We have chronicled the evolvement of the paramount judiciary in India between 1921 and 1964 from the article.
Sir Hari Singh Gour moved a resolution in Central Legislative Assembly where he urged the establishment of an Indigenous Appellate Tribunal that would be empowered to decide Civil and Criminal Appeals from High Courts of British India.
Spokesmen for Indian States at the “Indian Round Table Conference, London” while expressing willingness to participate in a federation with Provinces agreed with the other leaders that should a Federation emerge, a Federal Court would be essential to interpret the Constitution.
Federal Court was inaugurated after the Government of India Act, 1935. Though an important institution, its jurisdiction was very limited and its decisions were subject to review by Privy Council.
Federal Court in its first 4 ½ years handed down only 27 decisions, but in 1942 it handed down the first in a series of decisions where it either boldly struck down provisions of the infamous sedition, preventive detention and special criminal court ordinances and legislation, or declared that the executive had not acted within the limits of its authority.
These decisions were proof of the resoluteness, impartiality and independence of the Federal Court, and they served to inspire a high degree of confidence in the Court
Judicial autonomy of Federal Court was attained when Constituent Assembly passed the Abolition of Privy Council Jurisdiction Act and ties with Privy Council were severed, 2 years post Country’s Independence.
Federal Court was replaced by Supreme Court of India when the Constitution became operative. The Supreme Court was at the summit of a pyramidal and unified judicial system, endowed with an extraordinarily wide jurisdiction, and explicitly authorized to exercise the power of judicial review unlike the Federal Court.
A. K. Gopalan v. The State of Madras (MANU/SC/0012/1950)
This was the first case in which the Supreme Court was called upon to interpret the new Constitution, the first to involve the fundamental rights, the first to involve the controversial Preventive Detention Act, the first in which an individual bypassed all lower courts and took his grievance directly to the Supreme Court, and the first in which the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its new powers, declared unconstitutional a portion of a Parliamentary enactment.
Dorairajan case (MANU/SC/0007/1951)
This decision must be regarded as one of the most important ever rendered by the Supreme Court, for it was the first to involve both the fundamental rights and the directive principles, and the Court in its decision not only enforced the fundamental right over the directive principle, but went so far as to describe the fundamental rights as “sacrosanct” and the directive principles as “subsidiary”.
Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act in 1955
Fourth Amendment had the effect of limiting the Court’s review powers in cases involving restriction and acquisition of property rights. If proof was necessary that the Government intended to proceed with its various programs affecting property rights irrespective of decisions of the Supreme Court, or that judicial review in India does not mean judicial supremacy, the Fourth Amendment provides the relevant evidence.
- Supreme Court’s shift toward a more liberal interpretation of the Constitution
In a few recent decisions, the Court has discussed rather freely the Social and Economic policy considerations which are either explicit or implicit in the Constitution and various enactments, and has even endorsed the directive principles as worthy goals.