Read Judgment:K.n. Nagarajappa & Ors. vs. H. Narasimha Reddy

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, September 10, 2021: The Supreme Court has ruled that High Courts are empowered to exercise limited factual review u/s 103 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC).

The Division Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat observed that there is no prohibition on entertaining a second appeal even on a question of fact provided the court is satisfied that the findings of fact recorded by the courts below stood vitiated by non-consideration of relevant evidence or by showing an erroneous approach to the matter i.e. that the findings of fact are found to be perverse.

But the High Court cannot interfere with the concurrent findings of fact in a routine and casual manner by substituting its subjective satisfaction in place of that of the lower courts, added the Bench.

The observation came pursuant to the judgment passed by the High Court allowing the second appeal, which came to be challenged by the appellants contending that the High Court’s jurisdiction is limited to examining only substantial questions of law.

The Top Court opined that if a finding of fact is arrived at by ignoring or excluding relevant material or by taking into consideration irrelevant material or if the finding so outrageously defies logic as to suffer from the vice of irrationality incurring the blame of being perverse, then the finding is rendered infirm in the eye of the law.

If the findings of the Court are based on no evidence or evidence which is thoroughly unreliable or evidence that suffers from the vice of procedural irregularity or the findings are such that no reasonable person would have arrived at those findings, then the findings may be said to be perverse, added the Court.

The Division Bench also made it clear that if the findings are either ipse dixit of the Court or based on conjecture and surmises, the judgment suffers from the additional infirmity of non-application of mind and thus, stands vitiated.

The Apex Court went on to observe that the jurisdiction which a High Court derives u/s 100 is based upon its framing of a substantial question of law. As a matter of law, it is axiomatic that the findings of the first appellate court are final.

However, the rule that sans a substantial question of law, the High Court cannot interfere with findings of the lower Court or concurrent findings of fact, is subject to two important caveats, added the Court.

Thus, the Top Court highlighted the two caveats as:

1. If thefindings of fact are palpably perverse or outrage the conscience of the court; in other words, it flies on the face of logic that given the facts on the record, interference would be justified; and

2. Where the findings of fact may call for examination and be upset, in the limited circumstances spelt out in Section 103 CPC.

Accordingly, the Apex Court dismissed the appeal and refused to interfere in the findings of the High Court.

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