Definition/ meaning

Literal meaning of suo moto is on its own motion. Suo motu/moto is a Latin legal term, approximately equivalent to the term sua sponte. For example, it is used where a government agency acts on its own cognizance or any authority, usually a judicial authority or an authority exercising judicial or quasi judicial powers takes cognizance (initiates judicial proceedings)of a matter without a formal prompting from another party. as in “commission took suo motu control over the matter.” In layman’s terms this would mean a court or judge has taken or file a case without any complainant or petitioner. Usually in socially relevant matters.

What is suo moto in India?

If we talk about suo moto in Indian context it is a law which gives protection to basic human rights of people who don’t come forward to fight for their own rights or those who are not able to file a case for themselves or for their rights. Suo moto’s power of supreme court has been provided under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. There have been numerous cases in India where the Indian court have take Suo Moto cognizance in matters based upon a letter or a report and have passed judgments in such cases in the public interest. Suo Moto action by the courts has given hope to the general public that the wrong done to the public at large will be corrected by the courts by taking Suo Moto Cognizance. So this Suo Moto under Article 131 of Indian constitution has been widely recognized and Indian judiciary time and again has proved its power by taking up Suo Moto cases.

When can Indian courts take Suo Moto action?

Indian court can take Suo Moto Cognizance where there is violation basic human rights, or of conduct of government policies, or violation of religious rights or other basic fundamental rights, Fundamental Duties etc. Both courts The Supreme court and high courts of India are empowered to take Suo Moto cognizance.

Recently taken action under Suo Moto Cognizance by Indian Judiciary :-

  • Our apex court has initiated Suo Moto cognizance to stop involvement of children and infants in protests
  • Suo Moto cognizance in Murthal Rape case by Punjab and Haryana high court in which many senior officers of Haryana came to Sukhdev Dhaba to escort the women to Delhi border.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir High Court took Suo Moto cognizance and asked the state government to respond to deficiency and other issues related to the health sector of the state.
  • Supreme court took Suo Moto cognizance of the “problems and miseries of migrant laborers who have been stranded in different parts of the country” during lockdown.
  • Suo Moto cognizance has been taken by apex court on issues related to treatment of the patients at the hospital and dignified handling of dead bodies.