasonable, just, and fair. It cannot be arbitrary or contrary to the principles of natural justice.

Additionally, the Supreme Court cannot use Article 142 to override the substantive rights of parties or to create new rights. The exercise of power must be consistent with the existing legal framework and constitutional provisions. The court must respect the separation of powers and not encroach upon the domain of the legislature or the executive.

Impact on Indian Jurisprudence

Over the years, the Supreme Court has used its power under Article 142 to deliver landmark judgments that have shaped the legal landscape of India. In cases involving public interest, environmental protection, social justice, and human rights, the court has employed Article 142 to craft remedies that go beyond traditional legal remedies. For example, in environmental cases, the court has imposed fines on polluters, directed environmental restoration measures, and even ordered the shutdown of industries causing environmental harm.

Landmark cases:

Saroj Rani vs. Sudarshan Kumar Chadha (1984): In this case, the Supreme Court utilized Article 142 to dissolve a marriage that had irretrievably broken down, despite the absence of a specific provision in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The court held that it had the power to grant a decree of divorce to put an end to the futile marriage.

S.P. Sampath Kumar vs. Union of India (1987): In this case, the Supreme Court used Article 142 to pass orders for the auctioning of the properties of a person who had committed contempt of court. This judgment highlighted the court’s authority to issue appropriate orders to ensure compliance with its directives.

D. Velusamy vs. D. Patchaiammal (2010): In a significant judgment related to live-in relationships, the Supreme Court, exercising its power under Article 142, established guidelines to determine the criteria for a relationship to be considered a “relationship in the nature of marriage.” This judgment was crucial in providing legal recognition and rights to individuals in live-in relationships.

Suresh Vs. State of Haryana (2015): In this case, the Supreme Court employed Article 142 to enhance the sentence imposed on the accused by the lower courts, emphasizing the court’s power to act in the interest of justice when the lower courts have imposed an inadequate sentence.

Article 142 has also been instrumental in facilitating alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The court has referred parties to mediation, conciliation, and arbitration, harnessing the power of ADR methods to achieve speedy and efficient resolution of disputes.


Article 142 of the Indian Constitution stands as a testament to the framers’ foresight in ensuring that the Supreme Court possesses the necessary tools to dispense justice effectively. The provision, while broad in its scope, is not without limitations. The court’s exercise of power under Article 142 must be grounded in reasonableness, fairness, and justice.

As India’s legal system continues to evolve, the judicious use of Article 142 will play a pivotal role in addressing the complex challenges of the 21st century. By upholding the principles of justice, equity, and fairness, the Supreme Court can continue to leverage its discretionary powers under Article 142 to foster a just and equitable society.

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