High court order set aside as alternative legal remedies exist

Madras High Court order set aside

In a recent case, the Supreme Court was hearing a special leave petition against the order of the Madras High Court passed under the provisions of article 227 of the Constitution of India.

In the case, Virudhunagar Hindu Nadargal Dharma Paribalana Sabai & Ors v Tuticorin Educational Society & Ors, the plaintiff had filed a suit before the trial court for declaration and permanent injunction. In the suit, an interim application was filed for temporary injunction against the defendants, which the trial court passed after considering the material on record.

Being aggrieved by the order of the trial court, the defendant filed a revision application, under the provisions of article 227 of the Constitution of India, before the Madras High Court. Article 227 states that high courts will hold precedence over other courts and tribunals within its jurisdiction. On these grounds, the high court allowed the revision application, thereby reversing the temporary injunction order of the trial court. This was done despite an objection being taken by the original plaintiff before the high court as to the maintainability of the revision application, in light of the statutory remedy available to the defendant under the provisions of section 104(1)(i) r/w order 43, rule (1)(r) of the Code of Civil Procedure (1908).

While deciding the special leave petition challenging the order of the high court, the Supreme Court relied upon A Venkatasubbiah Naidu v S Chellappan and Ors (2000), where the Supreme Court had held that although no hurdle can be put against the exercise of constitutional powers of the high court, it is a well-recognised principle, which has gained judicial recognition, that the high court should direct the party to seek alternate remedies before they resort to a constitutional remedy.

The Supreme Court also relied upon its judgment in Surya Dev Rai v Ram Chander Rai (2003), where it had held: “The orders of civil court stand on different footing from orders of authorities or tribunals, or courts other than judicial/civil courts.”

In light of the judgments referred to, the Supreme Court set aside the order of the Madras High Court under challenge, and held that wherever the proceedings are under the Code of Civil Procedure, and the forum is the civil court, the availability of a remedy under the Code of Civil Procedure will deter the high court, not merely as a measure of self-imposed restriction but as a matter of discipline and prudence, from exercising its power of superintendence under the constitution. The Supreme Court further held that the high court ought not to have entertained the revision under article 227, especially in a case where a specific remedy of appeal was provided under the Code of Civil Procedure itself.

The dispute digest is compiled by Numen Law Offices, a multi-disciplinary law firm based in New Delhi and Mumbai. The authors can be contacted at support@numenlaw.com. Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.