gavel, justice, judge-7538565.jpg

Case Number

Civil Appeal No. 230 of 1977.

Equivalent Citation

1957 AIR 540

Bench

The Supreme Court of India

Decided On

1st February 1957

Relevant Acts / Sections

The sections that are relevant in the case of Garikapatti Veeraya v N. Subbiah Choudhury are:

  • Article 133 of the Constitution of India1, deals with the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the appeals that can be filed before it.
  • Order XLV of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966, which provides the procedure for filing Special Leave Petitions before the Supreme Court.
  • Section 109 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 19082, allows for appeals to the Supreme Court in civil cases if certain conditions are fulfilled.
  • Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 19083, lays down the grounds on which a second appeal can be filed before a High Court.
  • Section 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 19084, which defines a “decree” is the official statement of a judgment that definitively settles the rights of the parties concerning one or more of the contested issues.
  • According to Section 2(14) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 19085, a “judgment” is defined as the pronouncement made by a judge based on a decree or order.

Brief Facts and Procedural History

OVERVIEW

This legal case concerns an application for special leave to appeal, which arises from a previous lawsuit that was filed on April 22, 1949, and had a value of Rs. 11,400. On February 10, 1955, the high court overruled the decision of the trial court, which had earlier dismissed the suit. However, when the applicant sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, the high court refused the application, arguing that the value of the lawsuit did not meet the minimum requirement of Rs. 20,000.

The applicant contended that they had a vested right of appeal to the Federal Court, which was the highest court in the land at the time the suit was instituted, and that this right of appeal had been transferred to the Supreme Court under Article 135 of the Constitution6. The applicant argued that they were therefore entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right.

The court held, with Chief Justice Das and Justices Bhagwati, B. P. Sinha, and S. K. Das concurring and Justice Venkatarama Ayyar dissenting, that the applicant’s contention was well-founded. 

The court held that the right to appeal was a significant right that could be utilized only in situations where the verdict was unfavourable. However, it stated that this right was subject to the laws applicable at the commencement of the legal action and included all subsequent appeals from one court to another, effectively forming a single proceeding. The court also held that such a right could be taken away only by a subsequent enactment either expressly or by necessary intendment.

The court cited the case of Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. v. Irving (1905) A.C. 3697 and held that the vested right of appeal was a matter contemplated by Article 135 of the Constitution. The court ruled that Article 135 could not be limited to cases where the right of appeal had actually arisen in a concrete form and that the appeal was entertainable by the Supreme Court.

The court also held that Article 133 of the Constitution had no application to such cases. It was not intended to have a retrospective operation so as to take away this vested right, nor did it do so either in express terms or by necessary intendment. To summarize, the court ruled that the applicant had an inherent right to appeal to the Federal Court, and under Article 135 of the Constitution, he had the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court also held that Article 133 of the Constitution did not apply to such cases. Furthermore, the appellant’s vested right of appeal acquired under the old law fell under the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Appellant’s Argument: Acquisition of Vested Right to Appeal to the Federal Court

The appellant in this case argued that he had a vested right to appeal to the Federal Court from the time he filed the suit on April 22, 1949. He contended that the Indian Independence Act of 1947 expanded the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to allow it to hear appeals that previously went to the Privy Council. 

As per the Act, starting from the appointed day, i.e., February 1, 1948, any decision falling under the purview of the Act could be appealed to the Federal Court. The appellant argued that he was entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court as of right under Article 135 of the Constitution, and Article 133 of the Constitution did not apply to cases like his.

Respondent’s Argument: Inapplicability of Article 135 and Refusal of Special Leave

The respondent argued that the appellant’s reliance on Article 135 of the Constitution was misplaced, as Article 133 was the relevant provision. They claimed that there was no vested right to appeal to the Federal Court immediately before the Constitution came into effect, and therefore, Article 133 applied. The respondent contended that since the jurisdiction to hear appeals to the Federal Court ceased to exist, the appellant had no right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Consequently, they maintained that the application for special leave to appeal should be dismissed.

Issues before the Court

  • Should the petition for special leave to appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution8 be granted or not, in relation to the judgment and decree dated March 4, 1955, of the Andhra High Court?

In this particular case, the main issue revolved around the petitioner’s entitlement to appeal to the Supreme Court. The petitioner claimed that he had a vested right to appeal to the Federal Court, which was replaced by the Supreme Court. This right, according to the petitioner, was acquired at the time of the suit’s institution, which occurred before the Constitution came into force. In contrast, the respondent argued that the case fell under the jurisdiction of Article 133 of the Constitution, and there was no vested right to appeal to the Federal Court. As per the respondent’s argument, the petitioner had no right to appeal since the Constitution had extinguished this right.

Therefore, the court was required to determine whether the petitioner had a valid claim to appeal under the previous law and whether Article 135 or Article 133 of the Constitution was applicable to the case. Ultimately, the correct interpretation of these articles was key to the final decision, and whether the petitioner’s right to appeal had been preserved despite the constitutional changes.

Decision of the Court

After considering the opinions of several courts, the final decision was reached in this case. The majority of the courts agreed that the appellant should be granted Special Leave to Appeal to the Court on usual terms. In its judgment, the Court clarified the interpretation of Article 133 and stated that it applies to all appeals against judgments, decrees, and final orders of the High Courts in India, regardless of whether the proceedings were initiated before or after the Constitution’s commencement in civil proceedings.

The Court’s decision provides a clear and consistent legal framework for all appeals against the High Courts’ judgments. This interpretation ensures that all appeals are treated uniformly, irrespective of the time the proceedings were instituted. It also provides clarity to litigants seeking to appeal a decision, as they can now have a clear understanding of the legal provisions applicable to their case.

The Court’s ruling is an essential milestone in Indian legal history, as it resolves the ambiguity surrounding the interpretation of Article 133 and provides much-needed clarity on the scope of appeals against the High Court’s decisions. This decision will have far-reaching implications for future cases, as it provides a standard framework for interpreting and applying Article 133 in all cases involving appeals against the High Court’s decisions.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court of India’s ruling in the case of Garikapatti Veeraya v N. Subbiah Choudhury, handed down in 1957, is a significant milestone in the legal history of India. This ruling provided valuable insights into the interpretation of Article 133 of the Indian Constitution, which applies to all appeals against judgments, decrees, and final orders of the High Courts in India, irrespective of when the proceedings were initiated in civil cases. As a result, this case established a uniform and unambiguous legal framework, ensuring fair and equitable treatment for all litigants.

The Garikapatti Veeraya case underscores the importance of having a clear and consistent legal system that provides clarity and consistency in the interpretation and application of the law. This landmark decision has far-reaching implications for future cases, emphasizing the need for uniformity and consistency in legal rulings. The Court’s decision, in this case, serves as a guiding light for Indian courts and legal practitioners, helping to establish a clear and uniform legal framework for the entire nation. Overall, the Garikapatti Veeraya case is a crucial milestone in India’s legal history, representing a significant step forward in ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all litigants.


Endnotes:

  1. INDIA CONST. art. 133.
  2. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 109.
  3. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 100.
  4. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 2(2).
  5. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 2(14).
  6. INDIA CONST. art 135.
  7. Colonial Sugar Refining Co. v. Irving, (1905) A.C. 369.
  8. INDIA CONST. art. 136.

This case is analysed by Sohini Chakraborty, a first-year law student at RGNUL Patiala.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *