Suo Moto Powers of Courts

Learn about the Suo Moto powers of courts and their significance. Explore legal insights with Iswari Legality LLP, your trusted legal partner.

Karan Gautam

10/20/20237 min read


An action performed by a government agency, court, or other central authority on their apprehension is referred to as a Suo Moto cognizance in Latin. When a court learns about a right or obligation being violated through the media or notification from a third party, it takes the case under Suo Moto Cognizance. The provisions for filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India are outlined in Articles 32 of the Indian Constitution and 226 of the Indian Constitution, respectively. As a result, the court now has the authority to bring a lawsuit after taking a case under consideration. Suo Moto's activities in Indian courts are an example of the judiciary's activism and have caught the public's attention general public with the courts' prompt administration of justice.

The Supreme Court of India typically hears suo moto matters. The Indian judiciary has unquestionably been carrying the democratic flag for the past few years. Numerous times, the Supreme Court and various High Courts have risen to the challenge by independently taking notice of a legal matter and delivering prompt justice. On the basis of media reports, telegrams, and letters received from harmed parties, various Indian courts have independently started legal actions and taken Suo Moto cognizance of the matter. Suo Moto action refers to a High Court or Supreme Court taking control of a subject or case on its own.

  • The Function of Indian Judicial Activism Legal activism is referred to be the process through which the legal executive actively participates in interpreting and upholding the law to safeguard individuals' rights and interests. The Indian legal executive has used suo moto insight as a potent tool to solve social, economic, and political issues. In terms of legal activism, India's judiciary has been at the forefront. The courts have repeatedly intervened through suo moto actions to close loopholes in the law and hold the executive and administrative departments accountable.

  • Disputes of Public Interest and Suo Moto Cognizance. The role that Public Interest Litigation (PIL) had in expanding the scope of legal activism in India was significant. PIL enables individuals or groups to record The Function of Indian Judicial Activism.

Legal activism is referred to be the process through which the legal executive actively participates in interpreting and upholding the law to safeguard individuals' rights and interests. Suo moto petitions on behalf of the public interest, even if they are not directly affected by the main issue. Suo moto cognizance is closely related to PIL since it allows courts to act independently when they observe an infringement of the public interest or a threat to fundamental rights. This combination of PIL and suo moto measures has been crucial in addressing significant issues and ensuring equity for marginalized groups in society.

Indian courts have granted Suo Moto cognizance in the following cases:
  • Contempt of Courts: -Disobedience to the court and a lack of knowledge of the rules, regulations, code of conduct, and ethics upheld in a court constitute contempt of court. An officer who obstructs the administration of justice or impugns the integrity of the court is typically charged with Suo Moto contempt.

  • Reopening Old Cases: The courts have the authority to reopen an old case and retry it if new, significant evidence is found after the case has been concluded.

  • Order probe for a New Case: If any court believes that an injured party or a group of people is being treated unfairly, it should order an investigation for a new case People; the court has the power to request any type of investigation from the CBI, the police, or any other government agency. The court may also take such action in response to a letter from the group of persons who may be impacted by the decision or in light of any news, documentary, or media source.

  1. The Impact of Suo Moto Cognizance:

a. Suo moto cognizance plays a crucial role in ensuring that equality is accessible to all societal groups, particularly those who may lack the resources or means to approach the actual courts. The legal executive voluntarily demonstrates its duty to protect fundamental liberties, uphold law and order, and address matters of public concern.

b. The use of Suo moto awareness has significantly increased the scope of the legal executive's authority, enabling them to mediate in urgent situations and swiftly express equality. It reflects the proactive stance of the legal executive and ensures that individual liberties and the interests of society as a whole are safeguarded.

  1. Challenges and Criticisms

Although Suo moto awareness has traditionally been considered good, It has also encountered criticism and challenges as it has improved the body of laws in India. Some claim that the broad scope of Suo moto cognizance may lead to legal excess or conflict with the chief and administrative branches' authority. Others express concern over the potential misuse of this power and the lack of specific guidelines for its use. The Indian legal executive still has a challenge in trying to strike a balance between legal activism and concerns about the division of talents.

  1. COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, at the height of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court took Suo moto cognizance of a few issues involving the distribution and accessibility of essential supplies. In order to address the challenges caused by the epidemic and protect residents' freedoms, the court acquired a crucial role.

  1. Delhi air pollution

The Delhi air pollution issue has generated a great deal of worry. On numerous occasions, the courts have taken Suo moto cognizance of this matter, guiding handling contamination and defending the welfare and prosperity of the locals. This ongoing Suo Moto case demonstrates the legal executive's duty to address environmental challenges and ensure a perfect and secure environment for everyone.

Suo Moto Cases in India:

In countless instances, Indian courts have used their Suo Moto jurisdiction over cases based on letters or reports and have rendered decisions in those situations that serve the public interest. The general public now has optimism, thanks to the courts' Suo Moto action, that the wrongs done to the public would be righted by the courts by taking Suo Moto Cognizance. Article 131 of the Indian Constitution provides for Suo Moto's supreme court authority. In India, Suo Moto has made sure that justice would win in both civil and criminal cases. Suo Moto is a widely acknowledged provision of the Indian Constitution, and the Indian court has repeatedly demonstrated its authority by taking suo moto cases.

Suo Moto Cognizance in Murthal Rape Case

In the Murthal rape case, in which numerous top police officers from Haryana travelled to Sukhdev Dhaba to accompany the victims to the Delhi border, the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently took Suo Moto Cognizance. The IG, DSP, SHO, SP, and other junior rank officials present in the Murthal region might have been requested by the court for their call information by the State Government. Recently, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court took Suo Moto Cognizance and ordered the state administration to address deficiencies in and other problems with the State's health system. In relation to a newspaper article headlined "Medical Corruption," the court granted Suo Moto Cognizance. An open letter from G.S. Grewal to the Prime Minister noting the exorbitant costs was included in the story. Medicines are overcharged, and patients are improperly referred for unnecessary diagnostic tests and physicals.

Suo Moto Cognizance by Supreme Court:
  • The Supreme Court also exercised its Suo Moto Cognizance power and requested that the Central Government collaborate with Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and WhatsApp to submit a list of terms that would be used to restrict explicit videos that show rape, gang rape, and child pornography.

  • In 2015, an NGO by the name of Prajwala delivered a letter and a pen drive containing two movies to the Chief Justice of India. In the letter, it was requested that the court take appropriate action against those responsible for the gang rape shown in the video. The letter was turned into a PIL by the Supreme Court.

The High Courts and Supreme Court have begun to take the lead in bringing attention to numerous social ills and initiating prompt judicial action against them. The judiciary has evolved. Leading social activists by focusing on society's top priority and launching legal lawsuits against the State's inability to safeguard and defend its citizens' rights.

Is Judicial Review Suo Moto?

The Courts' ability to judge the legality of legislative actions is known as judicial review. In the event that a court determines that a government action violates the Constitution, it has the authority to declare the action invalid on the grounds of unconstitutionality. However, the court cannot Suo Moto decide whether a government action is constitutional unless it is requested by a party who feels wronged and unless the conclusion of unconstitutionality is required for the case's resolution.

Since it is the legislature that creates laws, it is not within its purview to judge whether a legislative Act is constitutional. The proper authority to investigate legislative flaws is a disinterested, independent, and unbiased entity like the court. This is required to keep the democratic spirit alive. However, there have been cases where the Court, Suo Moto, used its judicial review authority and determined that particular directives had been made arbitrarily and improperly.

  • In conclusion, Indian courts' suo moto authority is crucial for upholding the rule of law, providing justice, and defending citizens' rights. With the use of these powers, the court can serve as the guardian of the law, stepping in where the availability or timeliness of legal remedies may be a concern. The precedent-setting decisions previously addressed provide examples of the various ways in which these powers have been used, from protecting human rights to addressing environmental issues and other matters of public interest.

  • Although the judiciary needs these powers, they must be used in a way that balances them with the values of justice, openness, and accountability. The necessity to address legitimate issues and prevent needless meddling in the executive and legislative branches should serve as the court's guide when intervening. Additionally, judicial to avoid any unjustified interference with the separation of powers, discretion must be used wisely.

  • The suo moto powers are constantly changing to meet new opportunities and problems in the dynamic world of Indian law. As can be seen from the aforementioned judgements, the courts have not been afraid to be creative and use their authority to address new problems. But striking the delicate balance between activism and restraint continues to be difficult. The judiciary plays a crucial role in a democratic society, and suo moto powers are an effective instrument for upholding justice and safeguarding fundamental rights.

  • . These powers will continue to enhance the legal system of the country as long as they are used responsibly and with a clear eye toward the greater public interest. Courts' proactive approach they are a vital foundation of the Indian democracy, maintaining the ideals of justice, equality, and the rule of law, thanks to their professionalism and capacity to handle problems that could otherwise go unreported.

  • An essential component of the Indian judiciary's authority is suo moto cognizance, which enables the courts to handle urgent cases and defend the rights and interests of the general people. The courts show their dedication to justice and the rule of law by taking cases on their initiative. Suo moto cognizance has been useful in resolving a variety of issues, from social inequality and environmental concerns to contempt of court. Suo moto cognizance, a proactive strategy used by the Indian judiciary, guarantees that justice is served promptly and fairly, strengthening public confidence in the judiciary's function as a defender of rights and justice.

(Edited and Posted by Iswari Legality LLP team)

Submitted By : Karan Gautam