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Special Leave Petition
136. Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court-
Scope And Extent of The Jurisdiction of The Court Under Article 136
In Om Prakash v. Lauti Ram, the Court stated that under Article 136 the Supreme Court will entertain an appeal against a decree passed in second appeal if a substantial question of law of general or public importance arises which may not only determine the dispute between the parties, but will be a precedent for guidance for determination of similar
disputes in other cases. The Court may, if it appears that substantial injustice has resulted or that there had been no proper trial of the case or for other similar reasons, interfere with the order or the decree passed by the High Court in second appeal. The mere fact that some question of law arises out of the decision of the High Court will not enable a party to claim a right of appeal to the Supreme Court.
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It has been the practice of the Supreme Court not to embark upon an enquiry into
facts and evidence of cases in a special leave petition. The practice which has
been followed by the Federal Court and the Supreme Court in respect of the
interference with the findings and the appreciation of the evidence has been
adopted from the Privy Council in Bibhabati Devi v/s Ramendra Narayan Roy,
where it summed up the principles as follows:
(1) The practice applies in the case of all the various judicatures whose final tribunal is the Board.
(2) It applies to the concurrent findings of facts of two courts, and not to the concurrent findings of the Judges who compose such courts Therefore a dissent by a member of the appellate court does not obviate the practice.
(3) A difference in the reasons which bring the Judges to the same finding of fact will not obviate the practice.
(4) In order to obviate the practice, there must be some miscarriage of justice or violation of some principle of law or procedure Miscarriage of justice means such a departure from the rule which permeate all judicial procedure as to make that which happened not in the proper sense of the word judicial procedure at all. The violation of some principle of law or procedure must be such an erroneous proposition of law that if that proposition of law be corrected, the finding cannot stand; or it may be the neglect of some principle of law or procedure whose application will have the same effect. The question whether there is evidence on which the courts arrive at their finding is such a question of law.
(5) The question of admissibility of evidence is a proposition of law, but it must be such as to affect materially the finding. The question of the value of the evidence is not a sufficient reason for departure from practice.
(6) The practice is not a cast-iron one, and the foregoing statement asto reasons which will justify departure is illustrative only, and there may occur cases of such an unusual nature as will constrain the Board to depart from the practice.
(7) The practice relates to the findings of the courts below, which are generally stated in the order of the court, but may be stated findings on the issue before the Courts in the judgments, provided that they are directly related to the final decision of the court.
In Nihar Singh v. State of Punjah, the Court had an occasion to discuss its powers to interfere with the findings of fact and to reassess the evidence in hearing appeals under Article 136. In the words of the Court:
"Article 136 of the Constitution is couched in the widest phraseology. This Court's jurisdiction is limited only by its discretion. It can, therefore, in its discretion, entertain an appeal and exercise all the powers of an appellate court in respect of judgments, decrees, determinations, sentences or orders mentioned therein....But this wide jurisdiction has to be regulated by the practice of this Court."
The Court further held that the practice of the Privy Council followed by the Federal Court and the Supreme Court is not to interfere on questions of fact except in exceptional cases when the finding is such that it shocks the conscience of the Court or by disregard to the forms of the legal process or some violation of the principles of natural justice or otherwise, substantial and grave injustice has been done.
Although normally the Supreme Court is reluctant to interfere with concurrent findings of fact, if essential ingredients necessary for the finding of a fact have not in fact been found by the courts below, then the Court is bound to examine the question whether injustice or wrong is done. The burden of showing that a concurrent finding of two or more courts or tribunals is manifestly unjust lies on the petitioner. But once that burden is discharged it is not only the right but the duty of the Supreme Court to remedy the injustice.
In another case, the Court has observed:
"It has been ruled in many cases before that this Court will not reassess the evidence at large, particularly when it has been concurrently accepted by the High Court and the court or courts below. In other words, this Court does not form a fresh opinion as to the innocence or the guilt of the accused. It accepts the appraisal of the evidence in the High Court and the court or courts below. Therefore before this Court interferes something more must be shown, such as that there has been in trial a violation of the principles of natural justice or a deprivation of the rights of the accused or a misreading of vital evidence or an improper reception or rejection of evidence which, if discarded or received, would leave the conviction unsupportable, or that the court or courts have committed an error of the law or of the forms of legal process or procedure by which justice itself has failed."
In Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, the Court summarized the circumstances when concurrent findings of the courts below in a criminal matter can be reopened by the Supreme Court in an appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution:
(1) that the finding is based on no evidence, or
(2) that the finding is perverse, it being such as no reasonable person could have arrived at even if the evidence was taken at its face value, or
(3) the finding is based and built on inadmissible evidence, which evidence, if excluded from vision, would negate the prosecution case or substantially discredit or impair it, or
(4) some vital piece of evidence which would tilt the balance in favour of the convict has been overlooked, disregarded wrongly discarded."
The Court will not interfere unless the findings are vitiated by errors of law or the conclusions reached by the Courts below are so patently opposed to well-established principles as to amount to a miscarriage of justice. The Court will interfere in a case where it finds that the appellate Court has not at all applied its judicial mind to the appreciation of the evidence and grave injustice has resulted therefrom. Where the Court is satisfied that the findings are vitiated by errors of law or that the conclusions reached by the courts below are so patently opposed to well-established principles of judicial approach, that they can be characterized as wholly unjustified and even perverse, it will reassess the evidence and interfere.
In a case where there were suspicious circumstances regarding execution and attestation of a will noted by the High Court and some difference in the approach of the two Judges composing the Bench of the High Court existed, the Supreme Court allowed the counsel of the parties to go into the entire evidence so that it could ascertain whether the High Court reached the right conclusion or not.
In Indira kaur v. Sheo Lal Kapoor, the Court observed that there are no fetters on the powers of the Court under Article 136 to re-examine the finding and if the Court is satisfied that great injustice has been done it is not only the right but also the duty of the Court to reverse the error and the injustice and upset the finding, notwithstanding the fact that the same has been affirmed thrice. It is not the number of times that a finding has been reiterated that matters; what really matters is whether the finding is manifestly an unreasonable and unjust one in the context of evidence on record. The Court observed:
"Article 136 of the Constitution does not forge any such fetters expressly. It does not oblige this Court to fold its hands and become a helpless spectator even when this Court perceives that a manifest injustice has been occasioned. If and when the court is satisfied that great injustice has been done it is not only the 'right' but also the 'duty of this Court to reverse the error and the injustice and to upset the finding notwithstanding the fact that it has been affirmed thrice. There is no warrant to import the concept of the conclusiveness of divorce on the utterance of Talaq' thrice in interpreting the scope of the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 136. It is not the number of times that a finding has been reiterated that matters. What really matters is whether the finding is manifestly an unreasonable, and unjust one in the context of evidence on record. It is no doubt true that this Court will unlock the door opening into the area of facts only sparingly and only when injustice is perceived to have been perpetuated. But in any view of the matter, there is no jurisdictional lock which cannot be opened in the face of grave injustice".
Sometimes, what amounts to a question of fact has itself been a subject matter of dispute.
Whether the witness should or should not be believed is prima facie a matter for courts of fact to determine and it is a question of fact. Whether a particular accused is guilty of criminal conspiracy along with the other for the commission of the offence is a question of fact. Whether the parties have entered into any wagering transaction is a question of fact.
Whether the appellants are hereditary tenants or not is a question of fact and the Supreme Court declined to interfere with the concurrent findings of the lower courts.53 Whether the consideration mentioned in a deed of sale had been paid or not is a question of fact, and also whether there was sufficient nucleus of joint family property for acquiring new properties by the manager of a joint Hindu family is a question of fact.
Whether a deity was not merely a family deity in which the public had no interest, and that the properties given, to the deity constituted a religious and charitable endowment of a public nature are findings of fact. The Court further held that a mistaken inference from documents is no less a finding of fact if there is no misconstruction of the documents. Whether at a partition between members of a joint Hindu family certain property was left undivided is a question of fact. The finding that the plaintiff had attained majority more than three years prior to the suit is one of fact.
A finding of the authority hearing objections to a scheme under Section 68-F of the Motor Vehicles Act that there was due service of notice on objectors was a finding of fact. The finding that the appellant put the signatures of his father, who was already dead, on the relevant documents attested them and got the securities transferred in the name of the father and received the money from the Post Office are findings of fact. The question whether there was a go-slow during a certain period is a question of fact, and where the Tribunal has come to the conclusion that there was a go-slow during the period, ordinarily the Supreme Court will not go into the findings.
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