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How to draft an SLP

In the Drafting Paper, this single question can come for 30 marks. 

Questions related to SLPs also come in the paper on Practice & Procedure. 

Generally the question on SLP has the highest weightage. In 2021 there were three questions on SLP alone out of a total of 8 questions divided in 4 parts. In one of the parts the choices were between two SLPs. So one would mandatorily lose out on 25 marks straight if they did not know how to draft this.

In real life, you should know how to deploy it for your clients. Most of your matters are likely to be SLPs.

If you are working with a senior and you can draft SLPs well, they will be very happy to give you drafting work or internships, even pay stipend. Most AORs hiring juniors ask questions related to core Supreme Court petitions, primarily SLPs.

Note: Before drafting, one must read the order you are filing a petition against (called “impugned order”). This will make the heart and soul of your SLP.

Next, you must understand the format of the SLP:

Now, let us learn how to start drafting an SLP with an example. This is a simplified version of the actual case, details of which will be given to you in your today’s giveaway.

Client’s brief

In the present case, Mr. Vijay Shallya had received an order to export 100 crore worth of N-95 masks to  countries in the United States of America on 5th April, 2020. 

Owing to Covid 19, there was  a complete restriction imposed on on 10 April, 2020 by the Government on exporting of sanitisers and similar products outside India applying retrospectively.

Government was apprehensive that if manufacturers start exporting outside, there will be a shortage in India itself, which will hurt India’s domestic interest. 

Mr. Vijay Shallya’s’ point was that this is not equivalent to export of an Indian product, because the mask is not produced in India in the first place – the client imports from China and exports it to United States of America.

The products don’t enter India – this is how the system of merchant trading works. 

Instead, this should have been beneficial for Indian economy as the country gains foreign exchange. 

The client has also not benefited from any government incentives for manufacturing this either. 

This restriction will result in hurting the client’s business, because the market for such products is not in India (customer tastes in export markets are slightly different), and loss of foreign exchange for the government. 

The client had filed a writ petition at a High Court under Art. 226 but failed to get a favorable order. The High Court held that the circular restricting the export is not a restriction on freedom to trade and business.

See a similar order from MP High Court. 

Draft an SLP.   

There are six important parts to an SLP.

  1. Synopsis
  2. List of Dates/Events
  3. Memo of Parties
  4. Question of Law
  5. Grounds
  6. Prayer

I will first explain to you what is in that part and then we will write how that part will be drafted for your client in this matter.

1 Synopsis 

  • Explain briefly why you are coming to the court – give the narrative. 
  • Keep only most essential facts, omit reference to annexures, complicated details, sub-arguments and justifications 
  • In admission hearings, you will hardly get 30 seconds to 2 minutes to argue, and the judge will refer to your synopsis. Restrict to 2 pages at max (14 font size, double spacing, A4 size paper) or less. 
  • You can draft this last as well – remember that if you do it well the matter will be very clear for you to explain. 
  • Remember that fresh SLPs get listed on Mondays and Fridays when the judges have too much to read and too much to hear. 

Let’s draft a synopsis together. Remember, in a synopsis you are writing a short story, telling exactly what has happened.

Most lawyers write in a verbose manner or write in a very technical way. To make you practice, I’ll show you a paragraph and you have to summarize it in two lines, without missing the context. 

Can you summarize this in two lines? These would be the first two lines of your  synopsis.

Explain what the petitioner does.

The Petitioner is an Indian citizen and in the business of manufacturing several FMCG products.

That’s all you need to write.

Let’s try another paragraph

Here’s an example: 

The Petitioner has entered into a Merchant Trading Transaction with China for supplying KN-95 manufactured in China in the United States of America. 

Read the para again. This one line covers whatever was said in the entire paragraph. 

Are you getting a sense of this? 

Let’s move to the next part. 

2 List of Dates

Every SLP draft starts with a list of dates to help the bench understand chronology of the matter.

Prepare a list of dates before you start drafting, it includes dates for important facts before proceedings were initiated (most trial lawyers would do this), dates of orders before the lower court/tribunal and High Courts. 

Let’s map it to our applicable case:  What are the important dates that you will mention? 

Here are the important dates usually: 

  1. When your client started the business 
  2. Date of any proceedings in connection with which the SLP has arisen, e.g. date of income tax notice
  3. Dates of issuance of any notification/rules which are being challenged 
  4. Date of filing a writ petition before the High Court 
  5. Date of the High Court’s order (called the impugned order) against which you are going to the Supreme Court in SLP 
  6. Any developments during this period that are connected.

The last date will be the date of filing of the present SLP. 

Remember to mark all your annexures in the list of dates. So all the documents you are relying upon have to be mentioned with the dates. 

This is what the list of dates looks like: 

Once you are done with these, we move to the next part – the Memo of the Parties.

3 Memo of Parties

This is the list of parties – petitioner and respondents. This is used to serve the notice for all other correspondence.

Here is how it looks in a real SLP:

Lets move to our next part, Question of Law:

4 Question of Law

In an SLP, you have to tell the Court right away what is the substantial question of law that is involved in the present case – that is the only time it will be admitted.

Generally, the language used is:

Whether the High Court erred in holding that [Insert details about what injustice was done].

In the present case, the High Court order had held that the government notification is valid. You can frame the following questions of law around it: 

  1. Whether the High Court erred in holding that the government notification is not in violation of Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India.
  1. Whether the High Court erred in holding that government notification imposed a reasonable restriction under Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India.

This is what the grounds look like in a real SLP: 

Alright, so by now, we have drafted 75% of our SLP. 

Can you recall what are the things we have already drafted?

5 Grounds

Questions of law indicate how a substantial question of law is involved – mention all the reasons why you believe the judgment was incorrectly decided. 

Ask: Why should the SLP be allowed?


Here is an example: 

Because the High Court should have considered that the impugned goods never entered into the territory of India and it was never taken into consideration.

Because the High Court erred in holding that the RBI notification imposes a reasonable restriction under Article 19(1)(g) – the RBI notification does not have a rational nexus with the underlying purpose of maintaining sufficient supplies of PPE products in India.

The following are how the grounds are drafted generally:

  • For/Because the High Court erred in holding/not considering….
  • For/Because the High Court should have considered/held….
  • For/Because the High Court erroneously held [-] in the light of this Hon’ble Court’s decision in….
  • For/Because the High Court failed to consider the decision of this Hon’ble Court in/failed to consider the settled law that….

Add in the fact that the petitioner craves leave to add, alter or amend any of the above grounds at a later stage.

By now you have drafted the SLP. Still the most important part remains. What’s that?

Why did you tell the story in the first place? What do you want? 

That brings us to the sixth and final part. The Prayer

6 Prayer 

The prayer of every SLP is the same. The main prayer in an SLP shall always read as follows:

  1. Grant special leave to appeal against the Impugned Order dated [-] passed by [-] in [-]; and
  2. Pass such further or other order(s) as the Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the interest of justice

Hence, how will it be drafted in this case? Please try using the format above.

This is how your prayer should look like:

Let’s revise:

Dates are Syn, Parties are Questioned, I am Grounded, I Pray 

  1. Synopsis (story) (Syn)
  2. List of dates (What happened when) 
  3. Memo of Parties
  4. Question of law + Grounds (Why the complete matter needs to be heard)
  5. Prayer (What relief you want)

Here’s is a chapter on how to draft an SLP:

So, did you learn something new? We tried to keep it simple to teach you basics and do this together.

In reality, this is what a fully drafted SLP will look like.

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