Article 142

  • Article 142 provides a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do complete justice between the parties, where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy.
  • It provides the apex court with a special and extraordinary power and is meant to provide justice to litigants who have suffered traversed illegality or injustice in the course of legal proceedings.
  • In such instances, the Court can go beyond its usual limits to settle a dispute in a way that matches the specifics of the case.
  • Powers of SC under this article
    • The Art. 142 confers on the Supreme Court plenary power to pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice.
    • The SC can do so in any cause or matter pending before it.
    • Such orders of SC are enforceable throughout the territory of India as prescribed by any law made by Parliament or order of the President of India.

Noticeable Use of Art. 142

  • 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 v. Union of India (1991)
    • Article 142 remained unnoticed till the SC gave its decision in The Bhopal Gas Disaster Case.
    • In this case, SC announced a settlement and stated that all civil proceedings wherever pending were concluded in terms of settlement.
    • It quashed all criminal proceedings arising out of the disaster.
    • In this case, the SC in 1991 ordered UCC to pay $470 million in compensation for the victims of the tragedyplacing itself in a position above the Parliamentary laws.
  • Babri Masjid Case
    • The article was used in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case and was instrumental in the handover of the disputed land to a trust to be formed by the union government.
  • Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secretary
    • The Supreme Court can deal with exceptional circumstances interfering with the larger interest of the public in order to fabricate trust in the rule of law.

Curative Petition – An Innovative use of Art 142

  • The Supreme Court evolved the idea of curative petitions in the landmark judgment of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra.
    • The five-judge bench observed that Article 142 of the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to act in whatever manner they may deem fit to establish complete justice.
    • Therefore, to protect the substantive rights of the litigant, the Constitution Bench came up with the theory of a curative petition.
  • Curative petition will be entertained on strong grounds only e.g.
    • Violation of principles of natural justice.
    • Where the judge has a bias
  • It has to be certified by a senior advocate. If the bench finds that the petition is vexatious and without any merit it may impose exemplary costs on the petition.

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.


  • In R.S. Naik vs A. R. Antulay – SC, using Art 142, transferred cases against Antulay pending before the special judge to the High Court.
  • In Vinay Chandra Mishra case – SC convicted Mishra for contempt of court.
    • It was not proper for SC as the power to take disciplinary action is vested in the Bar Council under the Advocates Act.
  • Cancellation of Coal Block Allocation – In 2014, the SC, using Art 142, cancelled the allocation of coal blocks granted from 1993 onwards.
    • It was the domain of executive.


  • On the grounds of separation of power
    • Unlike the legislature and the executive, the judiciary cannot be held accountable for its actions.
    • The power has been criticised on grounds of the separation of powers doctrine.
  • Definition of complete justice
    • It is further argued that the court has wide discretion due to the absence of a standard definition for the term complete justice.
    • Defining complete justice is a subjective exercise that differs in its interpretation from case to case.
  • 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. 

Limitations on Article 142

  • SC recognised that the power under Art 142 has certain limitations and fetters.
  • It held that while exercising power under this article:
    • The court should not ignore the substantive rights of a litigant under the existing law.
    • The power could not be used to supplant substantive law applicable to a case.
    • Express statutory provisions cannot be ignored.
    • It cannot exercise the jurisdiction in violation of the statute.
  • It clarified that no court has competence to issue a direction contrary to the law.
  • The courts are meant to enforce the rule of law and not to pass orders contrary to law.
  • In 2006, the apex court ruling by a five-judge Bench in ‘State of Karnataka vs Umadevi’ clarified that complete justice under Article 142 means justice according to law and not sympathy.

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.
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