Upholding the order of rejection of plaint, the Supreme Court held that the award of Lok Adalat can be challenged only by filing writ petition under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India, and that civil suit seeking such remedy was not maintianable. The suit in question was filed seeking to set aside a settlement award of lok adalat passed in an earlier suit filed for specific performance of agreement of sale. The plaintiffs alleged that the award was obtained through fraud and misrepresentation.
The trial Court rejected the plaint invoking powers under Order 7 Rule 11(d), which enables the Court to reject the plaint if the suit appears to be barred by any law. As per the law laid down in State of Punjab v. JalourSingh and others (2008) 2 SCC 660, the only remedy to challenge an award of Lok Adalat was writ petition under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India. Relying on the said dictum, the plaint was rejected. However, the High Court set aside the order of rejection, and restored the suit. Against the order of High Court, the defendants approached the Supreme Court.
It was contended on behalf of the plaintiffs that a judicial decision will not come within the meaning of ‘law’ in Order 7 Rule 11(d), and that plaint could not have been rejected by relying on a judicial decision. This contention was not accepted by the Court. It was categorically held that ‘Law’ includes not only legislative enactments but also judicial precedents.
It was therefore held that the plaint was liable to be rejected, the suit being barred by law. It was observed as follows :In our view, the decision rendered in the case of State of Punjab (supra) is by the larger Bench (Three Judge) and is, therefore, binding on us. No efforts were made and rightly to contend that the said decision needs reconsideration on the issue in question. That apart, when this Court has laid down a particular remedy to follow for challenging the award of Lok Adalat then in our view, the same is required to be followed by the litigant in letter and spirit as provided therein for adjudication of his grievance in the first instance. The reason being that it is a law of the land under Article 141 of the Constitution of India (see - M. Nagaraj & Ors. Vs. U.O.I. & Ors. 2006 ( 8 ) SCC 212). It is then for the writ court to decide as to what orders need to be passed on the facts arising in the case.
However, the Court granted liberty to the plaintiffs to file writ petition seeking to set aside the award.
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