Special leave petition (SLP) – Article 136 of Indian Constitution

Special leave petition (SLP) – Article 136 of Indian Constitution


Special leave petition under Article 136 of Indian Constitution can be understood as an appeal to the Supreme Court only with its permission or leave. It is provided as a residual power to the Apex Court of India to be exercised only in cases where substantial question of law is involved or gross injustice has been done. The Constitution of India under Article 136 provided Supreme Court of India with a special power to grant special leave to appeal against any judgment or order or decree, in any matter or cause, given by tribunal or court within the territory of India.

Article 136 states– “Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court:

(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.

(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.”

Article 136(2) provides only exception of article 136(1). Article 136(2) states that any court and tribunal related to armed forces are the only courts and tribunals which are expressly exempted from the scope of article 136.

In Pritam Singh vs State[1], it was stated by the court- “By the virtue of this article we can grant special leave in civil cases, in criminal cases, in income tax cases, in cases which comes up before different kinds of tribunals and any variety of other cases”.

The two conditions to invoke article 136 are-

  1. Determination or order sought be appealed from must have the character of judicial nature adjudication. Purely executive or administrative direction is not considered to be made subject matter of appeal to the supreme court under article 136.
  2. The authority whose act is complained must be a court or tribunal.

Article 136 does not provide for appeal, but a petition for appeal. It is at the discretion of supreme court to grant permission to be heard if it deems fit to be heard. After permission is granted the special leave petition is automatically converted into appeal.

In State of A.P. vs P. Anjaneyulu[2], an appeal permitted under article 136 cannot be allowed to be withdrawn, unless adequate and valid reasons to the satisfaction of court is provided. Court can refuse the withdrawal of appeal and decide it on merit.

Features of Special Leave Petition-

  1. Power to grant special leave petition is not limited to judgments, decrees or final orders of High Court. It can be granted even against the decision of lower courts such as magistrate.
  2. Appeals lie from all orders and judgments of all courts and tribunals within the territory of India, except in clause (2).
  3. There is no necessity that order should be final order as a result appeal against interlocutory orders are also permissible. Interlocutory orders refer to an order, judgement, sentence or decree given in an intermediate stage between commencement and termination of the case.
  4. The order, decree or judgment of the court or tribunal can be related to civil, criminal or otherwise.
  5. In a criminal appeal by the way of special leave petition, the court is not concerned with formal rules, but only with the question weather there has been a miscarriage of justice.

Contents of Special Leave Petition-

  • Special Leave Petition should state all the facts that are necessary to enable the court to determine weather special leave petition ought to be granted or not.
  • Special Leave Petition should be signed by the advocate on record.
  • Special Leave Petition should also contain a statement that the petitioner has not filed by any other petition in the High Court.
  • Special Leave Petition should be followed by a certified copy of judgment appealed against and an affidavit by petitioner verifying the same.
  • Special Leave Petition should also be accompanied by all documents that formed part of pleading in Lower Court.

Scope of power of Supreme Court under article 136

  • It vested Supreme Court with the power to entertain appeals in certain suitable cases not otherwise provided in the Constitution of India. By the virtue of decided cases, it has been established that Supreme Court will grant special leave to appeal in exceptional cases where serious, grave and substantial injustice has been done regarding the law or violation of principle of natural justice or otherwise.
  • Article 136 of Indian Constitution does not confer right of appeal on the people but it confers a wide discretionary power on the Supreme Court to grant special leave to appeal in certain cases.
  • The court may also take sou moto cognizance under article 136 of Indian Constitution[3].

In Pritam Singh vs State, while explaining the discretion of the court the Supreme Court observed- “The wide discretionary power with which this Court is invested under it is to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional cases only, and as far as possible a more or less uniform standard should be adopted in granting special leave in the wide range of matters which can come up before it under this article. By virtue of this article, we can grant special leave in civil cases, in criminal cases, in income tax cases, in cases which come up before different kinds of tribunals and in a variety of other cases. The only uniform standard which in our opinion can be laid down in the circumstances is that Court should grant special leave to appeal only in those cases where special circumstances are shown to exist.”

Supreme Court does not allow the issues not raised before lower courts to be raised before itself for the first time. Any error even regarding law does not justify interference under article 136.

Criminal cases under Article 136

The Supreme Court does not proceed to review the evidence in criminal appeal under Article 136 of Indian Constitution unless there happen to be serious legal defect or grave irregularity by the lower courts and such irregularity and illegality has resulted in miscarriage of justice[4]. The court may intervene even if these conditions are not satisfied.[5]

Principles regarding the interference of Supreme Court in criminal appeals by special leave

In Dalbir Kaur vs State of Punjab[6], court has highlighted some principles regarding the interference of Supreme Court in criminal appeals by special leave-

  • Court will not interfere with the existing finding of facts based on pure recognition of evidence even if the Supreme Court is to take different view on the evidence.
  • Court will not usually enter into a review of the evidence, unless the finding of High Court is impaired by an error of law or procedure, or is based on error of record, or misreading of evidences.
  • Court would not enter into credibility of evidences with a view to replace its own opinion for that of High Court.
  • Court will interfere where the High Court has arrived a decision by neglecting the judicial process, or principles of natural justice or fair hearing, or procedure resulting in serious bias and injustice to the accused or has acted contrary to the provision of law.
  • Court can also interfere in the cases where on the facts wrong law has been applied or where the decision of the High Court is evidently contrary and based on no evidence.

Tribunals under Article 136

As discussed above, special leave to appeal under article 136 is not restricted to determination or order of court of law but also includes ‘tribunal’. A tribunal is an authority or body, which is invested with judicial power to adjudicate on questions of law or fact, though not a court in purest sense.

Appeals from tribunals are entertained under this article for example against the decision of industrial tribunal, central administrative tribunal, election commission, railway rates tribunal, labour appellate tribunal, income tax appellate tribunal.

A body or authority for being recognized as tribunal for the purpose of article 136 must possess following features-

  1. It must be an authority or body invested with power to determine questions or disputes affecting the rights of citizen.
  2. Such an authority or body has duty to act judicially.[7]
  3. Such an authority or body must be invested with judicial power. This means it should be invested with trappings of a court.[8]

Bharat Bank Ltd vs Employees, [9]in this case nature of tribunal against whose decision appeal can be filed under article 136 was defined. The issue in the case was weather industrial tribunal comes under the scope of article 136. It was decided that industrial tribunal is a tribunal for the purpose of article 136.

Industrial tribunal invested with the following characteristics off the court of law-

  1. Proceedings initiates on the submission of application which is in the nature of the plaint.
  2. It is invested with same power of court like discovery, inspection, taking evidence, as are possessed by civil court.
  3. As in court of law, witnesses are examined and cross examined.
  4. Party may be represented by a legal counsel.
  5. Tribunal comes to the decision on the evidence adduced and according to the provision of statute.
  6. Members of tribunal are persons qualified to be the judges.

The grounds on which supreme court can interfere with the decision of tribunals are-

  • Tribunal have acted in excess of the jurisdiction given under the statute.
  • Clear error ostensibly in the decision.
  • Awards by the tribunal are contrary to the principles of natural justice causing grave injustice to the parties.
  • The tribunal is incorrectly applied the principle of jurisprudence.


[1] 1950 AIR 169, 1950 SCR 453

[2] AIR 1982 SC 1598, 1983 CriLJ 153, 1983 (1) Crimes 145 SC, 1982 (2) SCALE 1055, (1984) 2 SCC 445

[3] Pawan Kumar vs State of Haryana

[4] Liyakat Mian vs State of Bihar,1973

[5] Ram Singh vs Sonia,2007

[6] 1977 AIR 472, 1977 SCR (1) 280

[7] Jaswant Sugar Mills Ltd vs Lakshmi Chand

[8] Jaswant Sugar Mills Ltd vs Lakshmi Chand

[9] 1950 AIR 188, 1950 SCR 459

Author: sarthbodhi wankhade,
Symbiosis Law School and 5th Year (BA LLB)

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