What is Presidential Reference? Can President Reverse Supreme Court Decision?

Presidential Reference Article 143: The Supreme Court had recently declared the electoral bond scheme as ‘unconstitutional’. Ordered to make public the information about all the bonds purchased and redeemed. The Election Commission (ECI) has to upload the data of electoral bonds on its website by 5 pm on March 15.

What is Presidential Reference? Can President Reverse Supreme Court Decision?
Presidential Reference Article 143

Before that, A letter was written to President Draupadi Murmu to put a stay on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Electoral Bond (Electoral Bond SC Verdict). The letter was written by Adish Aggarwal, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). In this letter, a demand was made from the President to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court under ‘Presidential Reference‘.

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Under Article 143 of the Constitution, the President has the right to seek an opinion from the Supreme Court on any question of law or fact. The President can send that question to the SC for consideration. After the hearing, if the Supreme Court feels right then it can convey its opinion to the President.

However, later the Supreme Court Bar Association condemned this letter and distanced itself from it. The committee said that it sees the things written in the letter as an attempt to eliminate and weaken the authority of the Supreme Court.

But the question is whether the President can overturn the Supreme Court’s decision on electoral bonds.

What is a Presidential Reference?

Under Article 143, the President can refer any matter of law or fact to the Supreme Court. This is called Presidential Reference. The court’s opinion may be sought regarding issues that have arisen or are likely to arise. Presidential reference can be made in matters which are of public importance.

If the Supreme Court wishes, it can refuse to answer any or all of the questions raised in this context. For a presidential reference, it is necessary that the court’s opinion on that issue has not already been taken or a decision has not been taken.

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What does Article 143 of the Constitution Say?

In Article 143 of the Indian Constitution, the President has been given the power to consult the Supreme Court. It is written in it,

“Whenever it appears to the President that any question of law or fact has arisen or is likely to arise which is of public importance or is of such a nature that it would be appropriate to seek the advice of the Supreme Court, the President shall refer that question to the Supreme Court.” Can be sent to the court for consultation.”

It is further written in this article,

“The Supreme Court can hear it and send its advice on it to the President. “The advice given by the Supreme Court is not binding on the President.”

The Supreme Court has the right to refuse to answer the question asked under Article 143 if it finds it unnecessary.

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Can President Reverse Supreme Court Decision?

Can President Reverse Supreme Court Decision?
Can President Reverse Supreme Court Decision?

Let’s make this a little easier. The President has the right to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court in any matter of public importance or public welfare. For this, the President sends written questions to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court is not bound to answer those questions. If the court finds the question appropriate then it can answer.

According to Article 143, if the Supreme Court advises on any question of the President, then the President will not be bound to accept that advice.

The overall point is that the President cannot overturn the decision of the Supreme Court. Can just take advice from the Supreme Court. And that advice will also be given only if the Supreme Court finds it appropriate to do so.

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When did Presidential Reference Come into Discussion?

In 1998

In the year 1998, the President of the country was KR Narayanan. He exercised his power under Article 143. And asked the Supreme Court for clarification on the appointment process of judges.

The court replied that the CJI should consult other judges of the Supreme Court before making any recommendations for judicial appointments. After this, the size of the Supreme Court Collegium was increased from three to five. Apart from the CJI, his four senior colleagues were included.

In 2004

In 2004, a Presidential reference was also sought in the dispute between Punjab and Haryana regarding the sharing of river water. Presidential reference was also sought on the selection of judges after the Supreme Court orders gave primacy to the judiciary over the executive.

In 2012

In 2012, the government sought a presidential reference in the 2G scam case. In its order, the SC had cancelled 122 2G licenses on the plea that these licenses were issued in an ‘arbitrary’ and ‘unconstitutional’ manner.

The government had filed a review petition challenging this order, which was rejected by the court. The government felt that the 2G order was raising some policy and legal issues. The government had sent eight questions to the Supreme Court on behalf of the President.

In 2015

Presidential reference was demanded in the year 2015. The All India Bar Association had demanded a presidential reference on the issues of the collegium and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).

At that time, the appointment of at least 125 judges for different High Courts was pending. In the memorandum submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee, the President’s intervention was sought. A bench of 11 judges was demanded to resolve these cases.

In 2024

Earlier, on February 15, 2024, the Supreme Court banned electoral bonds, terming them unconstitutional. On March 11, the Supreme Court reprimanded SBI and asked it to hand over the information related to electoral bonds to the ECI by March 12. SBI did the same. The court asked the ECI to publish this information on its website before 5 pm on March 15.

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