The SC heard the case of Mohd. Inam v. Sanjay Kumar Singhal and Others on the 26th of June.
Brief Facts of the Case
The present appeal is filed by way of an SLP. The father of the Appellant was the original tenant of the Respondent. Upon his death during the pendency of the suit, the Appellant was impleaded as the legal representative. The Respondent moved the Rent Controller and Eviction Officer (“Officer”). In the application, the Respondent alleged sub-letting of the property. Hence prayed for declaration of vacancy. There was an appointment of an Inspector and he submitted a report. The report stated that the tenants had allowed persons who were not members of the family to live in the suit premises. Based on the report, the Officer declared the suit premises vacant.
Being aggrieved, the Appellant filed a writ petition. The HC referring to Achal Misra case granted liberty to the petitioners. It directed them to challenge the order of vacancy after the final order. The Officer passed a final order under Section 16 of the U.P. Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent, and Eviction) Act, 1972 (“the U.P. Act”). Aggrieved by the final order, the Appellant filed a revision before the District Judge. The District Judge allowed revisions setting aside the order of vacancy and final order. Against this, the Respondents filed a writ petition. The writ was allowed and hence the present appeal.
The High Court had allowed the petition on the ground that the revision against the final order was not maintainable. However, the Court found that this as a misreading of the law settled in Achal Misra case. To determine the same, the Court revisited the settled law.
In Trilok Singh and Co. v. District Magistrate Lucknow, (1976) 3 SCC 726 there was a filing of a petition against an order declaring a vacancy. The Court considered Sections 16 & 18 of the U.P. Act as it then existed. It held that notification of vacancy causes no prejudice. It is a step in the aid of an order of release. The tenant can have a grievance only when there is a passing of a final order. Hence, a writ petition against it was premature.
The Court considered Trilok Singh’s case considered in Ganpat Roy v. ADM, (1985) 2 SCC 307. The three-judge bench, in this case, observed that Tilok Singh postulated an incorrect view of the law. Hence, the court held that a petition under Article 226 or 227 is not premature. This Supreme Court finally settled this Achal Misra v. Rama Shanker Singh and Others, (2005) 5 SCC 531.
In Achal Misra the court observed that the order notifying a vacancy is only a step in passing the final order. Hence, a petition can challenge it while challenging the final order provided the Act precludes the same. The decisions of the Privy Council were of utmost importance. The Court also observed the principle as recognizable under Section 105(1) of CPC. Order 43 Rule 1-A of the Code further reaffirmed it. The exceptions to the same are under Section 97 of the CPC. In this regard, the Court referred to its decision in Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorajin Debi (1960) 3 SCR 590.
Thus, an interlocutory order which has not been appealed can be challenged in an appeal from the final order. To this extent, the Court held that the decision of the District Judge was correct and that the HC erred in its order. Furthermore, it observed that the District Judge reasoned his order well. Also, the HC failed to recognize the decision of Achal Misra referred by the District Judge.
Merits of the Case
On the merits of the case, the Court made the following observations. There was an amendment in Section 18 of the U.P. Act. There was a substitution in the right of appeal by a remedy of revision with limited grounds. One such ground is an exercise of jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity. On this point, the Court referred to Sarla Ahuja v. United India Insurance Company Ltd., (1998) 8 SCC 119. The Court observed that while exercising revisional jurisdiction, the court cannot reappraise the evidence afresh.
The Court made similar observations in Ram Narain Arora v. Asha Rani and Others, (1999) 1 SCC 141. Thus, there cannot be any interference in a pure finding of the fact by a court exercising revisional jurisdiction. Yet, if the finding of the fact is on a wrong premise of the law, there can be interference. The Constitution Bench of SC in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited v. Dilbahar Singh, (2014) 9 SCC 78 made similar observations.
In the present case, the District Judge exercised the revisional jurisdiction under the U.P Act. The Judge considered the phrase “allowed to be occupied” appearing in Section 12. On a bare perusal of the report submitted by the Inspector, the court established that the original tenant was residing with his family member. In this regard, the finding of the Officer was contrary to the law as interpreted by this Court in Harish Tandon v. ADM, Allahabad, U.P., and other, (1995) 1 SCC 537. In this case, the court held that “allowed to be occupied” would be attracted if any person other than family occupied the premises.
The Court held that the HC erred in interfering with the reasoned order of the District Judge. Moreover, in the guise of exercising jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution, the HC cannot convert itself into a court of appeal. Though the powers of the Court under Article 227 are wide, they must be rarely exercised. Also, it must be exercised only to keep the subordinate courts and Tribunals within the bounds of their territory. Hence, the appeal was allowed and the order of the HC was set aside.
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