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“The scope of Article 226 is very wide and can be used to remedy injustice wherever it is found", the Court has observed.
The Supreme Court on Thursday had occasion to reiterate the extensive scope of a High Court’s jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution (Benedict Denis Kinny vs. Tulip Brian Miranda and ors.; Smt. Prachi Prasad Parab vs. State of Maharashtra).
Inter alia, the Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Navin Sinha has held that High Courts can even pass orders interdicting a legal fiction engrafted in a State enactment, provided the legal fiction had not come into operation at the time of passing the order.
To decide on the case at hand, the Court made note to make the following observations regarding a High Court’s jurisdiction under Article 226:
When it comes to exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226, the look out of the High Court is to see whether injustice has resulted on account of any decision of a constitutional authority, a tribunal, a statutory authority or an authority within meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.
The scope of Article 226 is very wide and can be used to remedy injustice wherever it is found.
The power under Article 226 of the Constitution overrides any contrary provision in a Statute and the power of the High Court under Article 226 cannot be taken away or abridged by any contrary provision in a Statute.
When a citizen has right to judicial review against any decision of statutory authority, the High Court in exercise of judicial review had every jurisdiction to maintain the status quo so as to by lapse of time, the petition may not be infructuous. The interim order can always be passed by a High Court in exercise of writ jurisdiction to maintain the status quo in aid of the relief claimed so that at the time of final decision of the writ petition, the relief may not become infructuous.
The case before the Court concern disputes over the denial of caste validity certificates to two candidates who stood in elections to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation.
Pertinently, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act prescribed a time limit within which the candidates were expected to file their caste validity certificate.
If the candidate failed to submit the validity certificate within the stipulated period, that election would be deemed (“deeming fiction”) to have been terminated retrospectively and the candidate shall be disqualified for being a Counsellor, according to Section 5B of the Act.
The Bombay High Court had allowed two writ pleas filed challenging the scrutiny committee’s decision to reject applications for the grant of a caste validity certificate. In one case, the High Court ultimately remanded the matter back to the scrutiny committee for fresh consideration. In the other case, the High Court finally declared the candidate as belonging to the concerned caste.
In both cases, the pleas were moved and interim orders were passed by the High Court before the expiry of the time limit mentioned in Section 5B of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act. However, the interim orders, and thereafter the final judgment, effectively allowed the candidates relief beyond the stipulated period for the submission of the caste validity certificate.
In appeals filed challenging the same, it was the case of the appellants that the High Court could not have extended the period beyond one year to produce the Caste Validity certificate i.e. that the High Court could not have passed any interim order against the statutory provisions of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act.
The question before the Court was whether the High Court has the jurisdiction to pass an interim or final order, the effect of which is to interdict the statutory fiction under Section 5B of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act?
The Supreme Court went on to answer this question in the affirmative and reject the grounds forwarded by the appellants. This was in view of the wide jurisdiction conferred on High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
On a reading of various relevant case laws and the provisions of the Constitution, the Court said,
“it is clear that such interim direction can be passed by the High Court under Article 226, which could have helped or aided the Court in granting main relief sought in the writ petition. In the present case, the decision of the Caste Scrutiny Committee having been challenged by the writ petitioners and the High Court finding prima facie substance in the submissions granted interim order, which ultimately fructified in final order setting aside the decision of the Caste Scrutiny Committee. The interim order, thus, passed by the High Court was in aid of the main relief, which was granted by the High Court.”
The Court, therefore, dismissed the appeals and affirmed the High Court’s verdicts, while also observing that:
The power of the High Court to grant an interim relief in appropriate case cannot be held to be limited only for a period of one year, which was period envisaged in Section 5B for submission of the Caste Validity Certificate. No such fetter on the power of the High Court can be read by virtue of provision of Section 5B.
There is no fetter in the jurisdiction of the High Court in granting an interim order in a case where caste claim of the respondents was illegally rejected before the expiry of period of six months and the High Court granted the interim order before the expiry of the period of six months, as then prescribed.
In the facts of the present case, the deeming fiction under Section 5B of retrospective termination of the election could not come in operation due to the interim order passed by the High Court.
Section 5B of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act does not oust the jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.
The High Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution can pass an order interdicting the legal fiction as contemplated under second proviso to Section 5B, provided the legal fiction had not come into operation.
[Read the Judgment]