Supreme Court: Petition Titled As Writ Petition under Article 226 Will Not Bar the High Court to exercise Jurisdiction under Article 227
The Supreme Court (SC) on 5 April 2021, in the case titled Kiran Devi (Appellant) v. The Bihar State Sunni Wakf Board & Ors. (Respondents) set aside the order of the High Court (HC) and restored the matter to the Wakf Tribunal. It was argued that the High Court (HC) is barred from re-appreciate facts in a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution. It had illegally set aside findings of fact recorded by the Wakf Tribunal.
The SC bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer, and Hemant Gupta, ruled that the nomenclature of the proceedings as a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution or a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution is immaterial.
The SC said that "The petition styled as one under Article 226 would not bar the High Court to exercise jurisdiction under the Act and/or under Article 227 of the Constitution. The jurisdiction of the High Court to examine the correctness, legality and propriety of determination of any dispute by the Tribunal is reserved with the High Court."
The litigation background of the case is that an appeal was filed before the Top Court against the judgment of the Patna High Court (HC). The HC held that the tenant in the premises in question was representing a joint Hindu family and that the Karta was not competent to surrender the tenancy rights in favour of Bihar State Sunni Wakf Board and the HC held that induction of the appellant as a tenant by the Wakf Board was illegal. The Court issued direction to dispossess the appellant from the suit premises and to hand over the vacant possession to the Board.
The appellant contended that the Tribunal's order cannot be challenged through a writ petition before the HC. It was argued that the only remedy available is initiating a revision as per Section 83(9) proviso of the Wakf Act, 1995 (Wakf Act).
The SC bench interpreted the aforesaid provision of the Act and said that it confers power on the HC to call for and examine the records regarding any dispute, question, or other matter which has been determined by the Tribunal to satisfy itself as to the correctness, legality or propriety of such determination.
The Top Court referred to the judgment passed in the case of Pepsi Foods Ltd., wherein the SC held that nomenclature under which the petition is filed is not quite relevant and it does not debar the Court from exercising its jurisdiction which otherwise it possesses.
The SC concluded that HC has jurisdiction to examine the correctness, legality, and propriety of determination of any dispute by the Tribunal. It clarified that when a petition is filed against an order of the Wakf Tribunal before the HC, the Court exercises the jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
The Apex Court while allowing the appeal ruled that the HC's jurisdiction is limited only to examine the correctness, legality, or propriety of the findings recorded by the Wakf Tribunal. The Court can exercise its' jurisdiction conferred under proviso to sub-section (9) of Section 83 of the Act and it is barred to act as the Appellate Court.