The Supreme Court ruled that the High Court while exercising supervisory powers cannot act as an appellate body to re-appreciate evidence.
The appellant, as the landlord, is the original applicant in an eviction proceeding instituted under Section 14 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 seeking recovery of possession of a shop room located at Connaught Place in the central part of Delhi. The eviction proceeding was instituted in 1974. In that proceeding instituted before the Rent Controller, Delhi, altogether three individuals and three firms were originally impleaded as respondents. In the appeal, however, only three respondents have been impleaded, being the firm-Young Friends & Co. and two individuals Ashu Mohan Gupta and Shashi Gupta. They have been described as contesting respondents. On that count, however, no controversy has been raised. The appellant admittedly is the landlord of the subject-premises. This was rented out to the then proprietor (since deceased) of the first respondent in the year 1936. The appellant became the landlord thereof on having purchased the subject-premises from its erstwhile owner in the year 1958. The main ground on which eviction was asked for was sub-letting without consent of the landlord.
Senior Advocate Dhruv Mehta and advocate Jeevesh Nagrath appearing for the appellant contended that sub-letting had been proved before the final fact-finding forum (at the appellate stage) and the appellate forum had returned findings on facts. In such circumstances, the High Court in its supervisory jurisdiction ought not to have upset the order of the Appellate Tribunal.
The issue raised before the court was as to whether the act of the respondents in inducting the three medical practitioners constituted sub-letting or not.
The division bench of Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Aniruddha Bose stated that it cannot revisit the factual aspects of the dispute. Nor can it re-appreciate evidence to assess the quality thereof, which has been considered by the two fact-finding fora.
The court said that the view of the forum of first instance was reversed by the Appellate Tribunal. The High Court was conscious of the restrictive nature of jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. In the judgment under appeal, it has been recorded that it could not subject the decision of the appellate forum in a manner which would project as if it was sitting in appeal.
The court was in agreement with the High Court’s enunciation of the principles of law on scope of interference by the supervisory Court on decisions of the fact-finding forum. But having gone through the decisions of the two stages of fact-finding by the statutory fora, it is of the view that there was overstepping of the boundary by the supervisory Court.
The court opined that the High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India in the judgment under appeal had gone deep into the factual arena to disagree with the final fact-finding forum.
The court said that there is no dispute that the three medical practitioners were in occupation of part of the premises in question. The onus, under such circumstances, was on the respondents to establish the degree of control they were maintaining over the said premises for repelling the plea of sub-letting or assignment or parting with possession.
The court set aside the judgment of the High Court and restored the Appellate Tribunal’s findings.
Case title: M/S Puri Investments v/s M/S Young Friends and Co. & Ors.
Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1609 OF 2022