The Kerala High Court on Friday iterated the legal proposition that High Courts as Courts of Record could review their own orders.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Shaji P Chaly were confronted with an appeal against a review petition.
The appellant who was the original writ petitioner had received a judgment in their favour, in a dispute concerning land tax payment.
The respondents then filed a review petition before the Single Judge, who overturned the judgment. The Single Judge noted that the appellant (writ petitioner) had suppressed material facts from the Court.
Allowing the review petition, the Single Judge had stated, relying on Shivdeo Singh and other cases,
"…It is clear that these constitutional courts, being courts of record, the jurisdiction to recall their own orders is inherent by virtue of the fact that they are superior courts of record. This has been recognised in several of our judgments. The petitioner filed the Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. From the materials produced by the review petitioner, I am of the view that the writ petitioner, has not approached this Court with clean hands. It is seen that material facts were suppressed in the Writ Petition. Therefore, I deem it appropriate to review and recall the judgment"
The Single Judge had also underscored that there was no need for a High Court to search for another provision apart from Article 226 that allowed it to review its own judgments. Pointing to the facts, the Court agreed that the material demonstrated that the appellant had suppressed material facts.
Affirming the stance of the Single Judge, the Court said,
"Discussion of facts made above would make it clear that while rendering the impugned judgment, learned single Judge was under the impression that the entire facts and circumstances were placed by the appellant before the writ court, which only persuaded the learned single Judge to direct the respondent to accept the basic tax from the appellant. However, when a review petition was filed by the respondents in W.P.(C)No.32652 of 2014, the learned single Judge realised that there was material suppression on the part of the appellant while filing the writ petition. It was accordingly, the learned single Judge reviewed the judgment dated 12.10.2018 in W.P.(C) No.32652/2014, holding that the learned single Judge had the power to review the judgment resorting to Article 226 of the Constitution of India apart from other powers since the High Court is a court of record as is adumbrated in Article 215 of the Constitution of India which is an all inclusive power including the power to review a Judgment of its own, if circumstances so warrant."
Again the Division Bench stated,
"Though various contentions were raised by the appellant to substantiate that there is no power to review the judgment passed in a writ petition, we are unable to accept the same, for the reason that it is well settled proposition in law that being a Court of record, the High Court is vested with powers to proceed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India itself and review a judgment, if it is found that there was material suppression, and the Court was not right in granting a verdict in favour of the writ petitioner due to suppression of material facts. The learned single Judge has elaborately considered the issues raised by the appellant, by relying upon the propositions of law laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in its various judgments and had arrived at the right conclusion to review the Judgment."
Approaching court with clean hands
While dismissing the appeal, the Court also made pertinent remarks on the need for approaching the Court without deceit, 'with clean hands'. If a litigant failed to come before a court with honesty, he was to be shown the door at the earliest, the judgment vehemently observes.
The judgement states,
"The honesty, fairness, purity of mind, and approaching the writ court with clean hands should be of the highest order and is a sine qua non to maintain a writ petition and secure orders, failing which the litigant should be shown the exit door at the earliest point of time. Moreover, suppression is a factor quite strange and alien, and an antithesis to rule of law and fundamental governance of the country, and the tendency of the litigant to suppress material aspects if not eradicated, the resultant quotient would be lack of faith of the citizens in the legal system and the courts of law, and if that is allowed to happen, it would ruin the basic tenets of the democratic system and the rule of law prevailing in this country."
On these terms, among others, the appeal was dismissed.
CASE: Pottakalathil Ramakrishnan v. Thahsildar, Tirur and Others
COUNSEL: Advocate V. B. Ramanunni Menon for petitioner, Senior Government Pleader V. Tek Chand for respondents