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Article 142 Of the Constitution


The Supreme Court recently held its extraordinary discretion under Article 142 of the Constitution can be used to do “complete justice” for couples trapped in bitter marriages by granting them divorce by mutual consent.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Extraordinary powers under Article 142
  2. Pros of Article 142
  3. Cons of Article 142
  4. Significant cases where Article 142 was invoked

Extraordinary powers under Article 142

  • Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
  • From Article 142, the Supreme Court derives overarching powers to perform the functions of Executive and legislative in order to bring about complete justice.
  • In this pursuit, Article 142 is supplemented by the Articles 32 (Right to constitutional remedies), Article 141 (The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India) and Article 136 (Special Leave petition).
  • This is often termed as judicial activism. 

Pros of Article 142

  • For upholding citizens’ rights and implementing constitutional principles when the executive and legislature fails to do so.
  • Sets out a system of check and balance and controls to the other branches of the government.
  • For example:
    • In Vishakha v State of Rajasthan case, Supreme Court laid down the guidelines to protect a woman from sexual harassment at its workplace
    • Bandhua Mukti Morcha Case  Court gave its landmark judgment on bonded labour system of India
    • In Olga Tellis Case where Right to livelihood was declared part and parcel of the right to life.

Cons of Article 142:

  • Judiciary cant be held accountable for its decisions.
  • It creates slippery slope of Judicial overreach.
  • Repeated use of Art 142 can diminish the faith of the people in the integrity, quality, and efficiency of the government.

Significant cases where Article 142 was invoked:

Babri Masjid Case:

  • The article was used in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
  • It was instrumental in the handover of the disputed land to a trust to be formed by the union government.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy:

  • The SC invoked its plenary powers in the Union Carbide vs Union Govt case.
  • It intervened to provide compensation to victims of the deadly Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024