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Daily-current-affairs / 29 Apr 2024

Balancing Judicial Oversight: Exploring the Intricacies of Curative Jurisdiction : Daily News Analysis



The Supreme Court of India stands as a towering institution, embodying the pinnacle of legal authority in the nation. Its multifaceted role encompasses not only being the highest court of appeal but also wielding federal jurisdiction and serving as a fountain of advisory opinions. Among its arsenal of powers, the concept of Curative Jurisdiction emerges as a unique facet, introduced in 2002. Unlike the conventional power of review, which allows courts to rectify errors apparent from their records, curative jurisdiction empowers the Supreme Court to correct its judgments even after they have attained finality. This extraordinary authority raises profound questions about the dynamics of legal certainty and the role of the judiciary in shaping the law.

Understanding Curative Petitions


A Curative Petition is a legal recourse available after the dismissal of a review plea against a final conviction.


It aims to prevent miscarriage of justice and deter abuse of the legal process.

Decision Process:

Curative petitions are typically decided by judges in chambers, though open-court hearings may be granted upon specific request.

Legal Basis:

Principles governing curative petitions were established by the Supreme Court in the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra Vs Ashok Hurra & another Case, 2002.

Criteria for Entertaining a Curative Petition:

     Violation of Natural Justice: It must be demonstrated that there was a breach of principles of natural justice, such as the petitioner not being heard before the court passed an order.

     Apprehension of Bias: It may be admitted if there are grounds to suspect bias on the part of the judge, such as failure to disclose relevant facts.

Guidelines for Filing a Curative Petition:

     Certification by Senior Advocate: The petition must be accompanied by a certification from a senior advocate, highlighting substantial grounds for its consideration.

     Initial Review: It is first circulated to a bench comprising the three senior-most judges, along with the judges who passed the original judgment, if available.

     Hearing: Only if a majority of the judges deem it necessary for a hearing, it is listed for consideration, preferably before the same bench that passed the initial judgment.

     Role of Amicus Curiae: The bench may appoint a senior counsel to assist as amicus curiae at any stage of the consideration of the curative petition.

The Delhi Metro Rail Judgment: Unveiling the Curative Jurisdiction

The contours of curative jurisdiction came to the forefront in a recent judgment rendered on April 10, 2024, by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (“DMRC”) vs Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd (“DAMEPL”). This case serves as a poignant illustration of the complexities surrounding curative jurisdiction and its implications. At the heart of the dispute lay a high-stakes arbitral award favoring DAMEPL, which was premised on the termination of a long-term contract concerning a stretch of the Delhi metro rail network. The crux of the matter revolved around the interpretation of a termination clause, which allowed DAMEPL to terminate the contract upon DMRC's failure to cure identified breaches.

DAMEPL contended that DMRC's inability to rectify defects in the metro's construction constituted a breach justifying termination. Moreover, DAMEPL had ceased rail operations citing safety concerns, subsequently seeking the reopening of operations with the approval of the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS). However, the Arbitral Tribunal, while upholding DAMEPL's position, downplayed the significance of the CMRS approval. Despite DMRC's reliance on this sanction, the Tribunal deemed it immaterial in adjudicating the dispute. The Supreme Court, in its initial judgment, upheld the arbitral award, adhering to its established stance of minimal interference in arbitral decisions. However, the unprecedented use of curative jurisdiction marked a significant departure from this precedent.

Exercise of Curative Jurisdiction: Striking a Delicate Balance

The intervention of the Supreme Court through curative jurisdiction raises pertinent questions about the delicate balance between judicial oversight and deference to arbitral autonomy. Traditionally, courts have adopted a restrained approach towards interfering with arbitral awards, respecting the finality and autonomy accorded to arbitral proceedings. However, the exercise of curative jurisdiction challenges this normative framework, introducing a novel avenue for judicial intervention. In the case of DMRC vs DAMEPL, the Court's decision to set aside the arbitral award hinged on its interpretation of the termination clause and the evidentiary value attributed to the CMRS approval.

While the Court justified its intervention on grounds of correcting perceived errors, critics argue that such interventions undermine the sanctity of arbitral awards and erode confidence in the arbitration process. The subjective nature of determining what constitutes a "perverse" interpretation further complicates matters, blurring the line between judicial oversight and judicial overreach. Moreover, the retrospective nature of curative jurisdiction introduces an element of uncertainty, unsettling the finality of judgments and casting doubts on the consistency of legal principles. As the Supreme Court grapples with the implications of curative jurisdiction, it faces the daunting task of striking a delicate balance between corrective justice and judicial restraint.

Challenges and Implications: Navigating the Terrain of Legal Certainty

The exercise of curative jurisdiction in the DMRC vs DAMEPL case underscores the challenges inherent in navigating the terrain of legal certainty and judicial consistency. While the Court's endeavor to correct perceived errors is laudable in principle, the implications of such interventions extend far beyond individual cases. The Supreme Court, as the custodian of the nation's legal framework, must transcend the exigencies of immediate trends and uphold the principles of legal stability and predictability. By oscillating between divergent interpretations and revisiting its own decisions, the Court risks undermining its institutional integrity and eroding public trust in the judiciary.

Furthermore, the retrospective nature of curative jurisdiction introduces a layer of unpredictability, unsettling settled legal principles and fostering uncertainty in the legal landscape. In an era marked by rapid societal change and evolving jurisprudence, the need for a steadfast and principled judiciary becomes ever more pronounced. As Justice Robert H. Jackson aptly remarked, the Supreme Court derives its authority not from infallibility but from finality. Thus, the Court's exercise of curative jurisdiction must be tempered by a judicious appreciation of its broader implications and the imperative of maintaining legal stability.


In conclusion, the saga of curative jurisdiction unfolds as a testament to the intricate dynamics between judicial oversight and legal certainty. While the Supreme Court's endeavor to correct perceived errors reflects its commitment to justice, the implications of such interventions reverberate far and wide. The DMRC vs DAMEPL case serves as a poignant illustration of the challenges and complexities surrounding curative jurisdiction, inviting scrutiny of its implications for arbitral autonomy, legal stability, and judicial consistency. As the Supreme Court grapples with the nuances of curative jurisdiction, it confronts the imperative of striking a delicate balance between corrective justice and institutional integrity. In the crucible of legal uncertainty, the Supreme Court must emerge as a steadfast beacon of justice, guided by the principles of constancy, gravitas, and unwavering commitment to the rule of law.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

1.    Discuss the concept of curative jurisdiction in the context of judicial oversight. How does the exercise of curative jurisdiction impact legal certainty and arbitral autonomy? Provide examples to illustrate your points. (10 marks, 150 words)

2.    Evaluate the challenges associated with the retrospective nature of curative jurisdiction. How does the Supreme Court balance the imperative of correcting errors with the need for legal stability and consistency? Suggest recommendations to address these challenges. (15 marks, 250 words)


Source – The Hindu