The Constitution (Article 143) authorises the president to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court in the two categories of matters:
- On any question of law or fact of public importance which has arisen or which is likely to arise.
- On any dispute arising out of any pre-constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instruments.
In the first case, the Supreme Court may tender or may refuse to tender its opinion to the president. But, in the second case, the Supreme Court ‘must’ tender its opinion to the president. In both the cases, the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court is only advisory and not a judicial pronouncement. Hence, it is not binding on the president; he may follow or may not follow the opinion. However, it facilitates the government to have an authoritative legal opinion on a matter to be decided by it. So far (2013), the President has made fifteen references to the Supreme Court under its advisory jurisdiction (also known as consultative jurisdiction). These are mentioned below in the chronological order.
- Delhi Laws Act in 1951
- Kerala Education Bill in 1958
- Berubari Union in 1960
- Sea Customs Act in 1963
- Keshav Singh’s case relating to the privileges of the Legislature in 1964