In re Special Courts Bill, 1978

In re Special Courts Bill, 1978


Date of Judgment – 1 December, 1978

Equivalent citations – AIR 1979 SC 478, (1979) 1 SCC 380

Bench (7) – Y V Chandrachud (CJI), N Untwalia, P N Bhagwati, P Shinghal, R Sarkaria, S M Ali, V R Krishna Iyer, JJ.




This is a Presidential reference case under Article 143. The legislature has enacted the Special courts bill which seeks to establish an adequate number of special courts for speedier trial of offences that have been committed by persons holding high political and public offices during the period of operation of the Proclamation of Emergency dated the 25th June, 1975, and the period immediately preceding that Proclamation.

The Bill excludes the jurisdiction of the Ordinary courts for these offences.

The constitutional validity of the proposed bill has been laid before the Apex court for its opinion under Advisory Jurisdiction.




  • Whether the question referred to the Court was a valid one under Article 143?


  • Whether the classification sought to be made is a reasonable one under Article 14?




  • The court discusses the limits and conditions of Advisory jurisdiction to hold that it is advised that the President should submit only specific questions of law mentioning the Constitutional Provisions which he believes to be violated by the Bill. The President should not send the general constitutionality of a Bill for advice. However, it is within the court’s ambit to still entertain it.


  • The Bill is valid as it forms a distinct class, i.e. a reasonable classification. It specifically applies only to people occupying high political posts of public nature. Even the same offences committed by them are of a graver nature and hence require speedier trial.


  • However, the period preceding emergency cannot be included in the classification. The judicial review of this court cannot be barred as well.





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