The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the scope of revisional power of high courts in rent laws by holding that they “cannot re-appreciate evidence” and perusal of evidence is confined “to find out legality, regularity and propriety” of the order impugned before it.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said “the consideration or examination of the evidence by the high court in revisional jurisdiction under these acts (rent control laws of different states) is confined to find out that finding of facts recorded by the court/authority below is according to law and does not suffer from any error of law.”
The issue was referred to the Constitution Bench as there was conflict in the two decisions of the apex court with one maintaining that the revisional court is not entitled to re-appreciate evidence while another holding that the expression “legality and propriety” enables the revisional court to reappraise the evidence while considering the findings of the first appellate court.
Giving an authoritative verdict, the bench said, “We hold, as we must, that none of the above rent control acts entitles the high court to interfere with the findings of fact recorded by the first appellate court/first appellate authority because on because on reappreciation of evidence its view is different from court/authority below.”
The five judges were unanimous in saying that “revisional power is not and cannot be equated with the power of reconsideration of all questions of fact as a court of first appeal”.
“Where the high court is required to be satisfied that the decision is according to law, it may examine whether the order impugned before it suffers from procedural illegality or irregularity,” the bench, also comprising justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and S A Bobde, said.
The bench said, “A finding of fact recorded by court/ authority below, if perverse or has been arrived at without consideration of the material evidence or such finding is based on no evidence or misreading of the evidence or is grossly erroneous that, if allowed to stand, it would result in gross miscarriage of justice, is open to correction because it is not treated as a finding according to law.”
“In that event, the high court in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction under the above Rent Control Acts shall be entitled to set aside the impugned order as being not legal or proper,” the bench said.
The apex court said the high court is entitled to satisfy itself the correctness or legality or propriety of any decision or order impugned before it but “to satisfy itself to the regularity, correctness, legality or propriety of the impugned decision or the order, the high court shall not exercise its power as an appellate power to reappreciate or reaccess the evidence for coming to a different finding on facts”.
To find out the scope and extent of revisional jurisdiction under the Rent Control Acts, the apex court explained the differentiation between ‘appellate jurisdiction’ and ‘revisional jurisdiction’.
“Conceptually, revisional jurisdiction is a part of appellate jurisdiction but it is not vice-versa. Both, appellate jurisdiction and revisional jurisdiction are creatures of statutes. No party to the proceeding has an inherent right of appeal or revision.
“An appeal is continuation of suit or original proceeding, as the case may. The power of the appellate court is co-extensive with that of the trial court. Ordinarily, appellate jurisdiction involves re-hearing on facts and law but such jurisdiction may be limited by the statute itself that provides for appellate jurisdiction,” the bench observed.
Under this background, it approved the findings arrived by three judges in the Rukmini judgement and said “We are in full agreement with the word ‘propriety’ does not confer power upon the high court to re-appreciate evidence to come to a different conclusion but its consideration of evidence is confined to find out legality, regularity and propriety of the order impugned before it.”
“The High Court does not enjoy an appellate power to reappraise or reassess the evidence for coming to a different finding contrary to the finding recorded by the courts below.
This view is the correct view and we approve the same,” the bench said.