Article 227 confers on every High Court the power of superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territory of India in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction except any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the armed forces. The power of superintendence conferred on the High Court is not only administrative but also judicial and it can be invoked at the instance of any person aggrieved or may even be exercised suo motu. The paramount reason to vest wide power of superintendence over the High Court is to pave the way for justice and eliminate obstacles therein. The power conferred under Article 227 is far-ranging than the one conferred on the High Court by Article 226. The power of superintendence as found in certiorari jurisdiction is not subject to technicalities of a procedure or traditional fetters. The parameters that invoke the exercise of power are almost homogenous.
Description of Article 227
Article 227 (1) states that every High Court in the country has a power of superintendence over all the courts and tribunals throughout the territory over which it can exercise its jurisdiction.
Article 227 (2) and Article 227 (3) extends the supervisory power of the High Court without affecting the power already vested under Article 227 (1). Both the sub-sections state that the High Court has the power to make calls for return, make and issue rules and prescribe forms for regulating the proceedings and practices of the courts and it prescribes ways in which the books and accounts need to be kept by the officers of the Subordinate Courts. The High Court also decides the fees payable to personnel such as clerks, sheriffs and officers of the court along with pleaders and attorneys practising at the court.
There is a proviso clause attached to the provision of Article 227 (3) which states that any rules or forms prescribed or fees decided by the High Court needs prior approval of the Government. The clause also states that power conferred under subsection 2 and 3 of the said article shall be subject to any laws for the time being in force i.e. the powers must not be inconsistent with the common laws. Sub-Section 4 of Article 227 sets out an exception to the provisions provided in the above three sub-sections. It states that keeping in mind the wide scope of supervision vested on the High Court, its power to supervise cannot extend to courts or tribunals set up under a law relating to the armed forces.
Supervisory Jurisdiction under Article 227
Article 227 of the Constitution is a supervisory provision granting power to the High Court to exercise revisional power over subordinate courts among other powers. It was in the case of Waryam Singh & Anr. Vs. Amarnath & Anr. (1954) that the supervisory jurisdiction under Article 227 took the present shape. The existing jurisdiction can be tracked back to Section 15 of High Courts Act 1861 which had given the power of judicial superintendence to the High Court apart from independent provisions of other laws conferring revisional jurisdiction on the High Court. Section 107 of the Government of India Act 1915 and then Section 224 of the Government of India Act 1935, were worded similarly and reproduced the predecessor provision.
Writ of certiorari under article 226 v. Supervisory jurisdiction
The case of Umaji Keshao Meshram and Ors. Vs. Smt. Radhikabai and Anr. (1986) pointed out the difference between Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution. Under Article 226 the proceedings are in the exercise of the original jurisdiction of the High Court while proceedings under Article 227 of the Constitution are only supervisory. The substantial provision under Article 227 is reproduced through Section 107 of the Government of India Act, 1915 except that this Article extends the power of superintendence to tribunals as well. Even though the power runs parallel to that of an ordinary court of appeal, yet the power conferred under Article 227 is intended to be used sparingly and only in appropriate cases with the purpose of keeping the tribunal and subordinate courts within the bounds of their authority and not for correcting mere errors. In an occasion where the High Court exercises jurisdiction to command a writ of certiorari or to exercise supervisory jurisdiction under Article 227 in a variety of cases, it is proved that the distinction between the two jurisdictions stands almost obliterated in practice.
Exercise supervisory jurisdiction
The High Court while exercising its supervisory jurisdiction may not only set aside or quash the impugned proceedings, judgment or order but it may also pass directions as the circumstances and the facts of any particular case may warrant by way of guidance to the inferior court or tribunal or afresh as commended to or guided by the High Court. Inappropriate cases the High Court, while exercising supervisory jurisdiction, may substitute such a decision of its own in place of the impugned decision, as the inferior court or tribunal should have made.
The High Courts have devised self-imposed rules of discipline on their power in order to safeguard a mere appellate or revisional jurisdiction while exercising supervisory powers. When an alternative efficacious remedy by way of an appeal or revision is available to an aggrieved person then the court may not exercise supervisory jurisdiction. If the superior court can correct an error by exercising appellate or revisional jurisdiction which is available to be exercised only while concluding proceedings, it is sound for the High Courts to not exercise the power of superintendence during the pendency of the proceedings. However, in cases where the jurisdictional error of the lower courts or tribunals cannot be corrected, supervisory jurisdiction may be exercised.
The power vested under Article 227 is exercisable only in cases where there is grave injustice or failure of justice. The jurisdiction of Article 227 is vast and should be exercised carefully by the High Courts. It can be exercised broadly to rectify the errors without disturbing the pure findings of the case, which is only within the domain of the appellate courts. The High Court’s power of superintendence is a power to keep a check on the workings of the subordinate courts and to keep them within the bounds of their authority so that they do their work in a legal manner. There is power but the exercise is discretionary which will be governed solely by the dictates of judicial conscience enriched by judicial wisdom of the judge.