Supreme Court sets aside Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment for being "utterly incomprehensible"

The top court said that the reasoning given by the High Court for arriving at its conclusion could not be discerned from the judgment.
Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia
Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia

The Supreme Court recently set aside a judgment of the Himachal Pradesh High Court after finding that the verdict by the High Court was "utterly incomprehensible." [State of Himachal Pradesh vs Himachal Aluminium and Conductors]

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Sudhanshu Dhulia was dealing with an appeal by the State of Himachal Pradesh against a High Court order where by the court had allowed the writ petitions instituted by the respondent under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The respondents had challenged the validity of orders of reassessment passed by the State government.

The High Court had set aside the assessment leading to the appeal before the top court.

When the matter came up before the top court, it noted that nothing could be deciphered from the judgment.

"The judgment of the High Court is utterly incomprehensible. The reasons on the basis of which the High Court has proceeded to allow the petitions and set aside the reassessment cannot be discerned from the judgments," the apex court said.

It, therefore, set aside the High Court verdict and directed the High Court to hear the matter afresh.

One of the paragraphs from the High Court judgment read as follows:

"However, the afore bar or embargo, against the institution, of the extant writ petition before this Court, wherethrough, annulment(s) of the impugned Annexures, is strived for, is not a rigid or an absolute bar, rather it holds certain well expostulated exceptions, inasmuch as the statutory action, as made by the authority concerned, being evidently ridden with gross and flagrant breaches, of, statutory norms; (a) the alternative remedy available under the statute is not effective but a mere formality; (b) statutory authority concerned not acting in accordance with the apposite statutory provisions; (c) where the statutory authority has acted in defiance of the fundamental principles of judicial procedure; (d) where the statutory authority has resorted to invoke provisions which are repealed; (e) where the statutory authority has passed an order in total violation of principles of natural justice."

This is the fifth instance of the Supreme Court expressing an unfavourable view of a judgment from Himachal Pradesh High Court for being incomprehensible and incoherent.

In April 2017, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta had set aside a judgment of the Himachal Pradesh High Court because of the convoluted English used in the judgment.

We will have to set it aside because one cannot understand this,” the Supreme Court had said when remanding the matter back to the High Court for re-drafting the judgment.

That judgment too was authored by Justice Sureshwar Thakur.

In another instance, a Bench of Justices AM Sapre and Indu Malhotra of Supreme Court had in December 2018, taken exception to the fact that the Himachal Pradesh High Court had devoted 60 pages to write an order for remanding a matter back to the first appellate court.

“Brevity being a virtue, it must be observed as far as possible while expressing an opinion," the Supreme Court had noted in its order while hearing the appeal against High Court order.

More recently in March 2021, the top court was again left stumped by language blues after it could not decipher a judgment in appeal, once again from Himachal Pradesh High Court.

A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah had said that the purpose of judgments is to convey the basis and reasons for its decision not only to lawyers but also to citizens who approach courts for remedy.

Court judgments should,therefore, be in language which can be understood not only by lawyers but also citizens who approach courts, the Bench had emphasised.

Finally in January this year, a bench of Justices KM Joseph and PS Narasimha had said that it might have to send a case back to the High Court with a direction to rewrite the judgment since the language employed in the judgment was incomprehensible.

"Is this in Latin," the Bench had quipped.

[Read Order]

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