High Court can pass an order interdicting the legal fiction as contemplated under State Act

“The Courts are guardians of the rights and liberties of the citizen and they shall fail in their responsibility if they abdicate their solemn duty towards the citizens.”

Supreme Court: When the bench of Ashok Bhushan and Navin Sinha, JJ was called upon to decide whether the High Court in exercise of its Constitutional jurisdiction conferred under Article 226 of Constitution of India can pass an order interdicting a legal fiction engrafted in a State enactment, it held,

“The power under Article 226 of the Constitution overrides any contrary provision in a Statute and the power of the High Court under Article 226 cannot be taken away or abridged by any contrary provision in a Statute.”

It, further, noticed that the power of judicial review vested in the High Courts under Article 226 and this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution is an integral and essential feature of the Constitution and is basic structure of our Constitution. The jurisdiction under Article 226 is original, extraordinary and discretionary. The look out of the High Court is to see whether injustice has resulted on account of any decision of a constitutional authority, a tribunal, a statutory authority or an authority within meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.

The precise question before the Court was whether Section 5B of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 oust the jurisdiction of the High Court.

  • Section 5B of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act requires the candidate to submit caste validity certificate on the date of filing Nomination paper.
  • A candidate who has applied to Scrutiny Committee for the verification of his caste certificate before date of filing Nomination but who had not received the validity certificate on the date of filing Nomination has to submit an undertaking that he shall submit within a period of six months from the date of election, the validity certificate issued by the Scrutiny Committee.
  • If a person fails to produce the validity certificate within a period of six months from the date of election, that election shall be deemed to have been terminated retrospectively and he shall be disqualified for being a Counsellor. The period of six months was amended to be twelve months by Amendment Act, 2018.

Holding that Section 5B of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 does not oust the jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, the Court said that the High Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution can pass an order interdicting the legal fiction as contemplated under second proviso to Section 5B, provided the legal fiction had not come into operation.

“When a citizen has right to judicial review against any decision of statutory authority, the High Court in exercise of judicial review had every jurisdiction to maintain the status quo so as to by lapse of time, the petition may not be infructuous. The interim order can always be passed by a High Court in exercise of writ jurisdiction to maintain the status quo in aid of the relief claimed so that at the time of final decision of the writ petition, the relief may not become infructuous.”

It is true that requirement of submission of Caste Validity Certificate within a period of one year under Section 5B of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act is mandatory requirement but in the facts of the case before the Court, before the expiry of the period of six month, the Caste Scrutiny Committee had illegally rejected the claim necessitating filing of writ petition by aggrieved persons in which writ petition the interim relief was granted by the High Court. It, hence, noticed that in the facts of the present case, the deeming fiction under Section 5B of retrospective termination of the election could not come in operation due to the interim order passed by the High Court.

“The power of the High Court to grant an interim relief in appropriate case cannot be held to be limited only for a period of one year, which was period envisaged in Section 5B for submission of the Caste Validity Certificate. No such fetter on the power of the High Court can be read by virtue of provision of Section 5B.”

[Benedict Denis Kinni v. Tulip Brian Miranda, CIVIL APPEAL NOS.1429-1430/2020, decided on 19.03.2020]

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