The Supreme Court observed that the requirement to frame substantial question of law in a second appeal is not a mere formality, but is meant to be adhered to.
The limitation on the exercise of power by the High Court in the Second Appeal interfering with the judgment of the First Appellate Court is premised on high public policy, the bench of Justices KM Joseph and S. Ravindra Bhat observed.
In this case, the plaintiff filed a suit to declare that he has easementary right through defendant's property. The suit was dismissed by the Trial Court and the First Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. The High Court, allowed the second appeal, and decreed the suit.
Before the Apex Court, the appellant contended that the second Appeal could have been maintained before the High Court under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure only if a substantial question of law arises for its consideration. A perusal of the impugned judgment would show that a substantial question of law is conspicuous by its absence, he contended. The respondent, on the other hand, contended that, at the time when the Second Appeal was admitted, a substantial question of law was indeed framed by the High Court.
Perusing the judgment, the bench observed that the High Court has not framed any substantial question of law. In this regard, the bench observed:
The scheme of the Code of Civil Procedure accords finality to the findings of fact rendered by the First Appellate Court.This is undoubtedly subject to various well known exceptions which, however, cannot permit the Second Appellate Court to interfere with the findings of fact as a matter of course. Such restrictions are placed on the High Court in order that there is finality to litigation at a particular level in the hierarchy of Courts. The limitation on the exercise of power by the High Court in the Second Appeal interfering with the judgment of the First Appellate Court is premised on high public policy. This limitation is sought to be secured by insisting upon the requirement that a Second Appeal is considered only when there is a substantial question of law. Therefore, the existence of substantial question of law and the judgment which revolves around answering the substantial questions of law are not mere formalities. They are meant to be adhered to. (Para 11 and 12)
The court noticed that the First Appellate Court has come to the conclusion that the case based on Section 15 of the Indian Easements Act, 1882 is not made out. "Easement is a right. It may fall under any of the different kinds of easements but short of a right which it is for the plaintiff to establish, there cannot be a natural right as it were to make use of the property of another.", the court said.
The court also added that even the substantial question of law, which is said to have been framed by the High Court at the time when the Second Appeal was admitted, really does not appeal to it as a substantial question of law. Even though it may be true that initially the High Court while admitting the Second Appeal may have framed a question of law but the judgment in the instant case is unsupportable, the court said while allowing the appeal.
Case: Singaram vs. Ramanathan ; CA 4939 of 2021
Citation: LL 2021 SC 445
Coram: Justices KM Joseph and S. Ravindra Bhat
Counse: Adv S. Mahendran for appellant, Adv Senthil Jagdeesan for respondent