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High Court Can Exercise Jurisdiction Under Article 227 Even if Plea Is Styled As Writ Petition Under Article 226: Supreme Court

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In the judgment on Monday on 5 April 2021, the Supreme Court observed that a petition which is styled as one given under Article 226 of the Constitution of India would not bar the jurisdiction of the High Court given under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

Facts of the Case

In the present case, Plaintiff made a declaration before the civil Court by filing a suit that he was a tenant in the suit premises and was entitled to continue to be a tenant if he continuously pays monthly rent. He supported his declaration based on the history of the passing of the tenancy right from the brother of the plaintiff’s great grandfather to grandfather and then to his father when the grandfather fell ill. Finally, in the year 1988, Plaintiff started running the hotel. Although, due to management disputes the hotel remained closed for several years. Later, Plaintiff wanted to resume the hotel business, so he communicated with the Respondent to continue the hereditary tenancy of the shop as Karta in his name. However, the cause of action arose in the year 1966 when the grandfather of the plaintiff and others broke the lock of the premises and removed the belongings present in the shop. 

On the other hand, Waqf Board asserted that the Appellant was the duly appointed tenant by the management committee. Also, the grandfather of Plaintiff transferred the tenancy rights to Md. Salimuddin and handed over the vacant possession of premise in 1996. Later, the suit was transferred to Munsif on the application of the Appellant and the state waqf board which was further challenged in Patna High Court and was dismissed with a fine. The trial Court dismissed the suit whereas High Court set it aside which was consequently in appeal in the present petition.

Pleadings before the Court

It was submitted by the learned counsel on behalf of the Appellant that in light of this Court’s decision in Ramesh Gobindram (Dead) through LRs. v. Sugra Humayun Mirza Wakf, the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear the Plaintiff’s case. Also, only a revision in terms of proviso to sub-section (9) of Section 83 of the Act could be preferred, so the Wakf Tribunal’s order could not be questioned in a writ petition before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It was further submitted that in a petition filed under Article 227 of the Constitution, the High Court might not have appreciated evidence. The Wakf Tribunal’s findings of fact were illegally set aside by the High Court. Besides, no intervention in tenancy matters is allowed in petitions filed under Article 226 or 227 of the Constitution.

On the other hand, the learned counsel on behalf of the Respondent submitted that it made no difference if the High Court’s jurisdiction was invoked under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or the proviso to sub-section (9) of Section 83 of the Act since the High Court’s jurisdiction was invoked in both cases. It was also argued that Ram Sewak Ram was inducted as a tenant and therefore, Plaintiff has a right by birth in the tenancy which could not be surrendered by the then Karta, defendant No. 1 without the consent of the other coparceners. It was further contended that the Hindu personal law governing the devolution of joint Hindu family property also applies to leased property.

Court’s Observation

The bench of the Supreme Court comprising  Justices Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer and Hemant Gupta observed that the High Court has the authority under Section 83 of the Act to call for and review records relating to any controversy, issue, or other matter that has been decided by the Tribunal to satisfy itself as to the correctness, legality, or propriety of such decision. 

It was further observed that the fact that the petition was filed as a writ petition made no difference. It should be noted that a petition under Article 227 is referred to as a writ petition in some High Courts, a revision petition in others, and a miscellaneous petition in still others.

Court’s Judgement

The Supreme Court held that the High Court’s exercise of jurisdiction under the Act and/or Article 227 of the Constitution would not be hindered by the petition filed under Article 226. It also stated that the High Court retained jurisdiction to review the Tribunal’s correctness, legality, and propriety in resolving any conflict. The fact that the proceedings are referred to as a petition under Article 226 or a petition under Article 227 was completely irrelevant.

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