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Legal Effect of Dismissal In Limine of A Special Leave Petition

Special Leave Petition
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  • Respondent Can Be Allowed To Support Judgment In His Favour Even on Grounds Found Against Him

    In Ramanbhai Ashabhai Patel v. Dabhi Ajitkumar Fulsinji, the Court held that a respondent can support the judgment in appeal even on grounds found against him though he has not filed any appeal. The Court stated:
    "as soon as special leave is granted there is an appeal before this Court and while dealing with such an appeal this Court exercises its civil jurisdiction. It is true that the rules framed by the Court in exercise of its rule-making power do not contain any provisions analogous to Order XLI Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure which permits a party to support the judgment appealed against upon a ground which has been found against him in that judgment. The provision nearest to it is one contained in Order XVIII Rule 3 of the Rules of this Court which requires parties to file statement of cases.

    There is no reason to limit the provision of this rule only to those contentions which deal with the points found in favour of the party in the judgment appealed from Apart from that while dealing with the appeal before it this Court has the power to decide all the points arising from the judgment appealed against and even in the absence of express provision like Order XLI Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure it can devise the appropriate procedure to be adopted at the hearing. There could be no better way of supplying the deficiency than by drawing upon the provisions of general rule like the Code of Civil Procedure and adopting such of those provisions as are suitable. We cannot lose sight of the fact that normally a party in whose favour the judgment appealed from has been given will not be granted special leave from it. Considerations of justice, therefore, require that this Court should in appropriate cases permit the party placed in such a position to support the judgment in his favour even upon the grounds which were negatived in that judgment."

    The Court had also held that the respondents were entitled to support the decision of the Tribunal setting aside the order, even on grounds which were not accepted by the Tribunal or on other grounds which may not have been taken notice of by the Tribunal while they were patent on the fact of the record.20 It has been held that it was open to the respondents to assail the adverse findings arrived at or the observations of the High Court by filing cross-objections before the Supreme Court, even if a separate special leave petition had not been filed against the High Court order. The Court has held that provisions analogous to Order XLI Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure would be applicable in that case.

    No Reasons For Refusal of Special Leave

    It is not the practice of the Supreme Court to give reasons for dismissal of a special leave petition.22 The Court has held that since the orders of the Supreme Court are not liable to any further scrutiny by any other Court, the need for recording of reasons has been obviated.

    Legal Effect of Dismissal In Limine of A Special Leave Petition

    In Indian Oil Corporation Lid. v. State of Bihar, the question that arose before the Supreme Court was whether the dismissal in limine of a special leave petition filed before the Supreme Court by a party challenging the award of a Labour Court would preclude the said party from subsequently approaching the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking to set aside the said award. The Court held that a writ petition was maintainable and was not barred by res judicata or principles analogous thereto. The Court observed:

    "The dismissal of a special leave petition in limine by a non-speaking order does not therefore justify any inference that by necessary implication the contentions raised in the special leave petition on the merits of the case have been rejected by this Court. It may also be observed that having regard to the very heavy backlog of work in this court and the necessity to restrict the intake of fresh cases by strictly following the criteria aforementioned, it has very often been the practice of this Court not to grant special leave except where the party cannot claim effective relief by approaching the concerned High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. In such cases also the Special Leave petitions are quite often dismissed only by passing a non-speaking order especially in view of the rulings already given by this Court in the two decisions afore cited, that such dismissal of the special leave petition will not preclude the party from moving the High Court for seeking relief under Article 226 of the Constitution. In such cases it would work extreme hardship and injustice if the High Court were to close its doors to the Petitioner and refuse him relief under Article 226 of the Constitution on the sole ground of dismissal of the special leave petition."

    The question that recently came up before a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court was whether the dismissal of a special leave petition would preclude any other remedy that was available under law. The Supreme Court considered the various possibilities that arose when a special leave petition was filed and laid down the legal effect of the same in the case of Kunhayammed v. State of Kerala. The Court summarized its conclusions as under:

    "A petition seeking grant of special leave to appeal may be rejected for several reasons. For example, it may be rejected
    (i) as barred by time, or
    (ii) being a defective presentation,
    (iii) the Petitioner having no locus standi to file the petition,
    (iv) the conduct of the Petitioner disentitling him to any indulgence by the court,
    (v) the question raised by the Petitioner for consideration by this Court being not fit for consideration or deserving being dealt with by the Apex Court of the country and so on.

    The expression often employed by this Court while disposing of such petitions are 'heard and dismissed', 'dismissed' dismissed as barred by time' and so on. May be that at the admission stage itself the opposite party appears on caveat or on notice and offers contest to the maintainability of the petition.

    The Court may apply its mind to the merit-worthiness of the Petitioner's prayer seeking leave to file an appeal and having formed an opinion may say ‘dismissed on merits' Such an order may be passed even ex parte, that is, in the absence of the opposite party. In any case, the dismissal would remain a dismissal by a non-speaking order where no reasons have been assigned and no law has been declared by the Supreme Court. The dismissal is not of the appeal but of the special leave petition. Even if the merits have been gone into, they are the merits of the special leave petition only. In our opinion-neither doctrine of merger nor Article I41 of the Constitution is attracted to such an order. Grounds entitling exercise of review jurisdiction conferred by Order 47 Rule 1 CPC or any other statutory provision or allowing review of an order passed in exercise of writ or supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court (where also the principles underlying or emerging from Order 47 Rule 1 CPC act as guidelines) are not necessarily the same on which this Court exercises discretion to grant or not to grant special leave to appeal while disposing of a petition for the purpose. Mere rejection of a special leave petition does not take away the jurisdiction of the court, tribunal or forum whose order forms the subject matter of petition for special leave to review its own order if grounds for exercise of review jurisdiction are shown to exist. Where the order rejecting an SLP is a speaking order that is, where reasons have been assigned by this Court for rejecting the petition for special leave and are stated in the order still the order remains the one rejecting prayer for the grant of leave to appeal. The Petitioner has been turned away at the threshold without having been allowed to enter in the appellate jurisdiction of this Court. Here also the doctrine of merger would not apply. But the law stated or declared by his Court in its order shall attract applicability of Article 141 of the Constitution. The reasons assigned by this Court in its order expressing its adjudication (expressly or by necessary implication) on point of fact or law shall take away the jurisdiction of any other court, tribunal or authority to express any opinion in conflict with or in departure from the view taken by this Court because permitting to do so would be subversive of judicial discipline and an affront to the order of this Court However this would be so not by reference to the doctrine of merger.

    once a special leave petition has been granted, the doors for the exercise of appellate jurisdiction of this Court have been let open
    The order impugned before the Supreme Court becomes an order appealed against. Any order passed thereafter would be an appellate order and would attract the applicability of doctrine of merger. It would not make a difference whether the order is one of reversal or of modification or of dismissal affirming the order appealed against. It would also not make any difference if the order is a speaking or non-speaking one. Whenever this Court has felt inclined to apply its mind to the merits of the order put in issue before it though it may be inclined to affirm the same it is customary with this Court to grant leave to appeal and thereafter dismiss the appeal itself (and not merely the petition for special leave) though at times the orders granting leave to appeal and dismissing the appeal are contained in the same order and at times the orders are quite brief. Nevertheless, the order shows the exercise of appellate jurisdiction and therein the merits of the order impugned having been subjected to judicial scrutiny of this Court.

    To sum up, our conclusion are:
    (iv) An order refusing special leave to appeal may be a non speaking order or a speaking one. In either case it does not attract the doctrine of merger. An order refusing special leave to appeal does not stand substituted in place of the order under challenge. All that it means is that the Court was not inclined to exercise its discretion so as to allow the appeal being filed.

    (v) If the order refusing leave to appeal is a speaking order, i.e., gives reasons for refusing the grant of leave, then the order has two implications. Firstly, the statement of law contained in the order is a declaration of law by the Supreme Court within the meaning of Article 141 of the Constitution. Secondly, other than the declaration of law, whatever is stated in the order are the findings recorded by the Supreme Court which would bind the parties thereto and also the court, tribunal or authority in any proceedings subsequent thereto by way of judicial discipline, the Supreme Court being the Apex Court of the country. But, this does not amount to saying that the order of the court, tribunal or authority below has stood merged in the order of the Supreme Court rejecting the special leave petition or that the order of the Supreme Court is the only order binding as res judicata in subsequent proceedings between the parties.

    (vi) once leave to appeal has been granted and appellate jurisdiction of Supreme Court has been invoked the order passed in appeal would attract the doctrine of merger; the order may be of reversal, modification or merely affirmation.

    (vii) on an appeal having been preferred or a petition seeking leave to appeal having been converted into an appeal before the Supreme Court the jurisdiction of High Court to entertain a review petition is lost thereafter as provided by sub-rule (1) of Rule 1 of Order 47 CPC."

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