We have two sets of Government—one for the Centre and the other for the States. Powers of both Governments have been well defined in the Constitution. Although we have a dual polity (federal form of government), our judiciary is not like that. We have a single unified judiciary. In other words, all the Courts interpret and enforce the State laws as well as the laws made by the Union Parliament. The subordinate courts, district courts and High Courts are all subject to the control of the Supreme Court. The Constitution says that "the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all Courts within the territory of India."
Necessity of a Supreme Court may be underlined thus:
Firstly, India has a federal political system. The Supreme Court in a federal system has to interpret the Constitution. For the sake of stability of the Federal Government it is essential that the Central Government and the State Governments should act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. If some dispute arises between the Centre and the States or for that matter between the States themselves, it has to be settled by the Supreme Court. That is why the Supreme Court is called the final Interpreter and Guardian of the Constitution.
Secondly, the Supreme Court and the High Courts protect the fundamental rights. For the purpose of protecting the rights of the citizens, the Supreme Court and the High Court may issue the Writs or directions to the concerned authorities.
Thirdly, the Supreme Court gives a new meaning to the Constitution to meet the new situations. The Supreme Court helps the Constitution to adapt itself to the changed conditions of society.
The composition and organisation of the Supreme Court is given below:
1. Appointment of the Judges: At the commencement of the Constitution the number of judges was eight including the Chief Justice of India. The number of judges has since been increasing. Now in accordance with an Act of 2008 the Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of India and not more than thirty other judges.
Every Judge of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President. The appointments are made after consultations with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of High Courts as the President may deem necessary. But while appointing a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted. The Chief Justice must consult the four senior most judges of the Supreme Court before making any recommendation to the President of India in this regard.
The criteria for the appointment of the Chief Justice of India shall be seniority.
2. Qualifications for Appointment as a Judge: A Judge of the Supreme Court must be a Citizen of India, and
(a) must have been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court, or
(b) an advocate of a High Court for at least ten years, or
(c) must be, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished Jurist.
3. Oath of Office: Every Judge before he enters upon his office has to make an Oath or Affirmation that he (a) will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution; (6) will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India; and (c) will perform the duties of his office without fear or favour, affection or ill will. The Oath is administered by the President of India.
4. Term of Office and Removal: The Judges enjoy a reasonable security of tenure. Once appointed, a judge retires on attaining the age of 65 years.
A judge may resign his office by writing to the President. He may also be removed from his office by the President on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. But that is possible only when an Address of each House of Parliament (passed by a majority of the total membership of that House and by majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting) has been presented to the President.
Women Judges M. Fathima Beevi was appointed as the first woman Judge of the Supreme Court in 1989. She was followed by Sujata V, Manohar. The third woman Judge was Justice Ruma Pal, who was appointed in the year 2000. In May 2010 the Supreme Court got a lady Judge after a gap of many years.
5. Salaries, etc., of the Judges: The Chief Justice and other Judges are paid such salaries as may be determined by the Parliament. Their salaries are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. The salaries and allowances of a
Judge shall not be varied to his disadvantage during his term of office. Salaries and allowances of the Judges may be reduced only during periods of financial emergency.
6. Seat of Supreme Court: Delhi is the seat of the Supreme Court. The Court may sit in such other place or places as the Chief Justice of india may, with the approval of the President, decide.