Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India
Article 131 of the Constitution of India defines the original jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court of India has Original jurisdiction in respect of following matters:
- between the Government of India and one or more States; or
- between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
- between two or more States,
if, and in so far as, the dispute involves any question (whether of law or of fact), on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
Suit against Railway over a commercial dispute:
The respondent, State of Rajasthan through its District Rehabilitation Officer, Barmer filed a suit in the court of the District Judge, Balotra against the appellant, Union of India, and the Railway Administration claiming damages for the loss suffered by it on account of the damage caused to the goods transported by rail through the Railway Administration. The appellant contended that the suit was not maintainable in the District Court in view of Article 131 of the Constitution which, according to it conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the Supreme Court to decide all disputes arising between a State and the Union. The District Judge held that he had jurisdiction to try the suit. A Revision Petition filed against the order of the District Judge was dismissed by the High Court. Hence this petition for special leave to appeal.
Dismissing the original jurisdiction petition Supreme Court of India held:
The suit was entertainable by the District Court. On a careful consideration of the whole matter in the light of the decisions of this Court, it is felt that Article 131 of the Constitution is attracted only when a dispute arises between or amongst the States and the Union in the context of the constitutional relationship that exists between them and the powers, rights, duties. immunities, liabilities, disabilities etc. flowing therefrom. Any dispute which may arise between a State in the capacity of an employer in a factory, a manufacturer of goods subject to exercise duty, a holder of a permit to run a stage carriage, a trader or businessman carrying on business not incidental to the ordinary functions of Government, a consumer of railway services etc. like any other private party on the one hand and the Union of India on the other cannot be construed as a dispute arising between the State and the Union in discharge of their respective executive powers attracting Article 131 of the Constitution. It could never have been the intention of the framers of the Constitution that any ordinary dispute of this nature would have to be decided exclusively by the Supreme Court.