S.P. Sampath Kumar Etc v. Union of India & Ors

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/12/1986

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Bhagwati, P.N. (Cj), Misra Rangnath, Khalid, V. (J), Oza, G.L. (J), Dutt, M.M. (J)



Petitioner: S.P. Sampath Kumar

Respondent: Union of India & Ors

SUBJECT: The judgment revolves around the question of whether exclusion of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution amounts to violation of basic structure doctrine?

FACTS: The petitioners in the instant case challenged the validity of insertion of Article 323A by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 which excluded the jurisdiction of High Courts under Articles 226 and 227 in service matters. They further challenged sections 4,5,6 and 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 which prescribed the mode of appointment and qualification for Chairman and Vice-Chairman.


The Indian Constitution:

  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
    • Article 323A (2)(d): exclude the jurisdiction of all courts, except the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136, with respect to the disputes or complaints.
  1. Whether exclusion of jurisdiction under Article 226 and 227 amounts to violation of basic structure doctrine?

When Article 323A was initially brought in, the provision excluded all jurisdictions except the one of Supreme Court under Article 136. But after the amendment in 1986 the jurisdiction of the Apex Court under Article 32 was also included. Therefore any dispute regarding the recruitment and appointment of persons in public services has to be first addressed before the administrative tribunal, if either party is aggrieved by the decision of the tribunal he has to only approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 or 136 but cannot seek assistance under Article 226 or 227. In simple words it was a two-tier system. However, the petitioners challenged its validity as judicial review forms a part of the basic structure doctrine. Rebutting the argument, the respondents submitted that, there was no complete exclusion as judicial review under Article 32 is still available. Also, the Chairman of the Tribunal constitute a valid alternate to the High Courts.  As the required qualification stands as follows:

  • Should be or been the judge of HC
    • Or should have held the office of Vice-Chairman at least for a period of 2 years.
    • Or held the post of Secretary to government of India
    • Or held the post of Additional Secretary to the government of India
    • Or held the office of Judicial member for a period not less than 3 years.
    • Or Should have been qualified to be a member of High Court
  • Or Should have been the member of India Legal Service Grade 1 for a period of 3 years.

Upon hearing the parties, the Court held that, the provisions were valid as the Chairman of the Tribunal was equivalent to the Chief Justice of High Court. The Tribunal is set up as an alternate to the jurisdiction of the High Court. However, with regard to the appointment of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other members the Court held that, only those who possess sufficient judicial knowledge must be elevated to such posts so as to instil confidence and trust in the minds of people to approach the forum. Therefore, the government must make appointment of Chairman and Vice-Chairman only after consulting the CJI. The Court also gave an alternate possibility to set up a high-powered selection committee which should be headed by the CJI or any sitting judge of the SC or the concerned HC. Further the court removed the provision which permitted a Secretary of Government of India to be elevated to the position of Chairman.

CONCLUSION: Though the Court upheld the validity of Article 323A and various provisions of the Administrative tribunals Act in Sampath Kumar v. Union of India, the decision was overruled by the SC in the case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India holding that, judicial review under Article 226 and 32 form the basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be taken away by amendments.