By Tanushree Dubey
Published on: 25 September 2023 at 10:30 IST
The Letters Patent Appeal in India was introduced in the year 1865 which severed as an important solution when the HC were first introduced in India. The Letters Patent Appeal is an appeal made by the petitioner against a decision of a single judge to a different bench of the same court. In this Article we will be discussing the provision of law regarding letters patent appeal and in which cases can an appeal lie.
Understanding the concept of Letters Patent Appeal
In essence, LPA offers a petitioner an alternative route before resorting to the Supreme Court. As it allows them the option to approach to a a different bench composed of multiple judges, be it for an intra-court appeal within the High Court or an inter-court appeal in the Supreme Court.
It is worth noting that the rules governing LPA differ depending on whether it is an intra-court or inter-court appeal, each having its unique procedural aspects. An order passed under Article 226 of the Constitution tends to be appealable as a Letter Patent appeal, whereas an order passed under Article 227 does not qualify.
Article 226 of the Indian Constitution: Power of High Court to Issue Certain Writs
Article 226 of the Indian Constitution empowers each High Court to issue orders to any authority or individual when necessary to protect or enforce rights outlined in Part III of the Constitution or in other relevant circumstances. This provision grants High Courts the authority to intervene in appropriate cases for the betterment of governance or the protection of constitutional rights.
Article 227 of the Indian Constitution: Superintendence power over all Courts by the High Court
Article 227 grants the High Court authority to supervise lower courts and tribunals. It can request reports, establish rules for procedures, and specify record-keeping formats. This empowers the High Court to effectively manage and regulate the functioning of these subordinate courts, ensuring transparency and adherence to established standards.
Letter Patent Appeal in the High Court
A Letter Patent Appeal is permissible in High Courts established through a letter patent.
Notably, a Division Bench, encompassing full benches of 5 or 7 judges, as well as the Supreme Court, can initiate a Letter Patent Appeal.
It’s crucial to understand that a Letter Patent Appeal operates as a distinct court, established through a letter patent, as opposed to courts formed under the constitution. This appeal essentially functions as a second-level appeal.
Additionally, the Indian Constitution provides for the establishment of Writs, but these can only be pursued if the opposing party consents to a writ of habeas corpus. Writ jurisdiction is vested exclusively in the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Importantly, when it comes to Letter Patent Appeals, there are no specific advantages or disadvantages associated with this legal recourse.
Intra-Court and Inter-Court
- Intra-Court Appeals: Challenging High Court Orders
When an appeal is filed in the High Court against a previous order issued by the same High Court, it is referred to as an “intra-court appeal.” The time limit for filing such appeals is a maximum of 30 days.
- Inter-Court Appeals: Appealing to the Supreme Court
If an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against an order issued by the High Court, it is termed an “inter-court appeal.” The time limit for filing inter-court appeals extends up to a maximum of 90 days.
Now, as for the question of whether an appeal can be filed against any judgment, here are the key points:
- An appeal can be initiated against any judgment, decree, or final order in a civil proceeding of a High Court.
- However, for an appeal to be considered, the case must involve a substantial question of law, which is deemed important by the High Court. Only then will the High Court certify the case for an appeal.
- The party filing the appeal must assert and prove that the interpretation of the constitution has been incorrectly decided.
- When filing an appeal, the appellant is required to pay the prescribed court fees as per the schedule table or in accordance with the rules established.
- To file an appeal, the petitioner typically needs to provide certain paperwork, including a certified copy of the judgment and decree being appealed, a certified copy of the certificate granted by the High Court, and a certified copy of the order granting the certificate.
- It’s important to note that in some cases, a certificate of appeal may be required from the court. However, it’s possible to file a Letter Patent Appeal against a court’s judgment without this certificate.
The timeframes for filing appeals are generally 90 or 30 days, but these deadlines can vary depending on the specific rules and procedures in place in different states. Therefore, it’s advisable to refer to the Letters Patent Rules of the relevant High Court and the Supreme Court for precise information on filing appeals in each jurisdiction.
Procedure of filling Letter Patent Appeal
- Ground for Filing an Appeal
An appeal can be filed against any judgment, decree, or final order arising from a civil proceeding in a high court. However, it is important to establish that the case involves a substantial question of law, one that is of significant importance in the eyes of the high court. Only then will the high court certify the appeal.
The party seeking the appeal must present a convincing argument that the interpretation of the constitution was incorrectly decided.
What is a substantial question of law?
It refers to an important or significant legal issue that requires interpretation, clarification, or determination by the court.
- Court Fees and Documentation
To initiate an appeal, the appellant must adhere to specific financial and documentation requirements:
Payment of court fees in accordance with the prescribed schedule or rule book.
Submission of essential paperwork, including:
- Certified copies of the judgment and decree being appealed.
- A certified copy of the certificate granted by the High Court.
- A certified copy of the order authorizing the said certificate.
- Certification Requirement
In some cases, a certificate of appeal may be necessary. However, it is worth noting that, in modern practice, individuals can file a Letter Patent Appeal against a court judgment without this certificate.
- Timelines and Variations
The standard time limits for filing appeals in both the high court and the Supreme Court are 30 and 90 days, respectively. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that the procedures for writs and appeals can vary from one state to another. For comprehensive guidance, individuals are advised to consult the Letters Patent Rules applicable to the relevant High Courts and the Supreme Court.
Exception of the letters patent appeal
- Arbitration Act: Non-Maintainability
It has been observed that an application filed under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act is considered an application falling under Part 1 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996. Consequently, an appeal arising from an order issued under Section 8 is expressly excluded under Section 37 of the Act. Therefore, it has been determined that pursuing a Letter Patent Appeal is not a viable option in cases involving orders issued under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act.
- Criminal Proceedings: Non-Maintainability
In the context of criminal proceedings, a Letter Patent Appeal (LPA) is not deemed maintainable or feasible. Appeals to the division bench of the High Court are not open for debate or considered maintainable for orders issued by a single judge in criminal proceedings.
Landmark Case Laws
The Delhi High Court, in a recent decision involving Resilient Innovations Pvt. Ltd. vs. PhonePe Private Limited, upheld the validity of Letters Patent Appeals in trademark cancellation cases.
This ruling clarifies the pathway for Letters Patent Appeals in trademark cases, providing legal guidance for future cases where statutory provisions for such appeals may be absent.
In the case of Jayaben D. Kania & Others vs. Shah Babulal Khimji, the appellant sought to challenge a decision made by the Bombay High Court’s division bench. The appeal was originally against a ruling issued by a trial judge. However, the appeal was rejected because it was deemed inadmissible, primarily because the disputed order did not fall within the scope of Clause 15 of the Letter Patent.
The Court’s judgment emphasized that the Letter Patent Appeal (LPA) had not been filed within the specified timeframe. As a result, the Court dismissed the appeal as untimely, highlighting the fundamental importance of adhering to statutory deadlines in the legal process. Essentially, the Court’s decision centered on the rejection of the appeal due to its delay, underlining the significance of complying with prescribed timelines in legal proceedings.
In the case of Ambalal Manibhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, a petition was filed in the Gujarat High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution to challenge the validity of a notification issued by the Gujarat government. This notification was issued under the authority of Section 15(1) of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.
Initially, a single judge of the high court dismissed the appellant’s writ petition. Subsequently, the appellant filed a Letters Patent Appeal against this dismissal. While the Letters Patent Appeal was pending, the government of Gujarat issued another notification, introducing the Gujarat Miner Minerals (Amendment) Rules, which standardized the royalty rates for all minor minerals.
Several other writ petitions were filed in the high court to challenge the validity of this new notification. The appellant’s Letters Patent Appeal, along with these writ petitions, were heard and disposed of together in a common judgment.
In India, both the High Court and the Supreme Court offer appellants the option of pursuing Letter Patent Appeals when they disagree with court decisions. However, the acceptance and interpretation of these appeals can vary among High Courts, resulting in inconsistencies in their application. Although the Indian Constitution contains provisions related to Letter Patent Appeals, it often does not explicitly address their maintainability in different legal contexts.
In summary, Letter Patent Appeals serve as a crucial avenue for individuals seeking to challenge court rulings in India. Nevertheless, the lack of uniformity and clarity in their handling among different High Courts highlights the need for a more consistent and well-defined approach. Establishing a standardized framework for Letter Patent Appeals is essential to ensure equitable justice throughout the country.