Single Judge bound by judicial discipline and propriety to follow Division Bench’s decision

Delhi High Court: Deciding an appeal wherein the Single Judge of this Court had ruled that the plaint filed by the appellant-plaintiff was liable to be returned under Order 7 Rule 10 CPC as the Court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit and that no part of the cause of action had arisen in Delhi, the Court observed that it is not open to a Single Judge (and more particularly a trial court) to differ from or critically appraise a decision of a Division Bench (and more particularly of an appellate court).

The appellant had sought a permanent injunction against infringement of its trade mark GHARI/GHADI label as well as the copyright on its artistic work in the said trade mark against the respondent who was a lawyer and proprietor of a law firm GHARI TRADEMARK COMPANY. The Single Judge however, was of the view that no part of the cause of action arose in Delhi, the averments in the plaint were vague and bereft of any particulars and did not amount to a statement of material facts under Order 6 Rule 2 CPC. Also that the plaintiff had not made any specific averment as to  how the defendant is carrying on its business and inter alia soliciting work within the jurisdiction of this Court.

Holding that the Single Judge’s observations were contrary to the interpretation of the Division Bench in Ultra Home Construction Pvt. Ltd. v. Purushottam Kumar Chaubey, FAO (OS) No. 494 of 2016 which it was bound to follow instead of criticising the same, the Bench of Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva, JJ. observed that “Judicial discipline and propriety requires that a Single Bench should follow the decision of a Division Bench without demur as the Single Bench is bound by it.  It is all the more so when the Division Bench decision is of an appellate court and the Single Bench happens to be the trial court. It is a matter of judicial propriety that the hierarchical system is followed.  A decision of an appellate court may in the view of the trial court be right or wrong, but the trial court has no option but to follow it. In fact, a Single Judge cannot even refer a matter for decision by a Bench comprising of more than two judges. Furthermore, the Single Judge can only refer a matter to be placed before a Division Bench of two judges if the Single Judge finds that there is a conflict of decisions of Single Benches. If there are conflicting decisions of Division Benches of co-equal strength, it is, of course, open to the Single Judge to follow the later decision. But, in such a situation, the learned Single Judge cannot seek a reference to a Full Bench of three or more Judges. That would fall within the domain of a Division Bench.”

Setting aside the impugned judgment, the Court observed that “it is indeed unfortunate that the learned Single Judge has embarked upon an adventure to disagree with the decision of a Division Bench in Ultra Home, albeit as ‘a student of law’. Once it is recognized that the decision of the Division Bench is binding on the Single Judge, there is no need to express any difference of opinion or disagreement or purport to give reasons for the said difference of opinion or to even suggest that the decision of the Division Bench may need reconsideration.” [RSPL Ltd.  v.  Mukesh Sharma,  2016 SCC OnLine Del 4285, decided on August 3, 2016]

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