Special Leave Petition Meaning?
Special Leave petition (SLP) means that an individual takes special permission to be heard in appeal against any high court/tribunal verdict.
Thus it is not an appeal but a petition filed for an appeal.
So after an SLP is filed, the Supreme Court may hear the matter and if it deems fit, it may grant the ‘leave’ and convert that petition into an ‘appeal’.
SLP shall then become an Appeal and the Court will hear the matter and pass a judgment.
Where is the provision mentioned for a Special Leave Petition?
Under Article 136, the Constitution of India gives power to the Supreme Court to grant special permission or leave to an aggrieved party to appeal against an order or judgement or decree passed in any of the lower courts or tribunals in India.
- It can be filed against any judgment or decree or order of any high court /tribunal in the territory of India, or
- It can be filed in case a high court refuses to grant the certificate of fitness for appeal to the Supreme Court of India.
In which circumstances can an SLP be entertained?
The Honorable Supreme Court accepts SLP in those cases where there is a question of law iinvolved not a question of fact. Moreover, if it is a question of fact then there should be an emergence of fact which is pivotal in the case and could not be discovered without due diligence and the petitioner feels that the high court has not applied the law with due care and caution.
The case of Pritam Singh v. State, (AIR 1950 SC 169:1950 SCR 453) has had a huge importance in understanding the SLP.
This was an appeal by special leave from a judgment and order of the High Court of Judicature for the Province of East Punjab at Simla dated the 23rd November, 1949, in Criminal Appeal No. 367 of 1949 upholding the conviction of the appellant on a charge of murder and confirming a sentence of death passed on him by the Sessions Judge of Ferozepore. On appeal, the Punjab High Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence. The counsel for the special leave pleaded that once an appeal had been admitted by special leave, the entire case was at large and the appellant had the freedom to contest all the findings of the High Court or the trial Court.
The SC found this totally unwarranted. The SC actually explained how the discretionary powers will be exercised in granting special leave to appeal. This has actually gone on to define SLP. The appeal was subsequently dismissed.
In normal circumstances, the SC does not interfere with an order of acquittal by the High Court as has been exemplified in the case of State of AP v the P Anjaneyulu (AIR 1982, SC 1184).
In exceptional situation only, the SC allows an appellant to raise fresh pleas under special leave. As, in the case of CCE v National Tobacco Co of India Ltd. (AIR 1972 SC 2563), where the authority does not have any jurisdiction under the rules to issue the impugned notice the SC allowed a special leave. However, a new plea requiring investigations of facts is not generally permitted at this level. Once again, in a situation, where an interpretation of a statute is the basis of a new plea, leave petition may be permitted. In the case of Laxmi & Co. v Anand R Deshpande, (AIR 1973, SC 171), it was held that “the court takes notice of subsequent events while hearing appeals under Article 136 to shorten litigation, to preserve the rights of both the parties and to subserve the ends of justice”.
TIME LIMIT TO FILE SLP
- It can be filed against any judgment of a high court within 90 days from the date of judgment, or
- It can be filed within 60 days against the order of a high court refusing to grant the certificate of fitness for appeal to Supreme Court.
Any aggrieved party can file an Special Leave Petition against the judgment or order of refusal of grant of a certificate.
Through Special Leave Petition, an aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court against any judgement passed by any lower court or tribunal. This leave is granted when the case involves a question of law. Mere errors of fact, mis-appreciation of evidence or even findings of fact arrived at wrongly are not grounds of appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is only concerned with the question of law i.e. if the law was correctly applied, whether the interpretation of the law was in accordance with the settled principles of law etc.
The aggrieved party or the petitioner filing Special Leave Petition has to give a brief synopsis of the facts and issues presented in the case along with a list of dates specifying the chronology of events pertinent to the judgement. Along with this, the petitioner has to formulate questions of law to appeal against the judgement. These questions should pertain to laws relevant to the general public as well.
Once registered and presented in the Supreme Court, the petitioner will get a hearing before the Court. Subsequently, depending on the merits of the case, the Supreme Court will issue a notice to the opposite parties who will then file a counter affidavit stating their views. It’s at this point that the Supreme Court will decide whether to grant leave to the petitioner or not. If the Court grants leave, the case is then converted into a civil appeal and will be argued afresh in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court can rescind or revoke the earlier judgement, modify it or allow it. The Court can also send the case back to the relevant lower court for fresh adjudication in light of principles laid down by it or on account of any issues missed out by the lower court.
Article 133–136 of the Constitution of India defines the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Article 133 provides for civil appeals from orders of the High Court, Article 134 provides for criminal appeals and Article 136 provides for special leave petition. If a case does not fall within Article 133 or Article 134 then under Article 136 the Supreme Court may be moved and a special permission may be sought to grant leave to appeal.
Appeal to Supreme Court is not a matter of right but it is a matter of privilege which only the Supreme Court will grant to any individual if there exists an important constitutional or legal issue involved. Appeals are regulated by the Constitution of India and Supreme Court Rules, 2013.
According to Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court’s judgement is declared as law of the land and is binding on all courts in India.
What is so special about article 136 that distinguishes it from the general appeals listed in 132-135 are as follows.
First, it is not just restricted to appeals against judgments, decrees and final orders of the High court but it can also be granted against the judgments of lower courts.
The second thing to note is that article 136 is fluid and flexible compared to articles 132-135 which deals with appeals. What is basically meant is that the judgments, decrees or orders do not have to be final in nature and appeals are allowed even against interlocutory and interim judgments and they may be from cases or matters of either criminal or civil nature or otherwise.
However, in the normal course, it is generally expected that the appellant has exhausted all other recourses the law provides. Moreover, there may not be any law which limits the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court when it comes to article 136.
In leading case laws the following rules have been established.
By virtue of this article, we can grant special leave in cases of civil, criminal, Income tax-related cases, cases from various tribunals and any variety of other cases.
SLP can also be filed when a High Court does not approve fitness for appeal to the Supreme Court.
Ordinarily, a private party other than the complainant should not be permitted to appeal.
In the case of Kunhayammed v State of Kerala, AIR 2000 SC 2587, the discussion was about the exercise of the jurisdiction under article 136 and if it consisted of granting of the SLP and subsequently hearing the appeal. The court has a choice to grant the SLP and if the court decides to not grant it on its findings then the appellate jurisdiction of the court does not come into existence. However, mere dismissal of the SLP petition does not mean that there is res judicata, it merely means that the case was not fit for the grant of SLP and it is open to the aggrieved party to approach the concerned court for review under article 226.
Kapil Chandna Advocate
Practicing advocate at Supreme Court of India