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This is written by Tanvee Gupta, pursuing a Certificate Course in Introduction to Legal Drafting: Contracts, Petitions, Opinions & Articles from LawSikho.com. This article has been edited by Prashant Baviskar(Associate, Lawsikho) and by Dipshi Swara (Senior Associate, Lawsikho).

Date of Order: 16th November 2020,

Bench: 3 Judges, 

Hon’ble Justices: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, Ajay Rastogi.

Introduction 

This case deals with the question of whether or not the High Courts are required to formulate any substantial questions of Law in appeals proposed before them, under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC). The Supreme Court, while holding that the High Court can dismiss the Second Appeal without even formulating the substantial question of law, remained consistent with its previous judgments while deciding this case. This article will analyse the case in detail by looking at its facts, issues raised, and the observations made by the court.

Facts of the case

  1. An Appeal was filed against a High Court decision that rejected a second appeal challenging the Trial Court’s and First Appellate Court’s concurring conclusions. 
  2. A suit was filed by the Respondent’s for a permanent injunction before Civil Court claiming that (“the said land”) is owned and possessed by the Respondent, that is Khasra no. 238 computing 4 Bighas 3 Biswas, located at the revenue estate of Basai Darapur Village, Delhi. 
  3. A decree was passed in the favor of the Respondent declaring that they were indeed the actual owners of “the said land”. 
  4. The Respondent was obligated to file this suit perceiving a threat to the charge of their owned possession of “the said land” by the Defendant. The Defendant claimed that “the said land” was apportioned to Defendant 1 to 4 therein.
  5. In view of, and, after taking into consideration all the issues, the Trial Court, passed a decree in favour of the Respondent holding that they were certainly the actual possessors of “the said land.”
  6. A First Appeal was preferred by the Defendant but it was subsequently dismissed, in which the decree and the judgment of the Trial Court were attested by the First Appellate Court.
  7. Subsequently, the Defendant preferred a second appeal which was filed before the High Court which also got dismissed as the High Court refused to dismay the conclusion and the findings of the First Appellate Court as well as the Trial Court and dismissed the Second Appeal after affirming both the judgments of the respective Courts. 
  8. Therefore, after being aggrieved by the High Court’s judgment, the Defendant preferred to file this appeal before the Supreme Court of India contending and raising a preliminary argument that the High Court cannot dismiss the Second Appeal without framing the substantial question of law which is a mandatory requirement according to the terms of Section 100 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as, “CPC”).
  9. The Supreme Court of India while concluding the Civil Appeal at present held that the High Court did not violate any law in not framing any substantial question of law and while dismissing the defendant’s filed appeal. 

Issues

  • Is the High Court capable of rejecting the Second Appeal without raising any substantial question of law, as required by the terms of Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure? 
  • Whether there is a possibility that provisions of Section 28 of Delhi Land Revenue Act, 1954 restrain the Civil Court, the jurisdiction, respecting the boundary disputes. 
  • Whether or not the Appellant is the actual possessor of “the said land” in dispute bearing Khasra no 238 as claimed in the Appeal. 
  • Whether or not ‘the said land’ in dispute established the part of khasra no. 238 of Basai Darapur Village, Delhi as alleged in the Appeal?
  • Is this suit properly evaluating the motives of court fee and jurisdiction? If not, then to what effect and conclusion?
  • Are the Appellants entitled to a decree for permanent injunction alleged in the Appeal?
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Judgment

  • In view of this at first instance, the trial court framed an issue of whether it had the jurisdiction to adjudicate the suit. Ensuing due consideration of facts, the court decided that it does have the jurisdiction.
  • After the First Appellate Court acquiesced with the trial court, the Appellate proposed a Second Appeal before the High Court. The issue regarding whether the Appellate Court can dismiss the appeal without deciding the initial issue of jurisdiction of the civil court was raised. 
  • Following the High Court dismissed the appeal, the Appellant proposed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India.
  • The initial argument raised before the Supreme Court by the Appellate was that the High Court had dismissed the appeal without framing any substantive question of Law which is obligatory in terms of Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) and consequently, the matter should be remanded back to it. 
  • The Court also held that the issue of jurisdiction was not an issue of fact but an issue of law instead. Therefore, it can be decided by the First Appellate Court while taking up the entire appeal for hearing.
  • The Court referred to Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 CPC to dismiss the Appellant’s allegations. Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) interprets that the sub-section (1) of Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) contemplates that an appeal shall lie to the High Court if it is convinced that the case demands a substantive question of law. Section 100(4) interprets, “Where the High Court is satisfied that a substantial question of law is involved in any case, it shall formulate that question.”
  • The Court noted that section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) provides for an appeal to the High Court if the High Court is satisfied that the case concerns a substantive question of Law. In the memorandum of appeal, the significant question of law must be stated specifically.
  • If the High Court thinks that there is a substantive question of law at issue, it must formulate the question. 
  • The Appeal must be heard on the question so formulated. The Court, on the other hand, has the authority to hear an appeal on any other substantive question of law if the requirements set out in Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) are met.
  • As a result, if the appellant’s substantive question of law is found to arise in the case, the High Court must formulate it for consideration. 
  • If no such question occurs, the High Court is not required to formulate any substantial question of law. The formulation of a substantial question of Law, or its reformulation in terms of the proviso, occurs only when there are certain questions of law, not when there is no substantial question of law.
  • If the High Court finds no mistake in the First Appellate Court’s conclusions, it is not required to frame the substantial question of law. 
  • The Court also held that the issue of whether provisions of Section 28 of Delhi Land Revenue Act, 1954 restrains the jurisdiction of the Civil Court in regards to the boundary disputes, the Court perceived that the act does not explicitly barbars or restrains the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts in correspondence to boundaries. 

Section 28 bears for – “Settlement of boundary disputes”

  1. All disputes concerning boundaries shall be resolved by the Deputy Commissioner, as much as possible, as attested by the existing survey maps notwithstanding if it is impossible, the boundaries shall be fixed on the basis of actual possession.
  2. On that condition, if in the course ofon any inquiry or investigation into a dispute under this section, the Deputy Commissioner is incompetent to assure himself as to which the party is in ownership or possession, or if it is shown that possession has been obtained by wrongful dispossession of the lawful occupants of the property within a period of three months previous to the commencement of the inquiry, the Deputy Commissioner — 
  1. in the first case, shall ascertain by summary inquiry who is the person best entitled to the property, and shall put such person in possession; and 
  2. in the second case, shall put the person so dispossessed in possession and shall then fix the boundary accordingly”

The boundary disputes are between two revenue estates and do not include the demarcation of the parties’ land.

“On the day when the second appeal is listed for bearing on admission if the High Court is satisfied that no substantial question of law is involved, it shall dismiss the second appeal without even formulating the question of law;

In cases where the High Court after bearing the appeal is satisfied that the substantial question of law is involved, it shall formulate that question and then the appeal shall be beard on those substantial questions of law; after giving notice and opportunity of hearing to the respondent;

In no circumstances the High Court can reverse the judgment of the trial court and the first appellate court without formulating the substantial question of law and complying with the mandatory requirements of Section 100 CPC.”

Supporting judgments

  • Furthermore, the Court dismissed all the judgments reckoned upon by the appellant, except Md. Mohammed Ali V. Jagadish Kalita, saying that none of them commands or directs the High Court to frame substantial questions of law while upholding the conclusions recorded by the First Appellate Court. The Court reckoned upon the judgment in case of Ashok Rangnath Magar v. Shrikant Govindrao Sangvikar, in the course of which it had heretofore held that the second appeal can be dismissed without even formulating the substantive question of law.
  • The Court cited the following statements made in Ashok Rangnath Magar v. Shrikant Govindrao Sangvikar, in which it was decided that the second appeal could be dismissed without even formulating the substantial issue of law.

Analysis of the judgment

The Apex Court in its judgment while taking into account Section 100 (1) of CPC propounded on the requirements of the aforesaid Section and observed that an appeal shall lie to the High Court if it is satisfied that the case involves a substantial question of law and the substantial question of law is required to be precisely stated in the memorandum of appeal. Further, it observed that if the High Court is satisfied that such a substantial question of law is involved, then only it is required to formulate that question and the appeal has to be heard on the question so formulated. However, the Court has the power to hear the appeal on any other substantial question of law on the satisfaction of the conditions laid down in the proviso of Section 100 of CPC.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court of India, remained consistent with its previous judgments while deciding this case. Although it conceded that it had given a contradictory judgment in the case of Md. Mohammad Ali v. Jagadish Kalita (2004) by questioning the High Court to frame a substantial question of Law in terms of Section 100 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC), it interpreted how the reference was different from the present case. It asserted the general established rule by depending upon its judgment in Ashok Rangnath Magar v. Shrikant Govindrao Sangvikar (2015) to allow the High Court, the independence to resolve or determine if there is a matter of fact any necessity to frame any question of law prior dismissing an Appeal. Contrary to the Appellant’s perspective, it depicted Section 100 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) to bear that it is the discretion of the High Court to conclude if there is a need to frame any question of law ahead of dismissing an appeal.


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