Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajbir Sehrawat, J., allowed the instant second appeal challenging the concurrent judgments and decrees passed by the trial Court and district judge for recovery of arrears of rent and the electricity charges for the premises which had been leased out to the appellant bank.

Brief facts of the case follows as, the plaintiff was the owner in possession of SCO No.147-148, Sector 17-C, Chandigarh which was leased out to the appellant. When the said lease came to end the appellant issued a notice intimating the plaintiff to take possession of the premises. However, the plaintiff insisted upon the bank to first clear the water and electricity dues; and further vaguely insisted to ensure the handing over of the said property in the same condition in which it was handed over to the appellant.

Appellant contended that the plaintiff never approached the appellant formally, instead filed a police complaint stating that the appellant is restraining them from committing civil work in their premises, which was sought only to create proofs of appellant’s possession as the complaint was withdrawn when the bank admitted its possession over the premises as the plaintiff has not formally accepted the possession. Later on, the plaintiff preferred a rent petition before the Rent Controller, Chandigarh for eviction of the appellant on the ground of non-payment of rent, that too, when the appellant was already willing to hand over the possession. Hence, it is clear that the plaintiff was avoiding taking possession of the property only to prolong the matter so as to raise the claim of rent at a very hefty amount of about 12 lakhs per month.

The plaintiff preferred the present suit before the Civil Court on 18-02-2014 seeking recovery of amount of 1,27,96,137 rupees on account of arrears of rent which was decreed in his favour. The contentions of the petitioner were that he could not take possession of the premises since the appellant had not removed the construction of RCC. It was further stated that since, the appellant had paid complete rent; therefore, the security deposits, which were lying with the plaintiff, are to be adjusted towards the outstanding rent. The counsel further argued that both the courts below have recorded concurrent findings of facts against the appellant. Therefore, in second appeal the appellant cannot be permitted to raise the same issue once again.

The Court while reversing the decrees of lower Courts held that lease deed specifically shows that it was the sole responsibility of the plaintiff to raise the RCC construction. Therefore, the appellant could not be fastened with any liability to remove the same. It was observed that the plaintiff had no right to refuse taking over of possession of the premises in question for any reason whatsoever. Also, the delay in transfer of possession was only creation of the plaintiff themselves. Therefore, they are not entitled to claim any compensation or arrears.

The Court further established that there could not be any blanket rule that the concurrent findings cannot be interfered with in second appeal. It would depend upon the facts of the case, if the courts below record a finding in ignorance or against the evidence on the file, then the Court in second appeal should not only interfere with such findings, rather, it is the legal duty cast upon such a court to bring the same in consonance with the evidence led on file. [HDFC Bank Ltd. v. Sanjiv Kumar Jain, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2253, decided on 02-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Jyotsna Rewal Dua J., dismissed the appeal on ground of impugned judgment/orders being devoid of any infirmity.

The facts in a nutshell are that three ladies are claiming themselves to be the legally wedded wives of late Sh. Prem Chand and therefore entitled to his service benefits. Suit filed by one of them i.e. L1 and opposed by the other two L2 and L3, has been decreed by the learned Trial Court. This decree has been affirmed by the learned First Appellate Court. Aggrieved, the other two ladies are before this Court by way of second appeal based on important question of law that whether the Courts by way of impugned judgment misconstrued or misinterpreted the pleadings and evidence in finding out as to who is the legally wedded wife and children of the deceased.

Counsel Nimish Gupta and Vinod Thakur represented the appellants and Counsel Surinder Saklani, H.S. Rangra, Amit Dhumal, and. Manoj Bagga represented the respondents.

Submissions by L2

Neither was L2 able to show any proper documentary proof validating her claims of being legally wedded wife nor her children able to proof themselves as legal representatives of the deceased. She relied on entry of her name as the nominee in the service record of the deceased however no contemporary evidence was presented validating the same. The fact that no pandit was involved during her marriage with the deceased and that she couldn’t attend funeral of the deceased vitiates her claims further.

 Submissions by L3

L3 also failed to show any proper documentary evidence validating her claim infact she even admitted that she made no objection or complaint regarding one other man working as a sweeper in HRTC Mandi whose details reflects L3 as his wife and her children as his own.

Submissions by L1

 L1 substantiated her claim by showing negatives of wedding pictures as well as pandit who performed the marriage rites , Jamabandi Record, Panchayat Record affidavits which clearly show that deceased and L1 applied for their wedding to be registered along with Legal Heirs Certificate validating the claim of her children as the legal representatives of the deceased.

The Court observed that a second appeal only lies on a substantial question of law. It is not open to re-agitate facts or to call upon the High Court to re-analyze or re-appreciate evidence in a second appeal. Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure restricts the right of second appeal only to those cases, where a substantial question of law is involved.

The Court held that all the aspects in the instant second appeal and cross objection are purely factual. No substantial question of law arises in this appeal or cross-objections.

In view of the above, the appeal stands dismissed and disposed off.[Shanta Devi v. Kaushalya Devi, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 1828, decided on 01-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Amita Pandove (Information Commissioner) while addressing the present second appeal observed that the exemption of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act can only be claimed when the information sought relates to the personal information of a third party.

Information Sought

Appellant had sought certified copies of the delivery sheet of the article/ registered speed post letter along with the date and time and name of the postman who delivered the same to the concerned authorities.

CPIO denied the information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 talks about Exemption from disclosure of information

(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information:

Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

On being dissatisfied, the first appeal was sought and on the ground of unsatisfactory reply in the first appeal from the respondent, Second Appeal was filed under Section 19 of the RTI Act.

Section 19: Appeal

(1) Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in sub-section (1) or clause (a) of sub-section (3) of Section 7, or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority:

Provided that such officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of thirty days if he or she is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(2) Where an appeal is preferred against an order made by a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under Section 11 to disclose third-party information, the appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within thirty days from the date of the order.

(3) A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission:

Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(4) If the decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, against which an appeal is preferred relates to information of a third party, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.

(5) In any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, who denied the request.

(6) An appeal under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be disposed of within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty-five days from the date of filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing.

(7) The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall be binding.

(8) In its decision, Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to

(a) require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including—

(i) by providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form;

(ii) by appointing a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be;

(iii) by publishing certain information or categories of information;

(iv) by making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records;

(v) by enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its officials;

(vi) by providing it with an annual report in compliance with clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 4;

(b) require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered;

(c) impose any of the penalties provided under this Act;

(d) reject the application.

(9) The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall give notice of its decision, including any right of appealto the complainant and the public authority.

(10) The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall decide the appeal in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed.

Decision

Commission observed that an appropriate reply has not been furnished to the appellant.

Exemption under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act

Further, it was noted that the exemption of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act can only be claimed when the information sought relates to the personal information of a third party, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public interest and would cause an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the third party.

In the present matter, the bench noted that the information sought was not the personal information of a third party, hence exemption Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act would not be applicable in the present case.

While disposing of the present appeal and considering the above-noted facts, along with the fact that RTI Act supersedes any departmental rules, the Commission directed the respondent to furnish due information to the appellant. [S. Muthumalai v. CPIO, 2020 SCC OnLine CIC 946, decided on 17-09-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has held that when no substantial question of law is formulated, but a Second Appeal is decided by the High Court, the judgment of the High Court is vitiated in law. Formulation of substantial question of law is mandatory and the mere reference to the ground mentioned in Memorandum of Second Appeal cannot satisfy the mandate of Section 100 of the CPC.

It said that for entertaining and deciding a second appeal, whenever a question is framed by the High Court, the High Court will have to show that the question is one of law and not just a question of facts, it also has to show that the question is a substantial question of law.

“Just as this Court has time and again deprecated the practice of dismissing a second appeal with a non-speaking order only recording that the case did not involve any substantial question of law, the High Court cannot also allow a second appeal, without discussing the question of law, which the High Court has done.”

Explaining the scope of Section 100 CPC, the Court said that a second appeal, or for that matter, any appeal is not a matter of right. The right of appeal is conferred by statute. A second appeal only lies on a substantial question of law. If statute confers a limited right of appeal, the Court cannot expand the scope of the appeal.

The Court, further, explained:

  • To be “substantial”, a question of law must be debatable, not previously settled by the law of the land or any binding precedent, and must have a material bearing on the decision of the case and/or the rights of the parties before it, if answered either way.
  • To be a question of law “involved in the case”, there must be first, a foundation for it laid in the pleadings, and the question should emerge from the sustainable findings of fact, arrived at by Courts of facts, and it must be necessary to decide that question of law for a just and proper decision of the case.

“Where no such question of law, nor even a mixed question of law and fact was urged before the Trial Court or the First Appellate Court, a second appeal cannot be entertained.”

Conclusion

  1. An inference of fact from the recitals or contents of a document is a question of fact, but the legal effect of the terms of a document is a question of law. Construction of a document, involving the application of any principle of law, is also a question of law. Therefore, when there is misconstruction of a document or wrong application of a principle of law in construing a document, it gives rise to a question of law.
  2. The High Court should be satisfied that the case involves a substantial question of law, and not a mere question of law. A question of law having a material bearing on the decision of the case (that is, a question, answer to which affects the rights of parties to the suit) will be a substantial question of law, if it is not covered by any specific provisions of law or settled legal principle emerging from binding precedents, and, involves a debatable legal issue.
  3. A substantial question of law will also arise in a contrary situation, where the legal position is clear, either on account of express provisions of law or binding precedents, but the Court below has decided the matter, either ignoring or acting contrary to such legal principle. In the second type of cases, the substantial question of law arises not because the law is still debatable, but because the decision rendered on a material question, violates the settled position of law.
  4. The general rule is, that High Court will not interfere with the concurrent findings of the Courts below. But it is not an absolute rule. Some of the well-recognised exceptions are where
    • the courts below have ignored material evidence or acted on no evidence;
    • the courts have drawn wrong inferences from proved facts by applying the law erroneously; or
    • the courts have wrongly cast the burden of proof.

“A decision based on no evidence, does not refer only to cases where there is a total dearth of evidence, but also refers to case, where the evidence, taken as a whole, is not reasonably capable of supporting the finding.”

[Nazir Mohamed v. J. Kamala, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 676, decided on 27.08.2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Amita Pandove (Information Commissioner) disposed of the second appeal filed seeking information regarding the tea stall that was issued to the father of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Appellant filed an RTI application sought information on regarding following points:

  • What was the lease period of the tea stall of Shri Damodar Das, father of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, located at Vadnagar Railway station under Ahemdabad Railway Division and when was the license for that tea stall issued?
  • Provide a certified copy of the relevant documents regarding the date on which permit and license was issued by the Railway Department to the said tea stall/shop, located at Vadnagar Railway station.
  • Provide a certified copy of the advertisement issued by the then Railway Authority for the establishment of the said tea stall/shop.
    And other related information.

Appellant did not receive any information for the above-stated and hence filed the first appeal which was not disposed of by the FAA.

Appellant filed the second appeal under Section 19 of the RTI Act on the ground of non-receipt of information by the respondent.

Bench on perusal of the submission of the parties and records directed the respondent to file an affidavit with the Commission deposing that RTI application and first appeal of the appellant were not received by him prior to 17-06-2020.

Commission, further directed the respondent to depose in his affidavit that no record relating to information sought is available with him as per RTI provision, hence no information can be provided to the complainant.

In view of the above-stated observations, the appeal was disposed of. [Pawan Prik v. CPIO, CIC/WRAIL/A/2018/168251, decided on 28-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Ajay Mohan Goel, J. dismissed the appeal on finding no substantial question of law involved in the appeal.

Factual matrix of the case was that the plaintiff filed a suit for recovery of a certain amount along with the interest rate; the contract was based on mutual understanding and was a written one. The plaintiff contended that the defendant had executed a receipt or undertaking for the borrowings that were made. Allegedly defendant issued a cheque in favor of the plaintiff to discharge part liability but the same was dishonored. Subsequently, the plaintiff initiated proceedings under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. The plaintiff submitted that thereafter the matter was compromised between the two, however, the balance amount is still due.

On the contrary, the defendant submitted that the sum was never borrowed from the plaintiff neither any receipt was executed by him. The learned Trial Court had adjudicated the matter and framed several issues, like ‘Whether plaintiff suppressed material facts from the Court’ and ‘Whether the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the present suit, as alleged?’

Trial Court decreed the suit in favor of the plaintiff on the basis of the evidence presented. The contention of defendant that the document presented was not the original receipt stood answered in negative by learned trial Court by holding that receipt was the original document and the objection raised by the defendant against the same was bad, especially as defendant in the witness box had admitted in his cross-examination that signatures on said receipt was his. The trial court had relied upon, Ajudya Lal v. Sandhya Devi, HJL 2006 (2) 943, where the Court had held that ‘there could not be evidence stronger than an admission by the parties in the civil cases.’ Against the order of the Trial Court the defendant filed an appeal. However, the appeal was dismissed. Learned Appellate Court also took notice of the fact that the defendant in his statement had clearly admitted his signatures on the said exhibit. On this basis, learned Appellate Court had held that it was apparent that the defendant was yet to pay an amount to the plaintiff.

Hence, the defendant now filed a second instant appeal aggrieved by the Judgment of trial court and Appellate Court, defendant had argued that the Judgments and decrees passed by both the learned Courts below were not sustainable in the eyes of law as the learned Courts below have erred in not appreciating that exhibit was a false and fabricated document and a scanned copy of the same was exhibited and suit could have been decreed by relying upon the said exhibit.

On the contrary, the plaintiff had submitted that there was no perversity with the findings. He had further argued that as the allegation of the defendant was that the exhibit was a forged document, the onus was upon him to prove the said fact, which he was not able to prove. Accordingly, he urged that as the appeal sans merit, the same be dismissed.

The Court, observed the concurrent findings by the Courts below and held that, “The scope of interference by the High Court in Second Appeal under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure is only if the Court finds that there is substantial question of law involved in the appeal.” Further, it was held that there was no substantial question of law involved in the case. Both the Courts have given the Judgment in favor of the plaintiff after examining all the evidence and pleadings. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.[Satyapal Kashyap v. P.P.S. Chhatwal, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 1561, decided on 19-09-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Court, yet again, reminded the High Courts of the limitations under Section 100 CPC and said:

“despite the catena of decisions of this Court and even the mandate under Section 100 of the CPC, the High Courts under Section 100 CPC are disturbing the concurrent findings of facts and/or even the findings recorded by the First Appellate Court, either without formulating the substantial question of law or on framing erroneous substantial question of law.”

The bench L Naeswara Rao and MR Shah, JJ was hearing the appeal against the judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court wherein the High Court had allowed the Second Appeal and had quashed   and set aside the judgment and decree passed by the First Appellate Court dismissing the suit and consequently has restored the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court decreeing the suit relating to perpetual injunction.

The bench noticed that:

“While interfering with the judgment and order passed by the first Appellate Court, it appears that while upsetting the judgment and decree passed by the First Appellate Court, the High Court has   again appreciated the entire evidence on record, which in exercise of powers under Section 100 CPC is not permissible. While passing the impugned judgment and order, it appears that High Court has not at all appreciated the fact that the High Court was deciding the Second Appeal under Section 100 of the CPC and not first appeal under Section 96 of the CPC.”

The Court reiterated that the jurisdiction of the High Court, in an appeal under Section 100 of the CPC, is strictly confined to the case involving substantial question of law and while deciding the second appeal under Section 100 of the CPC, it is not permissible for the High Court to re­appreciate the evidence on record and interfere with the findings recorded by the Courts below and/or the First Appellate Court and if the First Appellate Court has exercised its discretion in a judicial manner, its decision cannot be recorded as suffering from an error either of law or of procedure requiring interference in Second Appeal.

[Gurnam Singh v. Lehna Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 374, decided on 13.03.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: M.M. Shantanagoudar, J speaking for himself and N.V. Ramana, J. allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of the Patna High Court wherein it set aside the order of Chief Judicial Magistrate taking cognizance of various offences under IPC.

The appellant was the husband of one Dr Ira Sinha, who had purchased a fully automatic Biochemistry Analyser model “Miura 200” from Logotech (India) (P) Ltd.,of which the respondents were directors. The said analyser was not working properly; even after repeated complaints, the respondents did not pay attention. An FIR was lodged under Sections 406, 420, 384 and 386 IPC. Magistrate took cognizance of the offences. However, the order was quashed by High Court. Subsequently, again problem arose with the functioning of the analyser. The manufacturer of the machine sent a technical representative who found that the original parts of the machine were replaced with duplicate parts; he also gave a service report for the same. The respondents threatened the appellant and his wife to return the report or face dire consequences. Another FIR was lodged under Sections 420, 406, 374, 448, 307, 427 and 506 IPC, the cognizance of which was taken by the Magistrate. However, the order taking cognizance was set aside by the High Court. This judgment was impugned in the instant appeal.

The Supreme Court held that the High Court was at fault in quashing the order of the Magistrate. High Court was primarily influenced by the fact that the earlier order of taking cognizance was quashed in the same matter. The Court referred to its previous decision in Udai Shankar Awasthy v. State of U.P., (2013) 2 SCC 435,  to observe that law does not prohibit filing the second complaint in the same matter if it is based on the discovery of new facts. In the instant case, new facts of replacing the original parts with duplicate had emerged, and thus the second complaint was maintainable. Also, the Court found that there was a prima facie case against the respondents. Thus, the High Court was not right in quashing the order taking cognizance. The appeal was allowed. [Om Prakash Singh v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine SC 684, decided on 11-07-2018]