New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday said its ”overriding and exceptional” power under the Constitution to hear appeals against any judgement has to be exercised sparingly to prevent ”grave or serious miscarriage of justice”.
The top court, under Article 136 of the Constitution, is vested with a special power to grant ”special leave”, to appeal against ”any judgement or order or decree in any matter or cause” passed by any court, or tribunal in the country. The observations came in a verdict from a bench comprising justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari while setting aside the appeal of one Mekala Sivaiah against his conviction and award of life imprisonment for stabbing to death an agriculturist near Amravati in Andhra Pradesh on September 6, 2006, in a vegetable market.
The trial court and the high court both held him guilty of the offence. ”It is important to reiterate that Article 136 of the Constitution is an extraordinary jurisdiction which this court exercises when it entertains an appeal by special leave and this jurisdiction, by its very nature, is exercisable only when this court is satisfied that it is necessary to interfere in order to prevent grave or serious miscarriage of justice,” Justice Murari, writing the judgement, said.
Referring to past judgements, the bench said it is not the practice of the apex court to ”re-appreciate the evidence for the purpose of examining” whether the findings of fact concurrently arrived at by the Trial Court and the High Court are correct or not.
”It is only in rare and exceptional cases where there is some manifest illegality or grave and serious miscarriage of justice on account of misreading or ignoring material evidence, then this Court would interfere with such finding of fact,” it said. It said judicial pronouncements have settled that the constitutional scheme is worded in wide terms and powers conferred under this Article are not hedged by any technical hurdles.
”The overriding and exceptional power is, however, to be exercised sparingly and only in furtherance of the cause of justice. Thus, when the judgement under appeal has resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice by some misapprehension or misreading of evidence or by ignoring material evidence then this Court is not only empowered but is well expected to interfere to promote the cause of justice,” it said.
Elaborating on the role of the Supreme Court, the verdict said it does not function as a regular court of appeal in every criminal case.
”Normally, the High Court is a final court of appeal and this court is only a court of special jurisdiction. This court would not, therefore, reappraise the evidence to determine the correctness of findings unless there are exceptional circumstances where there is manifest illegality or grave and serious miscarriage of justice,” it said.
Citing an example, the verdict said the apex court would intervene when the forms of legal process are disregarded or principles of natural justice are violated or substantial and grave injustice has otherwise resulted. Dealing with the facts of the case and the dispute raised by the convict over the veracity of witnesses’ accounts, the bench said the testimony of a witness in a criminal trial cannot be discarded merely because of minor contradictions or omissions.