Article 142 of the Constitution

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    1. A five-judge or constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that a court can directly grant divorce under Article 142 of the Constitution.

    More about the News

    • The Court mentioned that in cases where the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without referring the parties to a family court first, where they must wait for 6-18 months for a decree of divorce by mutual consent.
    • The decision enables couples to bypass the time-consuming process of obtaining a decree of divorce through family courts, which have a large number of similar cases pending.

    Article 142 of the Constitution

    • Article 142 provides a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the parties, where, at times, the law or statute may not provide a remedy.
    • In those situations, the Court can extend itself to put an end to a dispute in a manner that would fit the facts of the case.

    Earlier Instances

    • SC has defined its scope and extent through its judgments over time.
      • Prem Chand Garg case (1962):  SC held that an order to do complete justice between the parties “must not only be consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but it cannot even be inconsistent with the substantive provisions of the relevant statutory laws,” referring to laws made by Parliament.
      • Union Carbide Corporation vs Union of India Case (1991):  The SC in 1991 ordered UCC to pay $470 million in compensation for the victims of the tragedy, placing itself in a position above the Parliamentary laws.
      • Siddiq v. Mahant Suresh Das: Popularly known as the Ayodhya dispute, the Supreme Court had exercised the powers mentioned under Article 142 of the Constitution.

    Significance of Article 142

    • Prevents Injustice: It provides a special and extraordinary power to the Supreme Court to do complete justice to the litigants who have suffered traversed illegality or injustice in the proceedings. 
    • Uphold citizen’s rights: Article 142 has been invoked for the purpose of protecting rights of the different sections of the population. 
    • Check on Government: Works as a system of checks and balances with the Government or Legislature.

    Criticism of Article 142

    • The sweeping nature of these powers has invited the criticism that they are arbitrary and ambiguous.
    • Ambiguity: The Supreme Court tried to explain the phrase ‘complete justice’ but it is still blurred. The judgments passed by the Apex Court have created a lot of confusion and there is no clarity on invoking Article 142.
    • Against Separation of powers: The power has been criticised on grounds of the separation of powers doctrine, which says that the judiciary should not venture into areas of lawmaking and that it would invite the possibility of judicial overreach.
    • Promotes Judicial Overreach: In some judgments, it is mentioned that it could be used when the law of statutes is silent. However, by analysing judgments on the use of Article 142 it seems like it is used to fill the lacuna of the law. 
    • Negative impact on the economy: The judgement on the ban on the sale of liquor near national and state highways has affected many hotels, bars, restaurants and liquor shops which resulted in the unemployment of lakhs of people. 

    Way Ahead & Conclusion

    • The Apex Court could make a strict guideline that justifies the use of Article 142 and promotes judicial restraint.
    • The SC can, in every such case, ensure that it would be a “complete justice” for the society without affecting the rights of citizens. 
    • The Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution was mindful of the wide-reaching nature of the powers and reserved it only for exceptional situations.

    Source: IE