Published on:17 July 2023 at 13:15 IST
The Supreme Court recently referred to a larger bench the question of whether the liberty granted by the court to approach the High Court in review automatically places a matter in the escalation matrix, allowing the remedy of a Special Leave Petition (SLP) to be available again.
The matter was raised in the case of S Narhari and Others v. SR Kumar and Others, which was heard by a division bench comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Sanjay Karol.
The case involved a property dispute where the parties had reached a compromise. However, the heirs of one party later sued the other party seeking an injunction. The trial court dismissed the suit in 2002, ruling that the compromise decree was binding on the respondents.
The respondents then appealed to the Karnataka High Court, and during the proceedings, they moved an application for revision of the plaint and recovery of custody of the property under Order VI Rule 17 of the Civil Procedure Code 1908. The High Court remanded the matter to the trial court to decide on the limited issue of additional relief for possession of part of the suit property.
During this process, the appellant filed an SLP before the Supreme Court. However, while the SLP was pending, the trial court proceeded with the matter and ruled in favor of the respondents on the limited issue. The appellant then moved the High Court, but their appeal was dismissed.
In the original SLP filed by the appellant before the Supreme Court, it was dismissed on the ground that the relief sought had been exhausted. However, the Supreme Court mentioned that since the first appeal was still pending before the High Court, the appellant was free to raise all questions regarding the remand.
Subsequently, the first appeal was dismissed by the High Court, leading the appellant to file another SLP before the Supreme Court. However, the second SLP was dismissed as withdrawn, with the court granting the appellant liberty to file a review petition before the High Court. The review petition was also dismissed, prompting the appellant to file the present SLP before the Supreme Court.
The respondents argued that the SLP was not maintainable, citing Order XLVII Rule 7 of the Civil Procedure Code, which states that an SLP against an order passed in review is not permissible. The Supreme Court acknowledged this provision but observed that there were conflicting decisions on the issue.
Citing previous cases, including Vinod Kapoor v. State of Goa (2012) and Sandhya Education Society v. Union of India (2014), the court noted that in similar circumstances, where consecutive SLPs were filed and the original SLP only provided liberty to approach the High Court, subsequent SLPs were not maintainable. However, in Khoday Distilleries Limited v. Sri Mahadeshwara Sahakara Sakkare Karkhane Limited (2019), the court held that the doctrine of merger did not apply in cases where the dismissal of an SLP was by way of a non-speaking order.
Considering the conflicting decisions, the court referred the matter to a larger bench for further consideration. The court recognized that the interpretation of the issue could have significant implications for future cases and deemed it appropriate for a larger bench to provide clarity.
The decision to refer the matter to a larger bench acknowledges the need for a comprehensive analysis of the legal question at hand. It demonstrates the Supreme Court’s commitment to ensuring consistency and coherence in its decisions, and it will provide valuable guidance on the issue of liberty to approach the High Court in review and the subsequent availability of the remedy of a Special Leave Petition.