SP Gupta v. Union Of India (AIR 1982 SC 149)

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  1. Justice A. C. Gupta
  2. Justice D. A. Desai 
  3. E. S. Venkataramiah
  4. P. N. Bhagawati
  5. R. S. Pathak
  6. Syed. M. Fazal Ali
  7. V. D. Tulzapurkar


Petitioner- S.P. Gupta

Respondent- Union of India


The case of S.P. Gupta v. Union of India[1] is the first case on the issue of ‘Three Judges’ which has established precedence for the collegium system of the Apex Courts and High Courts of India.  The case is famously known as ‘First Judges Case’ or the ‘Judges Transfer case’. In a continuation of three separate cases brought in the Indian Supreme court namely-

  • S. P. Gupta v. Union of India of 1982 which is also known as the Court of Appeal.
  • Supreme Court Advocates – on Record Association v. Union of India[2]– In this case, a 9-judge bench partly overruled the judgement of SP Gupta v. Union of India and held that the decision of the Chief Justice of India shall be binding if a difference in opinion arises.   
  • In Re Special Reference 1 of 1998[3] – The 9-judge bench further explained the meaning of ‘consultation’. In this case, the Court laid stress and said that the expression “consultation with the Chief Justice of India” under Articles 217(1) and 222(1) of the Indian Constitution requires consultation with a plurality of Judges in the opinion of the said Chief Justice of India. The sole individual opinion of the Chief Justice of India does not include “consultation” within the meaning of the Articles 217 (1) and 222 (1) of the Constitution.”

The court introduced a principle of independent jurisdiction which means that no other organ of state – including the legislature and the executive – will have say when the judges are elected.

The Indian Supreme Court rejected the case of local government for insurance against divulgence and showed directions to the Union of India to reveal the records that were mentioned in it. The candidates aimed at revealing correspondence between the three Ministers, that is, the Law Minister, the Chief Justice of Delhi, and the Chief Justice of India on the arrangement of judges.

 A seven Judges Bench of the Apex Court dealt with the following issues:

  1. Independence of Judiciary concerning the appointment and transfer of Judges
  2. The appointment of the Additional Judges of the High Court 
  3. The privilege of the Government against disclosure of the documents of the State and the scope of judicial review on the powers exercised by the President. 

A bundle of cases were clubbed with the instant case since they raised common issues of constitutional importance and were decided together, though they were raised in two batches of writ petitions filed in different High Courts which were further transferred to the Supreme Court under Article 139-A of the Constitution. Another writ was filed in the Court of Records. Many other related issues were raised and discussed in this hearing. Each of the Judges delivered a separate judgment.

Facts of the Case

This ongoing case included a number of petitions arising important constitutional questions regarding the appointment and transfer of judges, and the independence of the judiciary.  

The prior cases managed various petitions including significant sacred inquiries with respect to collegiums and movement of judges and special focus on the autonomy of legal executives. Various High Courts transferred the Writ Petitions of great constitutional importance affecting the independence of the judiciary, concerning, generally, the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court.

The relevant portion of the case dealt with the disclosure of certain correspondence between the Law Minister, Chief Justice of Delhi and Chief Justice of India, and the relevant notes were made by them regarding the non-appointment of a judge to an extended term and the transfer of a High Court Judge. Petitioners, and one of the judges in question, sought the disclosure of these documents between the Law Minister, the Chief Justice of Delhi, and the Chief Justice of India. However, the state received certain privileges regarding the disclosure of documents under article 74(2) of the Indian Constitution, which provided that the advice provided by the Council of Ministers to the President of a country cannot be inquired into any court, and section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act which denies evidence from unpublished officials without the permission of the head of the said department. 

To this, the court cited Section 162 of the Evidence Act provides that a witness summoned to produce a document before a court must do so, and the court will decide upon any objection to this. Section 162 was cited as necessary for the interpretation of Section 123: “A witness summoned to produce a document shall, if it is in his possession or power, bring it to court, notwithstanding any objection which there may be to its production or to its admissibility and the validity of any such raised objection has to be decided by the court”. Section 162 of the Evidence Act provides that an observer brought to create a record under the guidance of the court and the court will choose any issue in addition to this. 

Relevant Statutes and Provisions

  1. Articles 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India, 1950
  2. 74(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950
  3. Sections 123 of the Evidence Act, 1872
  4. Section 162 of the Evidence Act, 1872

Judgement of the Case

In this case articulated by Justice Bhagwati, the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the case of the public authority for insurance against revelation and guided the Union of India to unveil the reports containing the correspondence. 

Para 57 of the judgment distinguished the issue as “a critical inquiry near open law especially with regards to the open society” as it “included a conflict between two contending parts of public interest”— free to report and the requirement for assurance of certain private records.

First and foremost, the Court dismissed the public authority’s affirmation that the reports were shielded from revelation because they were guidance from the Council of Ministers to the President. The Court perceived that it doesn’t have the sacred power to ask into the legitimations for choices of the Council of Ministers. In any case, for this situation the exhortation that the Council of Ministers at last offered to the President was shaped after meeting with the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Chief Justice of India. The Court thought that the way that the assessments of the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Chief Justice of India at last added to the Council of Ministers’ recommendation, doesn’t really deliver them part of the guidance that is shielded from exposure by area 74(2). 

There are only two grounds dependent on which the Central Government’s decision concerning plan and move can be tried: 

  • there was no full and feasible insight between the Central Government and the reasonable subject matter experts, 
  • The decision relied upon unnecessary grounds. The correspondence being alluded to would be pertinent qua both these grounds, which requires its exposure. 

The public interest lies at the foundation of the case for confirmation under the Evidence Act. Under these considerations, the Court should pick whether the disclosure of a particular report will be contrary to the public interest. It should change the public interest in the sensible association of equity through openness with the public interest hoped to be guaranteed by nondisclosure, and thereafter, pick if the record should be obtained. Moreover, the decision sets up a legitimate or persuading point regarding reference inside its ward as SC decisions are true on all courts inside India.

Secondly, the Court addressed why the information in question cannot be protected from disclosure based on section 123. In view of the language of segment 162, the Court showed that when the suitability of a record is challenged, the Court may assess the archive, consider other proof, and decide its tolerability. In an earlier case, State of Punjab v. Sodhi Sukhdev Singh[4], the Court recognized that the guideline behind the part 123 exclusionary rule is public interest, and stated that this must along these lines be tended to. The Court showed that when there is an issue with divulgence, the Court should consider whether the record identified the issues of state, and whether its exposure would be harmful to the public interest. The injury that ought to be dodged is an expected interruption of the legitimate working of the public authority because of revelation. 

The Court believed that the Chief Justice of a High Court and the Chief Justice of India would not have been stopped from playing out their sacred obligation of communicating their perspectives had they known that these perspectives may be unveiled to general society. Subsequently, there is no open interest support for non-divulgence 

Thirdly, The Court perceived that a majority rule society can’t keep the exercises of the public authority stowed away from the general population to dodge responsibility and analysis. Perceiving a “option to realize which appears to be certain justified of free discourse and articulation,” the Court contemplated that: “Where a general public has decided to acknowledge majority rules system as its creedal confidence, it is rudimentary that the residents should understand what their administration is doing. The residents reserve a privilege to choose by whom and by what rules they will be administered and they are qualified to approach the individuals who oversee for their benefit to represent their direct. Not just the government can do without responsibility and the fundamental purpose of responsibility is that individuals ought to have data about the working of the public authority. It is just if individuals know how government is working that they can satisfy the job which majority rules system doles out to them and make popular government a truly powerful participatory majority rules system” 

An open and viable participatory vote based system requires responsibility and admittance to data by people in general about the working of the public authority. Openness to the public look in an open government will guarantee a clean and wellbeing organization and is a ground-breaking check against persecution, debasement, and abuse or maltreatment of power. The court ordered the Union of India to disclose the documents contained in the book. An open and compelling majority rules system requires responsibility and admittance to data by the general population about government execution.

The Supreme Court of India excused the organization’s argument for confirmation against openness and guided the Union of India to uncover the documents containing the correspondence. These writ petitions documented in various High Courts and moved to this Court under Article 139 of the Constitution raise issues of incredible protected significance influencing the freedom of the legal executive and they have contended at extraordinary length.  

The idea of an open government is the immediate transmission from the option to know, which is understood to be morally justified to the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation ensured under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution perusing all residents will have the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation. Such an open and successful participatory majority rule system requires responsibility and admittance to data by general society about the working of the legislature. Introduction to the public look in an open government will ensure an unblemished and strong association and is an astonishing check against mistreatment, degradation, and misuse or abuse of force. In this way, the exposure of data with respect to government working should be the standard and mystery the exemption, advocated just where the strictest necessity of public interest requests it. 

The Court recognized an assumption of exposure: “Divulgence of data with respect to the working of Government should be the standard and mystery, an exemption supported just where the strictest necessity of public interest so requests. The methodology of the court should be to lessen the territory of mystery however much as could be expected predictable with the prerequisite of public interest, remembering constantly that divulgence additionally serves a significant part of public interest.” 

Likewise Concerning the debate including Article 74(2), the Court held that while the advice by the Council of Ministers to the President would be guaranteed against lawful assessment, the correspondence for the present circumstance between the Law Minister, the Chief Justice of Delhi, and the Chief Justice of India was not gotten basically considering the way that it was insinuated in the admonishment.

Public Interest Litigation- 

Public Interest Litigation (PIL), as the name proposes, is prosecution for any open interest. As the term ‘case’ signifies ‘lawful activity’, it represents a legitimate activity taken by a public individual. This strategy is to ensure the public premium. It is prosecution documented in a courtroom for the security of issues of government assistance like constructional perils, contamination, and psychological oppression. 

PIL is given to individuals of India for documenting a request straightforwardly to the Supreme Court or High Court. Any individual can record Public Interest Litigation. The possibility of a Public Interest Litigation is to look for equity confronting the public authority on the off chance that it is felt that the public authority is keeping somebody from getting their advantage and rights. 

In this case, Justice Bhagwati said that the Court will readily respond even to a letter addressed by such an individual acting pro bono publico, thereby making the procedure of approaching the Court more flexible. He said:

“The facts confirm that there are rules made by this Court recommending the system for moving this Court for alleviation under Article 32 and they require different conventions to be experienced by an individual looking to move toward this Court. Yet, it should not be failed to remember that methodology is nevertheless a handmaiden of equity and the reason for equity can never be permitted to be impeded by any procedural details. The court would accordingly unhesitatingly and without the smallest hesitations of inner voice cast aside the specialized principles of technique in the activity of its apportioning force and treat the letter of the public-disapproved individual as a writ request and follow up on it.”

The Meaning of Consultation- 

“The interview must be important, intentional, result arranged and of substance. … All the gatherings associated with the cycle of interview should put all the material at its order applicable to the subject being talked about before any remaining specialists to be counselled. Nothing can be held back. Nothing can be retained. Nothing can be left for the eye of a specific sacred functionary.” – Justice Desai 

It was, notwithstanding, explained that the President will reserve the privilege to vary from the other sacred functionaries for example Boss Justice of India, Chief Justice of the concerned High Court and the Governor of the State, for pertinent reasons and take an opposite view.”

Independence of Judiciary-

Independence of Judiciary is fundamental in equitable arrangement of administration. Since the foundation of the vote based type of Governments on the planet there is an overall discussion on the issue that the Judiciary ought to be autonomous from pressing factors and pulls i.e., from the inside and outside. The Independence of Judiciary got added significance in the nations having Written Constitutions. 

Under the Written Constitution, the Government has been met with wide powers needed for the running of the Government. Be that as it may, where the Constitutions contain the government assistance reasoning there the Government needs to make approaches for the financial improvement of individuals. The idea of Independence of Judiciary is of present day birthplace and acknowledged as a corridor characteristic of a liberal popularity based state. Yet, the term autonomy has not been characterized in the Constitution of India nor in the General Clauses Act. 

Henceforth for an appropriate perception of the importance of the term freedom it is fundamental, first to look at its etymological and word reference significance and afterward its lawful significance. 

A word reference significance credits to it, the condition of being not reliant on someone else’s or things for help or supplies. From a strict perspective, freedom implies nonattendance of outer control or backing. As such, it means something that it isn’t subject to or constrained by some other organization or authority. In lawful speech Independence of Judiciary means the force of maintaining without dread or favor, the Rule of Law, individual flexibility and freedom, uniformity under the steady gaze of law and fair and viable legal authority over managerial and leader activities of the Government. 

The Independence of Judiciary is regularly guaranteed through the Constitution of India however it might likewise be guaranteed through enactments, shows and other appropriate standards and practices. The sacred or the central laws on Judiciary are, be that as it may, just the beginning stage during the time spent getting legal autonomy. 

In the previous case, when it was contended that the Executive ought to have no voice at all in the matter of arrangement of Judges of the prevalent courts in India as the freedom of the legal executive which is an essential component of the Constitution would be in genuine risk if the leader can meddle with the cycle of their arrangement, Justice Venkataramiah said: “It is hard to hold that simply in light of the fact that the force of arrangement is with the chief, the autonomy of the legal executive would get debilitated. The genuine rule is that after such an arrangement the leader ought to have no degree to meddle with crafted by a Judge.” 

Analysis of the Case

A few writ petitions were recorded in the different High Courts in regards to the arrangement of High Court Judges just as the Supreme Court decided as open interest suit. These petitions were moved to the Supreme Court utilizing suo moto discernment. The fundamental issue was to choose whose assessment in the collegium ought to be given essential significance while designating the adjudicators. The lion’s share assessment was that “the assessments of Chief Justice of India and assessments of the Chief Justice of High Court were simply consultative and that force of arrangement exclusively lives in the Central Government”. 

The importance of the word conference was likewise examined for the situation. The word discussion referenced in Article 124 and Article 217 corresponding to all consulters and ultimate choice in the matter was left to the Central chief. The lion’s share took an incredibly strict and positivist perspective on Article 217. The focal government even after this judgment followed the old practice and no adjudicator was selected without the name being cleared by the Chief Justice of India.

[1] AIR 1982 SC 149.

[2] (1993) 4 SCC 441.

[3] (1998) 7 SCC 739.

[4] 1961 AIR 493.

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