State legislature can’t enact a law that touches the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; Section 13(2) of the Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act held unconstitutional

Supreme Court: The 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has declared Section 13(2) of the Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act, 2011 that Act purports to confer a right of statutory Second Appeal to the Supreme Court, ultra vires the Constitution of India. The Court said that a provision which mandates the Supreme Court to consider an appeal is clearly beyond the legislative competence of the State Legislature.

The Court held that in view of Entry 65 of the State List and Entry 46 of the Concurrent List, the State Legislature can enact law which affects the jurisdiction of all Courts, including the High Court, except under Articles 226 and 227, but it cannot enact law which touches the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It said,

“A law made under Article 323B (1) of the Constitution may exclude the jurisdiction of all Courts except the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136 with respect to the matters falling within the jurisdiction of the said Tribunals. However, Article 323B (2) (d) or any other provision of the Constitution does not enable the State Legislature to enact law which provides for statutory appeals to the Supreme Court.”

The Court, hence, held that the Rent Control Tribunal having been established under Article 323B of the Constitution, as observed above, the diminution, if any, of the jurisdiction of the High Court, except under Article 226 and 227, would be saved by Article 323B(3)(d) of the Constitution, but not the provision for statutory appeal to the Supreme Court.

It was contended before the Court that Section 13(2) of the Rent Control Act does not confer on the Supreme Court, jurisdiction it did not already possess, but is only incidental to and/or extension of its power under Article 136, is not sustainable in law. The Court, however, rejected the said contention and held that under Article 136 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court does not act as a regular court of appeal. The power of the Supreme Court under Article 136 is not to be confused with the appellate power ordinarily exercised by appellate courts and Tribunals under specific statutes.

The Court also rejected the argument that when a State Law gets the assent of the President of India, that law prevails in the States, notwithstanding repugnancy with an earlier Union law, and said,

“Presidential assent makes no difference in case of legislative incompetence. Presidential assent cannot and does not validate an enactment in excess of the legislative powers of the State Legislature, nor validate a statutory provision, which would render express provisions of the Constitution otiose. Presidential assent cures repugnancy with an earlier Central Statute, provided the State Legislature is otherwise competent to enact the Statute.”

[Rajendra Diwan v. Pradeep Kumar Ranibala, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1586, decided on 10.12.2019]

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