REVISIONAL POWER OF HIGH COURT

                           IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.6177 OF 2004

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.                      … Appellant

                                   Versus

Dilbahar Singh                                       … Respondent

                                    WITH

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.2162 OF 2004

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.2901 OF 2006

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.6954 OF 2005

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.7520 OF 2005

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.5212 OF 2006

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.2859 OF 2006

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.3313 OF 2007

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.1224 OF 2006

                          SLP (C) NO.34303 of 2009

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.7491 OF 2004

                          SLP (C) No.11931 of 2011

                          SLP (C) No.22248 OF 2007

                        CIVIL  APPEAL NO.7066 OF 2005

                                                                                                          JUDGMENT

R.M. LODHA, CJI.

            This group of eleven appeals and three special  leave  petitions has been referred to the 5-Judge Bench to resolve the conflict into the  two 3-Judge Bench decisions one, Rukmini [1] and the other,  Ram  Dass[2].   Ram Dass2 has followed Moti Ram[3].  At the time  of  hearing  of  Civil  Appeal No.6177 of 2004, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation  Ltd.  v.  Dilbahar  Singh, the 2-Judge Bench, while dealing with the meaning, ambit and  scope  of  the words “legality and propriety” under Section  15(6)  of  the  Haryana  Urban (Control of Rent &  Eviction)  Act,  1973  (for  short,  ‘the  Haryana  Rent Control Act’), was confronted with the question whether the High  Court  (as revisional authority) under Section 15(6) could interfere with the  findings of fact  of  the  first  appellate  Court/first  appellate  authority.   The appellant relied upon the decision of this Court in Rukmini1 in  support  of its contention that the revisional Court is not  entitled  to  re-appreciate evidence. On the  other  hand,  the  respondent  pressed  into  service  the decision of this Court in Ram Dass2  wherein  it  has  been  held  that  the expression  “legality  and  propriety”  enables  the  revisional  Court   to  reappraise  the  evidence  while  considering  the  findings  of  the  first appellate Court. The 2-Judge Bench felt that there was conflict in  the  two decisions and for its resolution referred the matter to  the  larger  Bench. In the Reference Order (dated August 27, 2009), the 2-Judge Bench  observed, thus:

      “Learned counsel for the appellant has  placed  reliance  on  a  three  Judge Bench decision of this Court in the case  of  Rukmini  Amma  Saradamma Vs. Kallyani Sulochana And Others (1993) 1 SCC 499  wherein    Section    20   of    the   Kerala   Rent   Control      Act   was     in  question.    It was held in the said decision  that  though  Section  20  of  the  said  Act provided that the revisional  court  can  go  into  the    'propriety'    of the    order but   it   does    not    entitle      the  revisional  court to re-appreciate evidence. A similar view was taken by a two Judge bench  of this Court in the case of Ubaiba Vs. Damodaran (1999) 5 SCC, 645.

           On the other hand learned counsel for the respondent  has  relied upon a decision of this Court in the case of Ram  Dass  Vs.  Ishwar  Chander and Others AIR 1988 SC 1422 which was also a three Judge Bench decision.  It has been held in that case that  the  expression  "legality  and  propriety" enables the High Court in revisional     jurisdiction     to     re-appraise    the      evidence      while  considering  the  findings  of  the   first appellate Court. A similar view was taken by another three  Judge  Bench  of this Court in the case of Moti Ram Vs. Suraj Bhan and  others  AIR  1960  SC 655.

           From the above it is clear that there are  conflicting  views  of coordinate three Judge Benches of this  Court  as  to  the  meaning,   ambit and    scope     of    the expression     'legality  and  propriety'  and whether in revisional jurisdiction the  High Court can  re-appreciate  the evidence.  Hence, we are of the view that the matter needs to be  considered by a larger bench since this question arises in a large number of  cases  as similar provisions conferring power  of  revision  exists  in  various  rent control and other legislations, e.g. Section 397 of  the  Code  of  Criminal Procedure.     Accordingly, we direct  that  the  papers  be  placed  before Hon'ble The Chief Justice for constituting a larger Bench.”

2.          There are other appeals/SLPs in this group of matters,  some  of which arise from the Kerala Buildings (Lease and  Rent  Control)  Act,  1965 (for short, ‘the Kerala Rent Control Act’) and the  few  appeals/SLPs  arise from the Tamil Nadu Buildings  (Lease  and  Rent  Control)  Act,  1960  (for short, ‘the Tamil Nadu Rent Control  Act’).   These  appeals/SLPs  following the Reference Order  in  Hindustan  Petroleum  Corporation  have  also  been referred to the 5-Judge Bench.  This is  how  these  matters  have  come  up before us.

3.          It is appropriate  to  first  notice  the  statutory  provisions pertaining to revisional jurisdiction of the  High  Court  under  the  above three Rent Control Acts.  These provisions are not similar  to  Section  115 of the Code of Civil Procedure which confers  revisional  jurisdiction  upon the High Court in the matters arising from the Courts governed by the  Code.

4.          Section  15  of  the  Haryana  Rent  Control  Act  provides  for appellate and revisional authorities.  This provision in  the  Haryana  Rent Control Act reads as under:

 “15. Appellate and revisional authorities.—(1) The State Government may,  by a general or special order, by notification, confer  on  such  officers  and authorities as it may think fit, the powers  of  appellate  authorities  for the purposes of this Act, in such area or in such classes of  cases  as  may be specified in the order.

(2)   Any person aggrieved by an order passed by the Controller may,  within thirty days from the date of  such  order  or  such  longer  period  as  the appellate authority may allow for reasons to be recorded in writing,  prefer an appeal in writing to the  appellate  authority  having  jurisdiction.  In computing the period of thirty days the time taken  to  obtain  a  certified copy of the order appealed against shall be excluded.

(3)   On such appeal being preferred,  the  appellate  authority  may  order stay of further proceedings in the matter pending decision on the appeal.

(4)   The appellate authority shall decide the appeal after sending for  the records of the case from the Controller and  after  giving  the  parties  an opportunity of being heard and, if  necessary,  after  making  such  further inquiry as it thinks fit either personally or through the Controller. 

(5)    The  decisions  of  the  appellate  authority  and  subject  to  such decision, the order of the Controller  shall  be  final  and  shall  not  be  liable to be called in question in any court of law except  as  provided  in sub-section (6) of this section.

(6)   The High Court as revisional authority, may at any time,  on  its  own motion or on the application of any aggrieved party, made  within  a  period of ninety days, call for and  examine  the  record  relating  to  any  order passed or proceedings taken under this Act for  the  purpose  of  satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such order or proceedings and  may pass such order in relation thereto as it may deem  fit.  In  computing  the period of ninety days the time taken to  obtain  a  certified  copy  of  the order shall be excluded.”

5.          In the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act, Section 23  and  Section  25 provide for appeal and revision, respectively.  Since we are concerned  with the scope of  revisional  power,  it  is  not  necessary  to  reproduce  the appellate provision.  Section 25, which deals with revisional  power,  reads as under:

“25. Revision.—(1) The High Court may, on  the  application  of  any  person aggrieved by an order of the Appellate Authority, call for and  examine  the record of the Appellate Authority, to satisfy itself as  to  the  regularity of such  proceeding  or  the  correctness,  legality  or  propriety  of  any decision or order passed therein and if, in any  case,  it  appears  to  the High Court that any such decision or order  should  be  modified,  annulled, reversed or remitted for reconsideration, it may pass orders accordingly.

(2)   Every application to the High Court for  the  exercise  of  its  power under sub-section (1) shall be preferred within one month from the  date  on which  the  order  or  proceeding  to  which  the  application  relates   is communicated to the applicant:

      Provided that the High Court may, in  its  discretion,  allow  further time not exceeding one month for the filing of any such application,  if  it is satisfied that the applicant had sufficient cause for not preferring  the application within the time specified in this sub-section.”

6.          The provision  for  appeal  is  contained  in  the  Kerala  Rent Control Act in Section 18 while Section  20  of  that  Act  deals  with  the revisional jurisdiction. Section 20 of the Kerala Rent Control Act reads  as under:

“20.  (1) In cases where the appellate authority empowered under section  18 is a Subordinate judge, the District Court, and  in  other  cases  the  High Court, may, at any time, on the    application of any aggrieved party,  call for and examine the records relating to  any  order  passed  or  proceedings taken under this Act by such authority for the purpose of satisfying  itself as to the legality, regularity or propriety of such  order  or  proceedings, and may pass such order in reference thereto as it thinks fit.

(2)   The costs of and incident to all proceedings before the High Court  or District Court under sub-section (1) shall be in its discretion.“7. A careful reading of the text  of  the  above  three  provisions will show that under Section 15(6) of the  Haryana  Rent  Control  Act,  the High Court as revisional authority, may suo motu or on  the  application  of an aggrieved party, call for and examine the record relating  to  any  order passed or proceedings taken under the Act  for  the  purpose  of  satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such order or proceedings and  may pass such order as it may  deem  fit.   The  Tamil  Nadu  Rent  Control  Act provides that the High Court on the application of an aggrieved  person  may call for and examine the  record  of  the  appellate  authority  to  satisfy itself as  to  the  regularity  of  such  proceedings  or  the  correctness, legality or propriety of any decision or order  passed  therein.   The  High Court in exercise of its revisional power may modify, annul or  reverse  the order  or  decision impugned  before  it  or  remit  the  matter  for   re-consideration.  In the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act, the High  Court  has  no power to act suo motu. The Kerala Rent Control Act provides  that  the  High Court on the application of an aggrieved party may call for and examine  the record relating to any order passed or proceedings taken under the  Act  for the  purpose  of  satisfying  itself  as  to  the  legality,  regularity  or propriety of such order or proceedings and pass  any  order  that  it  deems fit.  Like the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act,  the  Kerala  Rent  Control  Act also does not empower the High Court to act suo motu. Though, there is  some difference in the language of the revisional provision in  the  above  three statutes but, in our opinion, the revisional power of the High  Court  under the above Rent Control Acts is substantially similar and  not  significantly different.

8.          Before we embark upon an inquiry  to  find  out  the  ambit  and scope of the revisional power of the High Court  under  these  Rent  Control Acts, we may quickly observe that in  this  reference,  we  have  to  really determine the extent, scope, ambit and meaning of  the  terms  “legality  or propriety”, “regularity, correctness, legality or propriety” and  “legality, regularity or propriety”. Obviously, this will determine the extent  of  the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under the respective Rent  Control statutes and will also include the consideration  of  the  question  whether the High Court in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction can  re-appreciate the evidence in order to find out the correctness, legality or propriety  of  the impugned order or decision.

9.          The scope of revisional jurisdiction under various Rent  Control Acts has fallen for consideration in many cases before this Court.   One  of the earlier decisions in the long line of such cases is Moti Ram3.   The  3-Judge Bench of this Court in Moti Ram3  had  an  occasion  to  consider  the extent of revisional power of the High Court  under  Section  15(5)  of  the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 (3 of 1949) which reads:  “…The High Court may, at any time, on the application of any  aggrieved  party  or on its own motion, call for and examine the records relating  to  any  order passed or proceedings taken under this Act for  the  purpose  of  satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such order or proceedings and  may pass such order in relation thereto as it may deem fit.”  Having  regard  to this provision, the Court noted the revisional power of the  High  Court  in the following words:

 “…the revisional power conferred upon the High Court  under  Section  15(5) is wider than that conferred by Section 115 of the Code of Civil  Procedure. Under Section 15(5) the High Court has jurisdiction to examine the  legality or propriety of the order under revision and that would clearly justify  the examination of the propriety or the legality of the finding  made by the authorities...”

10.         Before we refer to the other cases of this Court, we  feel  that the weighty observations made by the 2-Judge Bench in Dattonpant[4]  may  be noted.  The Court while dealing  with  findings  of  fact  recorded  by  the appellate court under the Mysore Rent Control Act, 1961 referred to  Section 50 of that Act which conferred upon the High  Court  revisional  power.  The Court observed:

            “It is true that the power conferred on  the  High  Court  under Section 50 is not as narrow as the revisional power of the High Court  under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  But at the same time it is  not wide enough to make the High Court a second court of first appeal.”                                                   (emphasis supplied by us)

11.         In Sri Raja Lakshmi Dyeing Works[5], the 2-Judge Bench  of  this Court while considering the scope of Section 25 of Tamil Nadu  Rent  Control Act followed Dattonpant4 and while doing so, the Court also articulated  the distinction between “appellate jurisdiction” and “revisional  jurisdiction”.

 In paragraph 2 (page 261 of the Report), the Court stated as follows: “2. ‘Appeal’ and ‘revision’  are  expressions  of  common  usage  in  Indian statute  and  the   distinction   between   ‘appellate   jurisdiction’   and ‘revisional  jurisdiction’  is  well  known   though   not   well   defined. Ordinarily, appellate jurisdiction involves a rehearing, as it were, on  law as well as fact and is invoked by an  aggrieved  person.  Such  jurisdiction may, however, be limited in some way as, for instance has been done  in  the case of second appeal under the Code of  Civil  Procedure,  and  under  some Rent Acts in some States.  Ordinarily,  again,  revisional  jurisdiction  is analogous to a power of superintendence and may sometimes be exercised  even without its being invoked by a party. The extent of revisional  jurisdiction is defined by the statute conferring such jurisdiction.  The  conferment  of revisional jurisdiction is generally for the purpose  of  keeping  tribunals subordinate to the revising Tribunal within the bounds  of  their  authority to make them act according to law, according to  the  procedure  established by law and according to  well  defined  principles  of  justice.  Revisional jurisdiction as ordinarily understood with  reference  to  our  statutes  is always included in appellate jurisdiction but  not  vice  versa.  These  are general observations. The question of the extent of appellate or  revisional jurisdiction has to be  considered  in  each  case  with  reference  to  the language employed by the statute.”

While dealing with revisional power under Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu  Rent Control Act, the Court said in paragraph 3  (page  262  of  the  Report)  as under:

      “The language of Section 25 is indeed very wide. But  we  must  attach some significance to the circumstance that  both  the  expressions  ‘appeal’ and ‘revision’ are employed in the statute. Quite obviously, the  expression ‘revision’ is meant to convey the idea of a much narrower jurisdiction  than that conveyed by the expression ‘appeal’. In fact it has to be noticed  that under Section 25 the High Court calls for and examines  the  record  of  the appellate authority in order to satisfy itself. The dominant  idea  conveyed by the incorporation of the words  ‘to  satisfy  itself’  under  Section  25 appears to be that the power conferred on the High Court  under  Section  25 is essentially a power  of  superintendence.  Therefore,  despite  the  wide language employed in Section 25, the High Court quite obviously  should  not interfere with findings of fact merely because it does not  agree  with  the finding of the subordinate authority. The power conferred on the High  Court under Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and  Rent  Control)  Act may not be as narrow as  the  revisional  power  of  the  High  Court  under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure but in  the  words  of  Untwalia, J., in Dattonpant Gopalvarao Devakate  v.  Vithalrao  Maruthirao  Janagaval; “it is not wide enough to make the  High  Court  a  second  Court  of  first appeal”.

Pertinently,  in  Sri  Raja  Lakshmi  Dyeing  Works5,  the  Court  said   in unequivocal words that concurrent findings, based  on  evidence,  cannot  be touched upon by the High Court exercising jurisdiction under Section  25  of the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act.

12.         In  Krishnamachari[6],  the  Court  followed  Sri  Raja  Lakshmi Dyeing Works5 while considering the scope of revisional power under  Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act.

13.         A 3-Judge Bench of this Court in Ram Dass2  was  concerned  with the revisional power of the High Court  under  Section  15(5)  of  the  East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949.  Inter alia, the  Court  noted  the earlier judgments of this Court in Dattonpant4 and Sri Raja  Lakshmi  Dyeing Works5 and observed as under:

      “On the first contention that the revisional powers do not  extend  to interference with and  upsetting  of  findings  of  fact,  it  needs  to  be observed that, subject  to  the  well  known  limitations  inherent  in  all revisional jurisdictions, the matter essentially turns on  the  language  of the statute investing the jurisdiction. The decisions relied  upon  by  Shri Harbans Lal, deal, in the first case, with the limitations on the  scope  of interference with findings of fact in second  appeals  and  in  the  second, with the limitation on the revisional powers where the words in the  statute limit it to the examination whether or  not  the  order  under  revision  is “according to law”. The scope of the revisional powers of  the  High  Court, where the High Court is required  to  be  satisfied  that  the  decision  is “according to law” is considered by Beaumont, C.J. in Bell  &  Co.  Ltd.  v. Waman Hemraj (AIR 1938 Bom 223) a case referred to  with  approval  by  this Court in Hari Shankar v. Girdhari Lal Chowdhury (AIR 1963 SC 698)

      But here, Section 15(5) of the Act enables the High Court  to  satisfy itself as to the “legality and  propriety”  of  the  order  under  revision, which is, quite obviously, a  much  wider  jurisdiction.  That  jurisdiction enables the  court  of  revision,  in  appropriate  cases,  to  examine  the correctness of the findings of facts also, though the  revisional  court  is not “a second court of first appeal”                    (emphasis supplied by us)

14.         In Rukmini1, the scope of revisional power under Section  20  of the Kerala Rent Control Act fell for consideration before a  3-Judge  Bench. The Bench considered the provision of Section 20  of  that  Act,  vis-à-vis, Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure and held as under:

      “As far as the present Act is concerned Section 20 contains  the  word “propriety” also. As to the meaning of the word  “propriety”  in  Raman  and Raman Ltd. v. State of Madras (1956 SCR 256) at page 264 it was held thus:

       “The word ‘propriety’ has nowhere been  defined  in  the  Act  and  is capable of a variety of meanings. In the  Oxford  English  Dictionary  (Vol. VIII), it has been  stated  to  mean  ‘fitness;  appropriateness;  aptitude; suitability; appropriateness to the circumstances or conditions;  conformity with requirements, rule  or  principle;  rightness,  correctness,  justness, accuracy’.”

      Therefore, the question would  be  whether  in  the  context  of  this provision the High Court was  right  in  re-appreciating  the  evidence  and coming to a different conclusion? In the impugned judgment  in  paragraph  7 the High Court observed:

“Under Section 20 of the Act though re-appreciation of the evidence as  such is not called for, the  pleadings  and  evidence  have  to  be  examined  to satisfy the legality, regularity of the order of the lower authorities.” 

      We are afraid this approach of the  High  Court  is  wrong.  Even  the wider language of Section 20 of the Act cannot enable the High Court to  act as a first or a second court of appeal. Otherwise  the  distinction  between appellate and revisional jurisdiction will get obliterated. Hence, the  High Court was not right in re-appreciating the  entire  evidence  both  oral  or documentary in the light of the Commissioner’s report  (Exts.  C-1  and  C-2 [pic]mahazar). In our considered view, the  High  Court  had  travelled  far beyond the revisional  jurisdiction.  Even  by  the  presence  of  the  word “propriety” it  cannot  mean  that  there  could  be  a  re-appreciation  of evidence.  Of  course,  the  revisional  court  can  come  to  a   different conclusion but not on a re-appreciation of evidence;  on  the  contrary,  by confining  itself  to  legality,  regularity  and  propriety  of  the  order impugned before it. Therefore, we are unable to agree with the reasoning  of the High Court with reference to the exercise of revisional jurisdiction.”

While holding as above, the 3-Judge Bench also referred to the decisions  of this Court in H.V. Mathai[7]  and Rai Chand Jain[8].  In H.V. Mathai7,  this Court observed that the words of Section 20 are much  wider  than  those  in Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  It was also  observed  that  on the words of Section 20, it could not be held that the revision was  limited to a mere question of jurisdiction.  In Rai Chand Jain8,  relying  upon  Ram Dass2, the Court observed:

 “… The High Court in exercising its power under Section 15(5) of  the  said Act is within its jurisdiction to reverse the findings of fact as  the  same were improper  and  also  illegal.  It  is  appropriate  to  refer  in  this connection to the decision in the case of Ram Dass v. Ishwar  Chander  where it has been held that Section 15(5) of the Act enables  the  High  Court  to satisfy itself as  to  the  “legality  or  propriety”  of  the  order  under revision, which  is,  quite  obviously,  a  much  wider  jurisdiction.  That [pic]jurisdiction enables the court of revision, in  appropriate  cases,  to examine  the  correctness  of  the  findings  of  facts  also,  though   the revisional court is not ‘a second court of first appeal...”

15.         In Sankaranarayanan[9], the Court had an  occasion  to  consider the scope of powers of revisional Court under Section 25 of the  Tamil  Nadu Rent Control Act. The 2-Judge Bench which heard the matter observed that  it was improper for the High Court to  consider  the  revision petition  under Section 25 as if it were a second appeal.  The Court firmly stated that  the findings of  the  first  appellate  Court  could  not  be  reversed  upon  a reassessment of the evidence.

16.         In Shiv Sarup  Gupta[10],  this  Court  with  reference  to  the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under  Section  25-B  (8)  of  the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958, though reiterated that the High  Court  cannot enter into appreciation or re-appreciation of evidence merely because it  is inclined to take a different view of the facts as if  it  were  a  Court  of facts, but also held that the High Court is obliged to  test  the  order  of the Rent Controller on the touchstone of “whether it is  according  to  law” and, for that limited purpose,  may  enter  into  reappraisal  of  evidence, i.e., for the purpose of ascertaining whether the conclusion arrived  at  by the Rent Controller is wholly unreasonable or  is  one  that  no  reasonable person  acting  with  objectivity  could  have  reached  on   the   material available.  The  Court  observed  that  ignoring  the  weight  of  evidence, proceeding on a wrong premise of law or deriving such  conclusion  from  the established facts as betray  a  lack  of  reason  and/or  objectivity  would render the finding of the Controller “not according to law” calling  for  an interference under the proviso to sub-section (8) of  Section  25-B  of  the Delhi Rent Control Act.

17.         Again in Ram Narain Arora[11], a 2-Judge  Bench  with  reference to revisional power under Section 25-B of the Delhi Rent Control  Act,  1958 observed as follows:

      “It is no doubt true that the  scope  of  a  revision  petition  under Section 25-B(8) proviso of the Delhi Rent Control  Act  is  a  very  limited one, but even so in examining the legality or propriety of  the  proceedings before  the  Rent  Controller,  the  High  Court  could  examine  the  facts available in order to find out whether he had correctly or on a  firm  legal basis approached the matters on record to decide the case. Pure findings  of fact may not be open to be interfered with, but (sic if) in  a  given  case, the finding of fact is given on a wrong premise of law, certainly  it  would be open to the revisional court to interfere with such  a  matter.  In  this case, the  Rent Controller  proceeded to analyse the matter  that  non-disclosure of a particular information was fatal and,  therefore,  dismissed the claim made by the landlord. It is in these circumstances that it  became necessary for the High Court to re-examine the matter and  then  decide  the entire question. We do not think that any of the decisions  referred  to  by the learned counsel decides the question of the same nature  with  which  we are concerned. Therefore, detailed reference to them is not required.”

18.         The scope of the High Court’s  revisional  power  under  Section 50(1) of the Karnataka Rent Control Act, 1961 came to be considered by a  2-Judge Bench of this Court in M.S.  Zahed[12].  The  provision  (Section  50)  under consideration reads, “The High Court may, at any  time  call  for  and examine any order passed or proceeding taken by (the Court of  Small  Causes or the Court of the Civil Judge) under this Act or any order passed  by  the Controller under Sections 14, 15, 16 or 17 for  the  purpose  of  satisfying itself as to the legality or correctness of such  order  or  proceeding  and may pass such order in reference thereto  as  it  thinks  fit.”  The  Court, while observing that revisional power cannot be equated with  the  power  of reconsideration of all questions of fact as a Court of  first  appeal,  held that still the nature of the  revisional  jurisdiction  of  the  High  Court under Section 50 of the Act will have to be considered in the light  of  the express provisions of the statute concerning  such  power.  On  the  express language of Section 50(1) of the Act, the Court observed that it  cannot  be said that the High Court has no jurisdiction to  go  into  the  question  of correctness of findings of fact reached by the  Court  of  Small  Causes  on relevant evidence. The Court  considered  a  couple  of  decisions  of  this Court,  (1)  Central  Tobacco  Company[13]  and   (2)   Bhoolchand[14]   and ultimately concluded that the High Court in revision  under  Section  50  of the Act was entitled to re-appreciate the evidence with a  view  to  finding out whether the order of the Court of Small Causes was legal or correct.

19.         In Ubaiba[15], a 2-Judge Bench  of  this  Court,  while  dealing with revisional jurisdiction of the High  Court  under  Section  20  of  the Kerala  Rent  Control  Act,  considered  the  meaning  of   the   expression ‘propriety’. The Court held that in re-appreciating the evidence,  the  High Court had exceeded its revisional jurisdiction. This  is  what  the  2-Judge Bench said:

      “Mr. K. Sukumaran,  the  learned  Senior  Counsel  appearing  for  the appellant contended that however wide the  jurisdiction  of  the  revisional court under the Act in question may be, but it cannot have  jurisdiction  to reappreciate the evidence and  substitute  its  own  finding  upsetting  the finding arrived at by the appellate authority  and  therefore  the  impugned order of the High  Court  is  unsustainable  in  law.  In  support  of  this contention reliance has been placed on a decision of this Court in the  case of Rukmini Amma Saradamma v. Kallyani Sulochana (1993) 1 SCC 499  whereunder the selfsame provision of the  Kerala  Act  was  under  consideration.  This Court after noticing the word “propriety” used in Section  20  came  to  the conclusion that the approach of the High Court was totally  wrong  and  even the wider language of Section 20 of the Act cannot enable the High Court  to act as a first or a  second  court  of  appeal.  Otherwise  the  distinction between appellate and revisional  jurisdiction  will  get  obliterated.  The Court also further observed “even by the presence of  the  word  ‘propriety’ it cannot mean that there could be  any  reappreciation  of  evidence”.  The learned counsel for the respondent on the  other  hand  contended  that  the aforesaid decision will have no application to the case in  hand  where  the dispute involved relates to a  jurisdictional  fact  and  according  to  the learned counsel where the dispute is in relation to  a  jurisdictional  fact there should not be any fetter on the power of the revisional court even  to reappreciate the evidence and come to its own conclusion. On being asked  to support the aforesaid proposition no authority could  be  placed  though  on first principle learned counsel for  the  respondent  argued  as  aforesaid. Having examined the rival submission and having gone  through  the  decision of this Court referred to earlier we are  of  the  considered  opinion  that though the revisional power under the Rent Act may  be  wider  than  Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure  it  cannot  be  equated  even  with  the second appellate power conferred on the civil court under the Code of  Civil Procedure. Notwithstanding the use of the expression “propriety” in  Section 20, the revisional court therefore will not be entitled to reappreciate  the evidence and substitute its own conclusion in place  of  the  conclusion  of the appellate authority. On examining the  impugned  judgment  of  the  High Court in the light of the aforesaid ratio of this Court it is crystal  clear that  the  High  Court  exceeded  its  jurisdiction  by  reappreciating  the evidence and in coming to the conclusion that the relationship of  landlord-tenant did not exist. In the circumstances, the  impugned  revisional  order of the High Court is wholly unsustainable and we set aside the same and  the order of the appellate authority is affirmed.”

20.         The scope of power of revision under Section  25  of  the  Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act also fell for consideration before a 2-Judge Bench  of this Court in T. Sivasubramaniam[16]. The Court in paragraph 5 (page 279  of the Report) held as follows:

“5. So far as the second submission is concerned, the language  employed  in Section 25 of the Act, which confers revisional  jurisdiction  on  the  High Court, is very wide. Under Section 25 of the Act, the High  Court  can  call for and examine the record of the appellate authority in  order  to  satisfy itself as to regularity of such proceedings or the correctness, legality  or propriety of any decision or orders passed therein. The  words  “to  satisfy itself” employed  in  Section  25  of  the  Act  no  doubt  is  a  power  of superintendence, and the High Court is not required to  interfere  with  the finding of fact merely because the High Court is not in agreement  with  the findings of the courts below. It is also true that the power exercisable  by the High Court under Section 25 of the Act is  not  an  appellate  power  to reappraise or reassess the  evidence  for coming  to  a  different  finding contrary to the finding recorded by the courts below. But  where  a  finding arrived at by the courts below is based  on  no  evidence,  the  High  Court would be justified in interfering  with  such  a  finding  recorded  by  the courts below. In the present case what we  find  is  that  neither  has  the landlord  set out  his  need or  requirement  for  the  premises  for  his occupation in his petition nor has he led any  evidence  to  show  that  his need is bona fide. In the absence of such evidence, the Rent Controller  and the first  appellate  authority  acted  contrary  to  law  in  allowing  the petition of the landlord by directing the eviction of the tenants.  In  such circumstances, the High Court was fully justified in  interfering  with  the findings of the courts below. We, therefore, reject  the  second  submission of learned counsel.”

21.         In Ramdoss[17], this Court again had  an  occasion  to  consider the scope of Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu Rent  Control  Act.  Relying  upon Sankaranarayanan9, the Court held that the  revisional  power  of  the  High Court under Section 25 of the Act  not  being  an  appellate  power,  it  is impermissible for the High Court to reassess  the  evidence  in  a  revision petition filed under Section 25 of the Act. The Court  did  not  accept  the argument that in exercise of its revisional  jurisdiction,  the  High  Court can interfere with incorrect finding of fact recorded by the Courts below.

22.         In Shaw Wallace[18], a 2-Judge Bench of this Court  relied  upon M.S. Zahed12 decision of this Court and held in paragraph 13 of  the  Report as follows: “13. On a plain reading of Section 25 of the  Act,  it  is  clear  that  the revisional jurisdiction vested in the  High  Court  under  that  section  is wider than Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  The  High  Court  is entitled to satisfy itself as to the regularity of the  proceeding,  of  the correctness, legality or propriety of any decision or order  passed  therein and if, on examination, it appears to the High Court that any such  decision or  order  should  be  modified,  annulled,   reversed   or   remitted   for reconsideration, it may pass such orders accordingly.”

23.         The scope of revisional power under Section  20  of  the  Kerala Rent Control Act fell for consideration in V.M. Mohan[19]. The  Court  while allowing the appeal set aside the order of the High Court as it  found  that the High Court had re-appreciated the evidence to  come  to  the conclusion different from the trial Court as well as the  appellate  Court.  The  Court observed that as  the  revision  application  was  concluded  by  concurrent finding of fact recorded by the original authority as well as the  appellate authority, no interference by the High Court was called for.

24.         In  Olympic  Industries[20],  this  Court,  while  dealing  with revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under  Section  25  of  the  Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act, observed that the High  Court  could  interfere  with concurrent orders of the tribunals in revisional jurisdiction only if  their findings are perverse or arbitrary and irregular or improper.

25.         Before we consider the matter further to find out the scope  and extent of revisional jurisdiction under the above three Rent  Control  Acts, a quick observation  about  the  ‘appellate  jurisdiction’  and  ‘revisional jurisdiction’ is necessary.   Conceptually,  revisional  jurisdiction  is  a part of appellate jurisdiction but it is not  vice-versa.   Both,  appellate jurisdiction and revisional jurisdiction  are  creatures  of  statutes.   No party to the proceeding has an inherent right of  appeal  or  revision.   An appeal is continuation of suit or original proceeding, as the case  may  be. The power of the appellate court is co-extensive  with  that  of  the  trial court.  Ordinarily, appellate jurisdiction involves re-hearing on facts  and law but such  jurisdiction  may  be  limited  by  the  statute  itself  that provides  for  appellate  jurisdiction.   On  the other hand,  revisional jurisdiction, though, is a part of appellate jurisdiction but ordinarily  it cannot be equated with that of  a  full-fledged  appeal.   In  other  words, revision is not continuation of suit or of original  proceeding.   When  the aid of revisional court is invoked on the revisional side, it can  interfere within the permissible parameters provided in the statute.  It goes  without saying that if a revision  is  provided  against  an  order  passed  by  the tribunal/appellate authority, the decision of the revisional  court  is  the operative decision in law.  In our view, as regards the extent of  appellate or revisional jurisdiction, much would,  however,  depend  on  the  language employed by the statute conferring  appellate  jurisdiction  and  revisional jurisdiction.

26.         With the above general observations, we shall now  endeavour  to determine the extent, scope, ambit and meaning of  the  terms  “legality  or propriety”, “regularity, correctness, legality or propriety” and  “legality, regularity or propriety” which are used in three  Rent  Control  Acts  under consideration.

27.         The ordinary meaning of the word ‘legality’ is  lawfulness.   It refers to strict adherence to law, prescription, or doctrine; the quality of being legal.

28.         The term ‘propriety’ means fitness;  appropriateness,  aptitude; suitability; appropriateness to the circumstances  or  condition  conformity with requirement; rules  or  principle,  rightness,  correctness,  justness, accuracy.

29.         The terms ‘correctness’ and ‘propriety’  ordinarily  convey  the same meaning, that is, something which is legal and proper. In its  ordinary meaning  and  substance,  ‘correctness’  is  compounded  of  ‘legality’  and ‘propriety’ and that which is legal and proper is ‘correct’.

30.          The  expression  “regularity”  with  reference  to   an   order ordinarily relates to the  procedure  being  followed  in  accord  with  the principles of natural justice and fair play.

31.         We have already noted in the earlier part of the  judgment  that although there is some difference in the  language  employed  by  the  three Rent  Control  Acts  under  consideration  which  provide   for   revisional jurisdiction but, in our view, the revisional power of the High Court  under these Acts is substantially similar and broadly  such  power  has  the  same scope save and except the power to invoke revisional jurisdiction  suo  motu unless so provided expressly.  None of these statutes confers on  revisional authority the power  as  wide  as  that  of  appellate  court  or  appellate authority despite such power being wider than that provided in  Section  115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  The provision under consideration does not permit the High Court to invoke the revisional jurisdiction as the cloak  of an appeal in disguise.  Revision does not  lie  under  these  provisions  to bring  the  orders  of  the  Trial  Court/Rent  Controller   and   Appellate Court/Appellate Authority  for  re-hearing  of  the  issues  raised  in  the original proceedings.

 32.        We are in full agreement with the view  expressed  in  Sri  Raja Lakshmi Dyeing Works5 that where both expressions  “appeal”  and  “revision” are employed in a statute, obviously, the expression “revision” is meant  to convey the idea of a much narrower jurisdiction than that  conveyed  by  the expression “appeal”.  The use of two  expressions  “appeal”  and  “revision” when used in one statute conferring appellate power  and  revisional  power, we think, is not without purpose and  significance.   Ordinarily,  appellate jurisdiction involves a re-hearing while  it  is  not  so  in  the  case  of revisional jurisdiction when the same statute provides the remedy by way  of an ‘appeal’ and so also of a ‘revision’.  If that were so, the revisional power would become  co-extensive  with  that  of  the  trial  Court  or  the subordinate Tribunal which is never the  case.   The  classic  statement  in Dattonpant that revisional power under the Rent Control Act may not be  as narrow as the revisional power under Section 115 of the  Code  but,  at  the same time, it is not wide enough to make the High Court a second Court of first appeal, commends to us and we approve the same.  We are  of  the  view that in the garb of revisional  jurisdiction  under  the  above  three  Rent Control Statutes, the High Court is not conferred a status of  second  Court of first appeal  and  the  High  Court  should  not  enlarge  the  scope  of revisional jurisdiction to that extent.

33.         Insofar as the 3-Judge Bench  decision  of  this  Court  in  Ram Dass2 is concerned, it rightly observes that revisional power is subject  to well-known limitations inherent in  all  revisional  jurisdictions  and  the matter  essentially turns on the  language  of  the  statute  investing  the jurisdiction.  We do not think that there  can  ever  be  objection  to  the above statement.  The controversy centers round  the  following  observation in Ram Dass2, “...that  jurisdiction  enables  the  Court  of  revision,  in appropriate cases, to examine the  correctness  of  the  findings  of  facts also...”.  It is suggested that by observing so, the 3-Judge  Bench  in  Ram Dass2 has enabled the High Court to interfere with the findings of  fact  by re-appreciating the evidence.  We do not think that the  3-Judge  Bench  has gone to that extent in Ram Dass2.  The observation in Ram Dass2 that as  the expression  used  conferring  revisional  jurisdiction  is   “legality   and propriety”, the High Court has wider jurisdiction obviously means  that  the power of revision vested in the High Court in the statute is wider than  the power conferred on it under Section 115 of the Code of Civil  Procedure;  it is not confined to the jurisdictional  error  alone.   However,  in  dealing with the findings of fact, the examination of findings of fact by  the  High Court is limited to satisfy itself that the decision is “according to  law”.  This is expressly stated in Ram Dass2. Whether or not  a  finding  of  fact recorded by the subordinate court/tribunal is according to law, is  required to be seen on the touchstone whether such finding of fact is based  on  some legal evidence or it suffers from any  illegality  like  misreading  of  the evidence or overlooking and ignoring the  material  evidence  altogether  or suffers from perversity or any such illegality or such finding has  resulted in gross miscarriage of justice.    Ram  Dass2   does  not  lay  down  as  a proposition of law that the revisional power of the  High  Court  under  the Rent Control Act is as wide as that of the Appellate Court or the  Appellate  Authority  or  such  power  is  co-extensive  with  that  of  the  Appellate Authority or that the concluded finding of fact  recorded  by  the  original Authority or the Appellate Authority can be  interfered  with  by  the  High Court by re-appreciating evidence because revisional court/authority is  not in agreement with the  finding  of  fact  recorded  by  the  Court/Authority below.    Ram Dass2 does not exposit that  the  revisional  power  conferred upon the High Court is as wide as an appellate power to re-appraise  or  re-assess the evidence for coming  to  a  different  finding  contrary  to  the finding recorded by the Court/Authority below.  Rather, it  emphasises  that while examining the correctness of findings of fact,  the  revisional  Court is not the second Court of first appeal.   Ram  Dass2  does  not  cross  the limits of revisional court as explained in Dattonpant4.

34.         Rai Chand Jain8 that follows Ram Dass2 also does  not  lay  down that the High Court in exercise of its power under the Rent Control Act  may reverse the findings of  fact  merely  because  on  re-appreciation  of  the evidence it has a different view on the findings of fact.  The  observations made by this Court in Rai Chand Jain8 must also be read in  the  context  we have explained Ram Dass2.

35.         In Shiv Sarup Gupta10,  the  observations  of  this  Court  with reference to revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under the Delhi  Rent Control Act that the High  Court,  on  the  touchstone  of  “whether  it  is according to law” and for that limited purpose, may enter  into  reappraisal of evidence must be understood in  the  context  of  its  observations  made preceding  such  observation  that  the  High  Court   cannot   enter   into appreciation or re-appreciation of evidence merely because  it  is  inclined to take a different view of the facts as if it were a  Court  of  facts  and the observations following such observation that the  evidence  is  examined by the High Court to find out whether Court/Authority below has ignored  the evidence or proceeded on a wrong premise of law or derived  such  conclusion from the established facts which betray lack of reasons  and/or  objectivity which renders the finding not according to law.   Shiv  Sarup  Gupta10  also does  not  lay  down  the  proposition  of  law  that  in   its   revisional jurisdiction under the Rent Control Act, the High Court can rehear on  facts or re-appreciate the evidence to come to the conclusion different from  that of the trial Court or the appellate Court because it has  a  different  view on appreciation of evidence.  Shiv Sarup Gupta10 must also be understood  in the context we have explained  Ram Dass2.

36.         The observations in Ram Narain Arora11  that  in  examining  the ‘legality’ or ‘propriety’ of the proceedings  before  the  Rent  Controller, the High Court could examine the facts available must be understood for  the purpose stated therein, namely, in order to find out  that  the  finding  of facts are based on firm legal basis and are not given on a wrong premise  of law. Ram Narain Arora11 also lays down that pure findings of  fact  are  not for interference in revisional jurisdiction.

37.         The statement in M.S. Zahed12  that  under  Section  50  of  the Karnataka Rent Control Act, the High Court is entitled to re-appreciate  the evidence with a view to find out whether the order of Small Causes Court  is legal and correct must be understood  in  light  of  the  observations  made therein, namely, that revisional power cannot be equated with the  power  of re-consideration of all questions of fact as a Court of first appeal.

38.         Shaw Wallace18 has relied upon M.S. Zahed12  and  observed  that the High Court is entitled to satisfy itself as to  the  regularity  of  the proceeding, of the correctness, legality or propriety  of  any  decision  or order passed therein and if, on examination, it appears to  the  High  Court that any such decision or order should be modified,  annulled,  reversed  or remitted for reconsideration, it may pass such order  accordingly.  In  Shaw Wallace18, this Court does  not  lay  down  that  the  High  Court  can  re-appreciate  the  evidence  to  come  to  conclusion   different   from   the court/authority below  as the appellate Court.

39.         Rukmini1 holds, and in our view, rightly  that  even  the  wider language of Section 20 of the Kerala Rent Control Act does  not  enable  the High Court to act as a first or a second court of appeal.  We  are  in  full agreement with the view of the 3-Judge  Bench  in  Rukmini1  that  the  word “propriety” does not confer power  upon  the  High  Court  to  re-appreciate evidence to  come  to  a  different  conclusion  but  its  consideration  of evidence is confined to find out legality, regularity and propriety  of  the order impugned before it. We approve the view of this Court in Rukmini1.

40.         The observation in Sankaranarayanan9 that the  revisional  Court under Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu  Rent  Control  Act  cannot  reverse  the findings of the first appellate Court upon a reassessment of evidence is  in line with Rukmini1 and we approve the same.

41.         Similarly, the view in Ubaiba15,  which  has  followed  Rukmini1 that, under Section 20 of the Kerala Rent Control Act, the revisional  court will not be entitled to re-appreciate the evidence and  substitute  its  own conclusion in place of the conclusion of  the  Appellate  Authority  is  the correct view and gets our nod.

42.         In T. Sivasubramaniam16 this Court has held that  under  Section 25 of the Tamil Nadu Rent Control Act, the High  Court  does  not  enjoy  an appellate power to reappraise or reassess  the  evidence  for  coming  to  a different finding contrary to the finding  recorded  by  the  courts  below. This view is the correct view and we approve the same.

43.         The observation in Ramdoss17 that the High Court in exercise  of its revisional jurisdiction cannot act as an appellate  court/authority  and it is impermissible for the  High  Court  to  reassess  the  evidence  in  a revision petition filed under Section 25  of  the  Act  is  in  accord  with Rukmini1 and  Sankaranarayanan9. Its observation that  the  High  Court  can interfere with incorrect finding of fact must be understood in  the  context where such finding is perverse, based on no evidence or  misreading  of  the evidence or such finding has been arrived at by ignoring or overlooking  the material evidence or such finding is so grossly erroneous  that  if  allowed to stand, will occasion in miscarriage of justice.  Ramdoss17 does not  hold that the High Court may interfere with the findings of fact because  on  re-appreciation of the evidence its view is different from that  of  the  first Appellate Court or Authority.

44.         The decision of this Court in V.M.  Mohan19  is  again  in  line with the judgment of this Court in Rukmini1.

45.         We hold, as we must, that none of the above  Rent  Control  Acts entitles the High Court to interfere with the findings of fact  recorded  by the  First  Appellate  Court/First  Appellate  Authority  because   on   re-appreciation  of  the   evidence,   its   view   is   different   from   the Court/Authority below.  The consideration or examination of the evidence  by the High Court in revisional jurisdiction under these Acts  is  confined  to find out that finding of facts recorded  by  the  Court/Authority  below  is according to law and does not suffer from any error of  law.  A  finding  of fact recorded by Court/Authority below, if perverse or has been  arrived  at without consideration of the material evidence or such  finding   is   based on no evidence or  misreading  of  the  evidence  or  is  grossly  erroneous that, if allowed to stand, it would result in gross miscarriage of  justice, is open to correction because it is not treated as a  finding  according  to law.   In  that  event,  the  High  Court  in  exercise  of  its  revisional jurisdiction under the above Rent Control Acts  shall  be  entitled  to  set aside the impugned order as being not legal or proper.  The  High  Court  is entitled to satisfy itself the correctness or legality or propriety  of  any decision or order impugned  before  it  as  indicated  above.   However,  to satisfy itself to the regularity, correctness, legality or propriety of  the impugned decision or the order, the High Court shall not exercise its  power as an appellate power to re-appreciate or re-assess the evidence for  coming to a different finding on facts.  Revisional power  is  not  and  cannot  be equated with the power of reconsideration of all  questions  of  fact  as  a court of first appeal.  Where the High Court is  required  to  be  satisfied that the decision is according to law, it  may  examine  whether  the  order impugned before it suffers from procedural illegality or irregularity.

46.         We, thus, approve the view of this Court in Rukmini1   as  noted by us.  The decision of this Court in Ram Dass2 must be  read  as  explained above.  The reference is answered accordingly.

47.         Civil Appeals and Special Leave Petitions shall  now  be  posted before the regular Benches for decision in light of the above.

 

                                                                                                 (R.M. Lodha) ….………..……………………CJI.

                                                                                                 (Dipak Misra) …….………..……………………J.

                                                                                                  (Madan B. Lokur) …….…..……………………J

                                                                                                 (Kurian Joseph) …….……..……………………J.

                                                                                                  (S.A. Bobde) …….………..……………………J.

 

NEW DELHI;                         

AUGUST 27, 2014.

 

[1]    Rukmini Amma Saradamma v. Kallyani Sulochana and others; [(1993) 1 SCC 499]

[2]    Ram Dass v. Ishwar Chander and others; [AIR 1988 SC 1422]

[3]    Moti Ram v. Suraj Bhan and others; [AIR 1960 SC 655]

[4]    Dattonpant Gopalvarao Devakate v. Vithalrao Maruthirao Janagaval; [(1975) 2 SCC 246]

[5]    M/s. Sri Raja Lakshmi Dyeing Works and others v. Rangaswamy Chettiar; [(1980) 4 SCC 259]

[6]    P.R Krishnamachari v. Lalitha Ammal; [1987 (Supp) SCC 250]

[7]    H.V. Mathai v. Subordinate Judge, Kottayam; [(1969) 2 SCC 194]

[8]     Rai Chand Jain v. Miss Chandra Kanta Khosla; [(1991) 1 SCC 422]

[9]    Dr. D. Sankaranarayanan v. Punjab National Bank; [1995 Supp. (4) SCC 675]

[10]   Shiv Sarup Gupta v. Dr. Mahesh Chand Gupta; [(1999) 6 SCC 222]

[11]   Ram Narain Arora v. Asha Rani and Ors.; [(1999) 1 SCC 141]

[12]   M.S. Zahed v. K. Raghavan; [(1999) 1 SCC 439]

[13]   Central Tobacco Company v. Chandra Prakash; [1969 UJ 432]

[14]   Bhoolchand and Anr. v. Kay Pee Cee Investments and Anr.; [(1991) 1SCC 343]

[15]   Ubaiba v. Damodaran; [(1999) 5 SCC 645]

[16]   T. Sivasubramaniam and Ors. v. Kasinath Pujari and Ors.; [(1999) 7SCC 275]

[17]   Ramdoss v. K. Thangavelu; [(2000) 2 SCC 135]

[18]   Shaw Wallace & Co. Ltd. v. Govindas Purushothamdas and Anr.; [(2001)3 SCC 445]

[19]   V.M. Mohan v. Prabha Rajan Dwarka and Ors.; [(2006) 9 SCC 606]

[20]   Olympic Industries v. Mulla Hussainy Bhai Mulla Akberally and Ors.;[(2009) 15 SCC 528]

 

 

Comments