Amongst the prime duties of the Supreme Court is to protect the constitution. How well has the SC discharged this function. Critically analyse.(250 Words/15 Marks)

Mentors Comment:

Protection of Constitution. This is the key word of the question. So stick to this discussion only. Start with giving a brief history of SC and why it is known as guardian of the constitution.

Then discuss the various key judgements of SC which upheld the values of constitution and gave the document its relevant interpretation. Cases like Golaknath, Bommai, Kesavananda, Waman Rao, Maneka Gandhi etc are the example of SC acting as an interpreter as well as the guardian of the constitution. At the same quote some recent important judgements like right to privacy, transgemder rights, NOTA etc.             

In the second part of the discussion  mention the challenges that SC has been facing while performing its role as a guardian of the constitution. Points here will include increased appellate hearing from HCs and lower courts, load because of PIL and SLPs, backlog in cases, unfilled vacancies, judicial activism etc.

Way forward is necessary in the answer. You have to base the discussion on what are the steps that can be taken to ensure that SC maintain its primary role of original jurisdiction.

Model Answer:

On January 28, 1950, India’s Supreme Court succeeded the Federal Court of India which was established by Government of India Act 1935 and the Privy Council, which was highest judicial body in the country during British Era. Since then, Supreme Court has acted as a guardian of the constitution while its judges worked to uphold the constitution. Political history shows how Supreme Court has protected the constitution through its judicial innovations and acumen.

The role played by SC in determining the substantial question of law and upholding the principles enshrined in the constitution is commendable.

  • Doctrine of basic structure was evolved by Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati Case in 1973 and held that certain principles cannot be amended by parliament under any circumstances.
  • SC has used its extensive power to solve issues of public importance when Governments failed such as measures against air pollution in Delhi, Appointment of Lokayukta in UP.
  • SC has played active role in preserving the federal structure of Indian polity. It is evident from S R Bommai case that placed guidelines for imposition of President’s Rule and provided security to State Governments.
  • In Waman rao case, SC facilitated in determining a satisfactory way of addressing grievances pertaining to the violation of fundamental rights.
  • The Public Interest Litigation was introduced by SC to increase the access of citizen to judiciary.
  • Supreme court while protecting Fundamental Rights, has also given new meaning by interpreting various FRs which were not in the original constitution like widening the scope of Right to life with including right to healthy and pollution free environment in it along with various other rights in A-21, Right to Privacy judgement and introducing due process of law etc.
  • With its recent judgements on triple talaq, repealing section 66A of IT Act, disqualification of convicted representatives in India, introduction of NOTA in elections, recognising the rights of transgenders and bringing in Visakha guidelines, SC has created its own credibility over period of time and has created its own special place in Indian democracy.

Concerns with Supreme Court in performing its role of protector of Constitution:

  • Judicial activism has interfered with its role of interpreting and protecting the constitution.
  • Increase in litigation as consequence of higher number of frivolous public-interest-litigations.
  • In recent decade SC has confined itself to hearing appeal arising from HC.
  • Paucity of Constitutional benches to decide on important cases.
  • Increase in Special Leave Petitions and cases related to civil and criminal offences due to inefficiency of lower judiciary leaving no time for cases of importance
  • There are very high amount of cases which are pending before supreme court waiting for consideration and some of them really very important like interpretation of constitution and violation of rights and others issue of greater importance.
  • The court’s functioning has hence turned from an apex body of constitutional protection to a court of appeals.

Way Forward:

  • Focusing to establish the national court of appeal to reduce appellate matters and give regional proximity.
  • Strengthen the lower judiciary to discourage cases by way of appeal.
  • Hiring retired hc judges on ad hoc basis who can look after the initial roles of judges like sorting and admitting the cases, while also adjudicating on appellate jurisdiction. With this, the important time of SC judges would go in hearing cases of national and constitutional cases.


So far, the Supreme Court has played its role according to spirit of constitution. But there is an urgent need to strengthen our judiciary system so that SC can devote maximum time on determining substantial question of law and upholding the principles of constitution.