The Nature of Judicial Power: Powers of Review of Supreme Court

Enviro Legal Action v. Union of India, (2011) 8 SCC 161 elaborated scope of Article 137. Kamlesh Verma v. Mayawati, (2013) 8 SCC 320 further held as under:

(A) Review Maintainability:

Discovery of new and important matter or evidence which, after the exercise of due diligence, was not within knowledge or could not be produced; Mistake or error apparent on the face of the record; Any other sufficient reason.

The words “any other sufficient reason” has been interpreted in Chhajju Ram v. Neki, AIR 1922 PC 112 and approved by this Court in Moran Mar Basselios Catholicos v. Most Rev. Mar Poulose Athanasius, (1955) 1 SCR 520, to mean “a reason sufficient on grounds at least analogous to those specified in the Rule”. The same principles have been reiterated in Union of India vs. Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd., (2013) 8 SCC 337.

(B) Review Non-Maintainability:

A repetition of old and overruled argument is not enough to reopen concluded adjudications; Minor mistakes of inconsequential import; A review cannot be equated with the original hearing of the case; A review is not maintainable unless the material error, manifest on the face of the order, undermines its soundness or results in miscarriage of justice; A review is by no means an appeal in disguise whereby an erroneous decision is re-heard and corrected but lies only for patent error; The mere possibility of two views on the subject cannot be a ground for review; The error apparent on the face of the record should not be an error which has to be fished out and searched; The appreciation of evidence on record is fully within the domain of Appellate Court – it cannot be permitted to be advanced in review; A review is not maintainable when the same relief sought at the time of arguing the main matter had been negatived.”

Constitution Bench in Keshav Mills Co. v. CIT, AIR 1965 SC 1636 served as the first port of call:

Court should ask itself whether in the interests of the public good or for any other valid and compulsive reasons, it is necessary that the earlier decision should be revised. When this Court decides questions of law, its decisions are, under Article 141, binding on all Courts within the territory of India, and so, it must be the constant endeavor and concern of this Court to introduce and maintain an element of certainty and continuity in the interpretation of law in the country. Frequent exercise by this Court of its power to review its earlier decisions on the ground that the view pressed before it later appears to the Court to be more reasonable, may incidentally tend to make law uncertain and introduce confusion which must be consistently avoided. If on a subsequent occasion, Court is satisfied its earlier decision was clearly erroneous, it should hesitate to correct the error. But, before a previous decision is pronounced to be plainly erroneous, Court must be satisfied with a fair amount of unanimity that a revision of the said view is fully justified. It is not possible or desirable, and in any case it would be inexpedient, to lay down any principles which should govern the approach of Court in dealing with the question of reviewing and revising its earlier decisions. It would always depend upon several relevant considerations: What is the nature of the infirmity or error on which a plea for a review and revision of the earlier view is based? On the earlier occasion, did some patent aspects of the question remain unnoticed, or was the attention of Court not drawn to any relevant and material statutory provision, or was any previous decision of this Court bearing on the point not noticed? Is Court hearing such plea fairly unanimous that there is such an error in the earlier view? What would be the impact of the error on the general administration of law or on public good? Has the earlier decision been followed on subsequent occasions either by this Court or by High Courts? And, would the reversal of the earlier decision lead to public inconvenience, hardship or mischief? These and other relevant considerations must be carefully borne in mind whenever this Court is called upon to exercise its jurisdiction to review and revise its earlier decisions.


Also see, Tamil Nadu Terminated Full Time Temporary LIC Employees Association v. S.K. Roy, [Contempt Petition (C) No. 459 of 2015 in Civil Appeal No. 6950 of 2009] decided on 09.08.2016 and Vikram Singh, [Criminal M.P. Nos. 16673-16674 of 2016] decided on 07.07.2017 and Rajendra Khare, [Review Petition (Crl). No. 671 of 2018] decided on 28.01.2020.