Appellate Jurisdiction: Meaning and Application

Appellate jurisdiction is the ability of a superior or higher court to hear and rule on appeals from decisions made by lower courts. All three courts (District Courts, High Courts, and Supreme Court) have the appellate jurisdiction within its territory, but the Supreme Court has a broad range of appellate jurisdiction, as it includes the entire country. However, it considers appeals from decisions made by the high courts (the second highest court of the country). Consequently, it is the highest and last Court of Appeal. If one of the disputing parties is not pleased with the High Court's ruling, they may appeal to the Supreme Court. In civil, criminal, and constitutional cases, appeals may be filed.

Appeals in Civil Cases

Civil cases include disputes involving property, marriage, money, contracts, services, etc. A civil lawsuit may appeal the High Court's ruling to the Supreme Court if a significant legal issue of public importance requires a legal or constitutional interpretation. Prior to the 30th Amendment of 1972, the minimum amount for filing a civil appeal with the Supreme Court was Rs. 20,000, but currently there is no such need. One may appeal the High Court's ruling if there is a significant legal or constitutional interpretation issue.

Appeals in Criminal Cases

In a variety of circumstances, an appeal against a High Court judgement in a criminal matter may be filed with the Supreme Court. First off, the accused has a legal right to appeal to the Supreme Court if a high court strikes down an appeal or an order of acquittal made by a lower court and sentences him to death. Second, if the High Court transfers a case to itself from a lower court, finds the defendant guilty, and sentences them to death, an appeal may also be taken to the Supreme Court. Additionally, appeals may be filed in this circumstance without a High Court certificate and as a matter of right.

The appeal in cases other than these two categories may also be brought to the Supreme Court provided the High Court grants a certificate that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court. In case where the High Court refuses to certify a case to be fit for appeal to the Supreme Court, one may seek special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court itself. The Supreme Court may grant such a special leave in its discretion but only in rare cases.

Appeals in Constitutional Cases

A constitutional case is not a civil lawsuit or a criminal prosecution. It is a case that resulted from various constitutional interpretations, particularly with regard to fundamental rights. In these constitutional cases, the Supreme Court will only hear an appeal if a high court certifies that the issue at hand includes a significant legal issue. If the High Court denies a certificate of fitness to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court can use its discretion and grant special leave to appeal to itself in any case it deems fit.

Appeal by Special Leave

The Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgement, decree, determination, sentence, or order in any case or matter passed or made by any Court or tribunal in the territory of India, with the exception of the Court or tribunal established by or under any law relating to the armed forces, according to Article 136 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

In State of Jammu and Kashmir v. Thakur Ganga Singh, the apex court opined that under cl. (2) of Art. 132 there is no scope for granting a special leave unless two conditions are satisfied −

  • The case should involve a question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.

  • The said question should be substantial question of law.

The principle underlying the article is that the final authority for interpreting the Constitution must rest with the Supreme Court. Where the parties agree on the true interpretation of a provision or do not raise any question in respect thereof, it is not possible to hold that the case involves any question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. Moreover, it was held that the question raised in this case did not involve any question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.

Moreover, it was opined that at no stage of the proceeding had the correctness of the interpretation of Article 14 or the principles governing the doctrine of classification been questioned by either of the parties. The interpretation of Article 14 in the context of classification has been finally settled by the highest court of this land, and under Article 141 of the Constitution, that interpretation is binding on all the courts within the territory of India. As a result, where the law has been finally and authoritatively decided by the Supreme Court, a substantial question of law cannot arise.


The apex court has ruled that in order to award a certificate, the certificate must be against a final judgement and explicitly state the specific article or clauses of the article it is granted under. Simple generalisations about the order are insufficient. It has been noted that the Supreme Court is hesitant to step in when the High Court has exercised its authority, but it will intervene if it determines that the High Court behaved incorrectly, broke the law, or neglected to take certain considerations into account. According to the Supreme Court, judicial direction must always be exerted in line with the law and established legal principles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the significance of appellate jurisdiction?

Ans. To ensure that the proceedings were fair and that the appropriate law was applied correctly, appellate courts examine the processes and rulings made by the trial court.

Q2. Can the Prime Minister dismiss a judge?

Ans. The judges cannot be removed from their positions by any authority via a customary and straightforward procedure. The President may remove a judge only in cases of proven misconduct or incompetence.

Q3. Can the Supreme Court's decision be changed by Parliament?

Ans. A court's ruling cannot be declared void or without effect by the legislature.

Q4. What happens if the Supreme Court dismisses the appeal?

Ans. The judgement of the lower court may be fully or partially overturned if an appeal is accepted. If an appeal is denied, the judgement of the lower court is upheld.

Updated on: 10-Mar-2023


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