[Case Brief] Surat Singh v/s Siri Bhagwan & Others, 2018

CaseSurat Singh(dead) v/s Siri Bhagwan & Others
Case Number
Civil Appeal Number 9118-9119 of 2010
CourtSupreme Court of India
BenchJustice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice RK Agrawal
Author of the judgmentJustice Abhay Manohar Sapre
Decided On February 19, 2018
Relevant Act/sectionsCivil Procedure Code, 1908- Section 100
Author of the briefAditya Gor

Brief Facts and Procedural History:

A civil suit in the court of sub-judge, IInd class, Rewari, was filed by Murti Devi (dead) and her daughter Bholi Devi against Siri Bhagwan. This suit was with a prayer to declare the previous decree obtained by Siri Bhagwan with regards to a land, situated in Alampur district, as null and void since it was obtained by Siri Bhagwan through fraud and misrepresentation by taking the advantage of Murti Devi’s illiteracy and poverty. The trial court dismissed this suit. Being aggrieved by it, the first appeal was preferred before the District Judge who allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the trial court.

Being aggrieved by this decision, Siri Bhagwan filed a second appeal under section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in the High Court of Punjab & Haryana. During the pendency of this second appeal, Surat Singh purchased the suit land from Murti Devi vide registered sales deed. The High Court allowed the appeal by Siri Bhagwan and reversed the order of the first appellate court. This order was passed without hearing the Surat Singh and thus he filed an application under section 151 read with Order 21 Rule 21 of the Code for recalling the judgment. This application of Surat Singh was dismissed by the High Court.  Being aggrieved by this, an appeal is preferred through special leave before the Supreme Court.

The issue before the Court:

Whether the High Court was justified in its order passed in the favour of Siri Bhagwan in the present suit?

Ratio of the Judge:

The High Court allowed the second appeal without hearing Surat Singh. When Surat Singh filed an application praying for an opportunity of hearing, his application was rejected by the Court which is an error on the part of the High Court. Keeping in mind the controversy involved in the present case, the High Court was obliged to provide an opportunity of hearing to Surat Singh.  

The first appellate court delivered the judgment in the year 1986, the appeal against this was registered in the year 1992 and the High Court delivered the judgment in the year 2006. The High Court allowed the appeal without taking into consideration the scheme mentioned under section 100 of the Code.

According to section 100(1), the second appeal would be entertained by the High Court only if the High Court is “satisfied” that the case involves a “substantial question of law”. Section 100(3) makes it obligatory upon the appellant to precisely state in the memo of appeal the “substantial question of law” involved in the appeal. Section 100(4) provides that where the High Court is satisfied that any substantial question of law is involved in the case, it shall formulate that question. After the question is formulated a notice is to be sent to the respondent. The respondent, however, at the time of hearing of the appeal is given a right under sub-section (5) to raise an objection that the question framed by the High Court under sub-section (4) does not involve in the appeal. The proviso to sub-section (5), however, also recognizes the power of the High Court to hear the appeal on any other substantial question of law which was not initially framed by the High Court under sub-section (4). 

In the present case, it was a legal obligation based on the High Court to formulate a substantial question at the time of the admission of the appeal but the High Court framed such question while passing the final judgment. This procedure adopted by the High Court did not give a possible opportunity to the respondents to challenge the appeal. Such procedure adopted by the High Court is contrary to the scheme of section 100 of the Code and thus the judgment is rendered unsustainable. The conditions mentioned in section 100(4) and section 100(5) are mandatory in nature and are they are to be followed by the High Court in the prescribed manner.

It is a settled principle of the rule of interpretation that whenever a statute requires a particular act to be done in a particular manner then such act has to be done in that manner only and in no other manner. Thus according to this principle, the High Court was at grave jurisdictional error since it allowed the appeal without adhering to the procedure mentioned under section 100 of the Code.

Decision held:

The Supreme Court allowed this appeal and set aside the judgment passed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, remanding the matter again before the High Court to be decided afresh on merits in accordance with law.

References Made:

Santosh Hazari vs. Purushottam Tiwari (Deceased) by L.Rs., (2001)  SCC 179 – Reliance was placed on this case to explain the scope, the jurisdiction and what constitutes a substantial question of law under section 100 of the code.

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