The Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court of India, through its decision in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. v Dilbahar Singh declared that the High Court ‘cannot re-appreciate evidence’ and can only find out “legality, regularity and propriety of the impugned” order. The matter was earlier referred to the Constitution Bench in light of conflicting Judgments of the Supreme Court in Rukmini Amma Saradamma v. Kallyani Sulochana [(1993) 1 SCC 499] and Ram Dass v. Ishwar Chander and others [ AIR 1988 SC 1422]
The 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.”
Before this judgment, the point of law in this regard was not clear as one judgment of the Supreme Court held that revisional court is not entitled to re-appreciate evidence while another judgment, also from the Supreme Court held that expression “legality and propriety” empowers the revisional court to reappraise the evidence while considering the findings of the first appellate court.
Therefore, the matter was referred to the Constitutional Bench, so as to get an authoritative view on this point of law, and the Court declared that “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 judgment delivered by the Constitutional Bench is a unanimous one, with Chief Justice Lodha being the author. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice Lodha, Justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and S A Bobde also said “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 Court also upheld the decision laid down in Rukmini Amma Saradamma v. Kallyani Sulochana and others; [(1993) 1 SCC 499]. The Bench also opined that “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.”
It also went on to say “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 Supreme Court said that the High Court has the power to satisfy itself the correctness, legality or propriety of the impugned judgment or order before it, however, 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”
The Supreme Court differentiated between “appellate jurisdiction” and “revisional jurisdiction” to find out the scope and extent of “revisional jurisdiction” under the rent control law. The Court held that “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,”
Making its stand clear, the Court sates “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”