SC on Powers of First Appellate Court under the Code of Civil Procedure

Law, legal, legality.

December 06, 2017

C.Venkata Swamy vs H.N. Shivanna (D) By LR. Etc.

Date of Judgment: December 04, 2017

In this recent case, taken up by the Two-Judge Bench of Supreme Court, the Court elucidated on the powers and duties of the First Appellate Court under the Code of Civil Procedure. The Court while analyzing the law also delved into the earlier judgments of the Supreme Court. First appeal has been recognized as a valuable right of a litigant and at this stage it is duty of the first Appellate Court to hear the parties on both the questions of law as well as facts and accordingly decide issues and pass a reasoned judgment.

Brief Facts: In the case, the Appellant had filed a suit in the Court of City Civil Judge, Bangalore against the respondents for a declaration and permanent injunction in relation to the suit land and the Respondents also filed a cross suit against the appellant in relation to the suit land. Both the suits were clubbed together for their disposal because both were between the same parties and pertained to same subject matter.

The Trial Court, by a common judgment dismissed the suit filed by the appellant. The appellant felt aggrieved and filed two first appeals under Section 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Appeal from original decree) before the High Court of Karnataka. The High Court dismissed both the Appeals and the aggrieved appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Bench’s Verdict

The Supreme Court Bench allowed the Appeal in the case and remanded the case to the High Court. The Court made the following observations in the case:

  • That the Single Judge of High Court dismissed the appeals very cursorily and without undertaking any appreciation of evidence, dealing with various issues arising in the case and discussing the arguments raised by the parties in support of their case. In other words, the disposal of the two first appeals could not be said to be in conformity with the requirements of Section 96 of CPC  read with Order 41 Rule 31 of the Code.
  • That it is a settled principle of law that a right to file first appeal against the decree under Section 96 of CPC is a valuable legal right of the litigant. The jurisdiction of the first Appellate Court while hearing the first appeal is very wide like that of the Trial Court and it is open to the appellant to attack all findings of fact or/and of law in first appeal. It is the duty of the first Appellate Court to appreciate the entire evidence and arrive at its own independent conclusion, for reasons assigned, either of affirmance or difference.
  • Powers of the First Appellate Court-The Supreme Court in the case elaborated on the powers of the First Appellate Court under the CPC and also referred to plethora of cases. The cases and legal principles reiterated by the Court in the case are as under:

Kurian Chacko vs. Varkey Ouseph[1]– An appellate court is the final Court of fact ordinarily and therefore a litigant is entitled to a full and fair and independent consideration of the evidence at the appellate stage. Anything less than this is unjust to him.

Santosh Hazari vs. Purushottam Tiwari (Deceased) by L.Rs[2]The appellate court has jurisdiction to reverse or affirm the findings of the trial court. First appeal is a valuable right of the parties and unless restricted by law, the whole case is therein open for rehearing both on questions of fact and law. The judgment of the appellate court must, therefore, reflect its conscious application of mind and record findings supported by reasons, on all the issues arising along with the contentions put forth, and pressed by the parties for decision of the appellate court. While reversing a finding of fact the appellate court must come into close quarters with the reasoning assigned by the trial court and then assign its own reasons for arriving at a different finding. This would satisfy the court hearing a further appeal that the first appellate court had discharged the duty expected of it.

H.K.N. Swami v. Irshad Basith[3]– The first appeal has to be decided on facts as well as on law. In the first appeal parties have the right to be heard both on questions of law as also on facts and the first appellate court is required to address itself to all issues and decide the case by giving reasons.

Jagannath v. Arulappa & Anr.[4]– While considering the scope of Section 96 of CPC  a Court of first appeal can reappreciate the entire evidence and come to a different conclusion

In view of the above precedents, the Supreme Court opined that the High Court had failed to discharge the obligation placed on it as a first appellate court and set aside the impugned judgment and remand the case to the High Court for deciding the appeals afresh on merits in accordance with law.

[1] AIR 1969 Kerala 316

[2] (2001) 3 SCC 179

[3] (2005) 10 SCC 243

[4] (2005) 12 SCC 303