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Epistolary Jurisdiction – A Brief Analysis

Epistolary Jurisdiction extended by the apex court is one of the most significant procedural innovations to secure justice for all. Encouraging letter petitions is based on the idea of easy and effective access to all without any procedural burden. In order to avoid misuse of letter petitions under the guise of Public Interest Litigation, Public Interest Litigation and information cell, has been set up on Supreme Court of India with a full-fledged staff to deal with its epistolary jurisdiction.  Following rules are pursued to give proper direction to the letters received, to be put before the Supreme Court. [1]

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  1. The letters are first scrutinized by the staff, employed exclusively for this purpose.
  2. Letters addressed by or on behalf of persons in custody or for vindication of fundamental rights of women, children or other class of groups of disadvantaged persons, who an account of poverty, disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position cannot approach the courts of justice, such letters are placed before the court by way of Public Interest Litigation.
  3. Where it is found that the letter complains of infraction of fundamental right but is on behalf of an individual, it is sent to the Supreme Court Legal aid committee for appropriate action.
  4. Where a letter complains of infraction of a legal right as distinct from a fundamental right, the Public Interest Litigation cell sends it to appropriate Legal Aid Board for the purpose of contacting the person who had written the letter and providing him legal aid assistance for enforcing his right.
  5. The PIL cell also provides information to the Litigants about their cases which are pending or which they wish to file in the Supreme Court and also gives to the members of the public whatever assistance they require in regard to the procedure for filing of cases in the Supreme Court. Through this all, practice of sending anonymous letters, vague allegations can be prevented. [2]

Right of access to justice is the basic human right which is to be assured by every legal system. Treating letter petition as a writ petition in appropriate situations can make the concept of liberty and justice for all more effective. In order to protect and preserve social justice, epistolary jurisdiction can have better impact.

By – Adv. Shinsy P.S.

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Final Year LL.M Student

Govt. Law College, Thrissur

Kerala

[1] P.N. Bhagvathi “Law day” (1986) 4 SCC 4.

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[2] Divine Retreat Centre v. State of Kerala (2008) 2 MLJ 437 (SC)

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