Understanding the Scope of Article 142

Article 142 of the Indian Constitution grants the Supreme Court of India vast and unique powers, often referred to as “plenary powers.” These powers are intrinsic and inherent, designed to allow the court to deliver complete justice in any case or matter before it. However, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court on October 4, 2023, has reiterated a crucial principle: while Article 142 provides expansive authority, it cannot be employed to override or replace the substantive statutory laws that apply to a particular case or cause under the court’s consideration.

Case Overview: Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd.

To illustrate this principle, the Supreme Court examined a case involving Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd., an auction purchaser. Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd. Had filed a Miscellaneous Application in a Civil Appeal that had previously been disposed of. The application sought the issuance of a sale certificate from the Appellant Bank, Union of India, on the basis that SunviewAssets Pvt. Ltd. Had fully and finally paid the auction amount, along with interest, as per a Supreme Court order dated May 12, 2020.

However, the Supreme Court noted that Sunview Assets Pvt.Ltd. Had not adhered to Rule 9 of the Security Interest (Enforcement) Rules, 2002. This rule deals with the time of sale, the issuance of sale certificates, and the delivery of possession in cases involving e-auctions of immovable secured assets. Additionally, Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd. Had failed to comply with the court’s previous orders to deposit the required amount with interest.

Article 142 vs. Statutory Provisions*

In response to these issues, Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd. Argued that the Supreme Court should consider the subsequent deposits made on July 22, 2022, and August 26, 2022, as a form of compliance with the May 12, 2020 court order. Furthermore, it urged the court to utilize its inherent powers under Article 142 to extend the time limit.

Court’s Ruling on Article 142

The Supreme Court, in its judgment, reaffirmed a well-established legal principle: when a statute specifies a particular action to be taken in a specific manner, it must be executed in that precise manner and cannot be done differently. This principle ensures that statutory provisions are respected and upheld, maintaining the integrity of the legal process.

Citing Precedents: Supreme Court Bar Association vs. Union of India

To support its position, the Court cited the case of Supreme Court Bar Association vs. Union of India and Another (1998) 4 SCC 409. In this case, it was underscored that Article 142, despite its expansive scope, cannot be employed to bypass express statutory provisions on a subject or achieve indirectly what cannot be accomplished directly.

Consequences: Dismissal of the Miscellaneous Application

In light of this legal framework, the Supreme Court dismissed the Miscellaneous Application filed by Sunview Assets Pvt. Ltd. The court found that the application was not maintainable because it sought substantive relief in a Civil Appeal that had already been disposed of. Furthermore, the court expressed disapproval of the practice of filing repeated applications, often styled as Miscellaneous Applications, when there was no valid legal basis. 

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between the court’s plenary powers under Article 142 and the importance of adhering to substantive statutory provisions. While Article 142 empowers the court to achieve complete justice, it cannot be used to bypass or replace established laws. This decision underscores the significance of upholding statutory provisions and maintaining the integrity of the legal process, even in cases that may seem exceptional or complex. Ultimately, it reaffirms the principle that justice must be delivered within the framework of the law.

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