1. The petitioner filed a petition for certiorari for the quashing of an order passed by a Rent Control and Eviction Officer (Opposite Party No. 1) directing the order of an accommodation to let it to opposite party No. 2 who will be referred to as 'the opposite party', a notice issued by the Rent Control and Eviction Officer under Section 7-A (1) of the (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act calling upon the petitioner to vacate the accommodation within a certain time and an order passed by him under Section 7-A (2) rejecting his reply to the notice and calling upon him to vacate within three days and threatening to use force to evict him in default.
2. The petition came up for hearing before our brother Jagdish Sahai who referred the following question to a Division Bench because the decision of V.D. Bhargava, J. in Syed Kasim Husain v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, Allahabad. 1960 All LJ 546, required reconsideration--
'Whether the remedy of a revision application before the Commissioner and another before the State Government is not an adequate alternative remedy which should be exhausted before a writ petition is entertained in this Court ?'
The petition was laid before a Division Bench consisting of two of us and it referred the case to a Full Bench for reconsideration of decisions of Division Bench with regard to the question. Hence the petition is laid before us. What we have to do is to answer the question; the petition has not been laid before us for decision.
3. Section 7-A (4) of the (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act reads as follows:--
'No appeal shall lie from any order passed by the District Magistrate under this section, but the Commissioner may revise the said order, if he is satisfied that the District Magistrate has acted illegally or with material irregularity or has wrongly refused to act and may make such order as he thinks fit.'
4. Section 7-F read as follows:---
'The State Government may call for the record of any case granting or refusing to grant permission for the filing of a suit for eviction referred to in Section 3 or requiring any accommodation to be let or not to be let to any person under Section 7 or directing a person to vacate any accommodation under Section 7-A and may make such order as appears to it necessary for the ends of justice.'
5. It is well settled that the jurisdiction conferred by Article 226 of the Constitution is discretionary; what this means is that a High Court is not bound to issue a writ even though a case is made out for its issue and it can in its discretion refuse to issue it for certain reasons appealing to it. Neither can one party compel it to issue it nor can the other party compel it not to issue it. Its order issuing it is within law as also its order refusing to issue it. A question may arise whether it has exercised its discretion arbitrarily or erroneously but no other question can arise from its order either issuing it or refusing to issue it.
6. It is equally well settled that the existence of an alternative adequate remedy is a mound for refusing to issue a writ. The jurisdiction conferred by Article 226 is an extraordinary jurisdiction which is expected to be exercised after the jurisdiction of ordinary Courts has been invoked and invoked unsuccessfully or the matter is beyond the jurisdiction of ordinary Courts. The Constitution by conferring upon a High Court the power of issuing a writ did not intend to take away the jurisdiction of ordinary Courts or to use it as a substitute for that jurisdiction. It did not intend to confer upon a person a choice of the ordinary Courts of the High Courts, What the law is that the High Court is justified in refusing a writ on the ground that an alternative adequate remedy was available to the petitioner and he has failed to avail himself of it, not that it is bound to do so. The very issue of a writ having its discretion there cannot be a hard and fast rule governing it because otherwise it would cease to be a matter of discretion if the conditions in which the hard and fast rule would apply exist. Every discretion is to be exercised in accordance with certain principles but it only means that these principles have to be taken into consideration along with the circumstances,
The principles that govern a discretion are not hard and fast rules for the simple reason that they are taken into consideration along with the circumstances. That a writ should not be issued if there exists or existed an alternative adequate remedy is one of the principles governing the discretion of a High Court; a High Court should consider it with the circumstances of the case and decide whether it should issue a writ or not. It acts as much legally in issuing it in spite of the existence of an alternative adequate remedy as in not issuing it. Its refusing it on this ground is correct but so also its issuing it in spite of this if the circumstances justify it. It is not bound to refuse it on this ground; the law lays down nothing more than that it may or can refuse it on this ground. If there are reasons for issuing it in spite of the existence of this ground it has full jurisdiction to issue it. If there are no such reasons it should refuse it. What reasons justify or do not justify, it is a matter within its discretion. In Union of India v. T.R. Varma : (1958)IILLJ259SC , the Supreme Court speaking though Venkatarama Aiyar, J., said at p. 884 as follows:--
'....... .when an alternative and equally efficacious remedy is open to a litigant, he should be required to pursue that remedy and not invoke the special jurisdiction of the High Court to issue a prerogative writ. It is true that the existence of another remedy does not affect the jurisdiction of the Court to issue a writ; but...... the existence of an adequate legal remedy is a thing to be taken into consideration in the matter of granting writs. .... And where such remedy exists, it will be a sound exercise of discretion to refuse to interfere in a petition under Article 226, unless there are good grounds therefor.'
In A. V. Venkateswaran v. R. S. Wadhwani : 1983ECR2151D(SC) , Rajagopala Ayyangar, J. made the following observations at p. 1509;--
'. .the rule that the party who applies for the issue of a high prerogative writ should have exhausted other remedies open to him under the law, is not one which bars the jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain the petition or to deal with it, but is rather a rule which Courts have laid down for the exercise of their discretion.'
And at p. 1510 he observed:--
'. .. . the broad lines of the general principles on which the Court should act having been clearly laid down, their application to the facts of each particular case must necessarily be dependent on a variety of individual facts which must govern the proper exercise of the discretion of the Court, and.... in a matter which is thus pre-eminently one of discretion it is not possible or even if it were, it would not be desirable to lay down inflexible rules which should be applied with rigidity in every case which comes up before the Court.'
Reference may also be made to the observations of Das, C. J. in State of U. P. v. Mohammad Nooh, AIR 1958 SC 80 at p. 88.
7. The existence of an alternative adequate remedy is only one of the grounds for refusal of a writ, a writ can be refused in the absence of this ground or on any other ground. For instance it is open to a High Court to refuse a writ on the ground that the petitioner did not exhaust whatever remedy was available to him under the Act even though it does not find that remedy an adequate remedy. Thus it can refuse a writ on the ground that the petitioner did not apply to an authority invested with jurisdiction to revise the impugned order; it commits no illegality by doing so.
8. The question that has been referred seems to assume that exhaustion of an alternative adequate remedy is an absolute rule are that if a petitioner has not availed himself of an alternative adequate remedy a writ cannot be granted to him. There is no such absolute rule at all. If an alternative adequate remedy is not exhausted and a writ is refused it is not solely on that ground but on that ground coupled with the absence of circumstances justifying the writ even though the remedy is not exhausted. The question also might suggest that the principle of exhaustion applied only to an alternative adequate remedy and not to another remedy which may not strictly be adequate remedy but this is not the law as pointed out above. A High Court has power to refuse a writ on a ground analogous to that of non-exhaustion of an alternative adequate remedy. The matter is within its discretion.
The manner in which the question has been formulated might also lead one to think that there are two classes of alternative adequate remedies, one of those remedies to which the principle of exhaustion applies absolutely and the other of these to which it does not apply or does not apply absolutely and that the question to be answered by us is whether the remedy by way of revision applications under Sections 7-A (4) and 7-F falls in the former class or in the latter class. There is no such division of alternative adequate remedies and there cannot be any such division for the simple reason that the exhaustion of an alternative adequate remedy it not an absolute rule but only a fact to be taken into consideration in exercising the discretion. It seems to me that the essence of the question is whether a writ can (or ought to) be refused on the ground that the petitioner has not availed himself of the remedy of applying to the Commissioner and the State Government for revision under Sections 7-A (4) and 7-F. Whether such a remedy is an alternative adequate remedy or not is only an interlocutory question, which is not essential to be answered because, as I said above, the existence of such a remedy is not the only ground for refusing a writ and a writ can be refused on any other ground in the discretion of the High Court. Refusing it on the ground that such a remedy has not been exhausted is not an arbitrary or even erroneous exercise of the discretion vesting in it. Whether an order can be passed or not raises a question of jurisdiction or law; whether it should be passed or not raises a mixed question of law and fact. If an order can be passed, the question whether it should be passed or not is exclusively a question of discretion depending upon the circumstances. Therefore, the essence of the question can be answered as follows:--
'The High Court can refuse a writ on the ground that the petitioner has not availed himself of the remedy of applying to the Commissioner or the State Government for revision; whether it should do so or not in a particular case depends upon its circumstances and is a matter for its discretion. It is immaterial whether such a remedy is an adequate remedy or not because even if it is not it is a material fact to be taken by the High Court into consideration in exercising its discretion.'
9. Though in view of this it may not be essential to decide whether a remedy under Section 7-A (4) or Section 7-F is an alternative adequate remedy, since conflicting views have been expressed on it we would be justified in deciding the question. I have no doubt that it is such a remedy.
10. The powers conferred upon a Commissioner and the State Government by Sections 7-A (4) and 7-F are very wide and comparable to the powers of an appellate authority. A Commissioner can revise an order of a Rent Control and Eviction Officer not only on the ground that it is illegal or suffers from a material irregularity but also on the ground that he has wrongly refused to act. Every appellate authority has no jurisdiction to interfere with a finding of fact and the power to interfere with a finding of fact is not a sine qua non of appellate jurisdiction. The power conferred upon the State Government is even wider; it is authorised to make any order as appears to it necessary for the ends of justice and there are no restrictions on its power to make such an order.
The only distinction between revisional jurisdiction conferred upon a Commissioner and the State Government and appellate jurisdiction is that the former is discretionary while the latter is obligatory. An appeal must be entertained if the formalities prescribed for it have been fulfilled and must be allowed if the impugned judgment is found to be erroneous; neither a Commissioner nor the State Government is bound to entertain an application for revision or to grant it even though the applicant makes out his case. In the case of an appeal a right to appeal is conferred upon a party aggrieved by the order sought to be appealed from whereas no right is given to a party aggrieved by an order to apply for revision of it either to a Commissioner or to the State Government. What Sections 7-A (4) and 7-F do is to confer powers upon Commissioners and the State Government and not upon parties aggrieved by orders of Rent Control and Eviction Officers. This is the only distinction between appellate jurisdiction and revisional jurisdiction but this distinction does not itself make the remedy by way of an application for revision inadequate, I respectfully do not agree with R. Dayal and V. Bhargava, JJ. when they observed in Brij Kishore v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer : AIR1954All428 , that Section 7-F does not afford 'any alternative remedy' because it does not confer any right to make an application for revision. A litigant does not need an express provision authorising him to make an application; he can always make an application and the worst that can happen is that it would be refected. It is well known that applications for revision are made not only under the Rent Control and Eviction Act but also under the Code of Criminal Procedure and under the Code of Civil Procedure though none of them confers a right to apply for revision. Further we find that the learned Judges were persuaded to take the view because the officers of the State Government were found to be interested against the petitioner before them.
In Munna Lal Goel v. Sri Kishan Pehalwan, 1959 All LJ 897, Raghubar Dayal and Upadhya, JJ. simply followed the decision in the case of Brij Kishore : AIR1954All428 (supra). V.D. Bhargava, J. in the case of Syed Kasim Husain, 1960 All LJ 546 (supra) observed that applying for revision has not been held by this Court as an alternative and efficacious remedy. Manchanda, J. in Shyam Sunder Bajpai v. Commr., Allahabad Division, 1965 All LJ 211, followed the decisions in the cases of Munna Lal Goel, 1959 All LJ 897 and Brij Kishore : AIR1954All428 (supra); he stressed the facts that applying for revision is not a matter of right and that revisional jurisdiction is discretionary. With great respects I do not agree with these decisions. It is not for a litigant aggrieved by an order of a Rent Control and Eviction Officer to assume that the Commissioner or the State Government will not entertain his revision application or will not grant him any relief in his or its discretion even though he makes out his case. They can entertain his revision, application and decide it according to its merits; if they do, they grant all the relief that he would have got from an appellate authority. In other words, they may in their discretion act like an appellate authority and he cannot assume that they will not do so and refrain from approaching them on account of that assumption. If within his knowledge there are no reasons on account of which the Commissioner or the State Government should exercise their discretion against entertaining his revision application or against granting it even though he makes out his case there is no reason why he should assume that they will still not exercise revisional jurisdiction in his favour.
In this very petition it has not been alleged by the petitioner that there were any reasons on account of which the Commissioner or the State Government would not have entertained or granted his application for revision. If his own case was that the ends of justice required the impugned orders to be quashed he should have expected them to exercise their discretionary jurisdiction in his favour and his duty was to apply to them for revision before coming to this Court with a petition for a writ. The relief that he seeks in this petition is not such as could not have been granted to him by them.
11. An alternative adequate remedy is alternative to the remedy of applying for a writ. Any remedy available to a person aggrieved by an order other than that of applying for a writ against it is an alternative remedy. Whether it is adequate or not is to be answered in relation to the remedy by an application for a writ. It should be as adequate as the remedy by a writ. A remedy by means of a revision application is not less adequate than a remedy by a petition for a writ because a person is not entitled as a matter of right to a writ, the matter being within the discretion of the High Court. When a petitioner is not entitled as a matter of right to a writ it is illogical for him to contend that a revisional remedy is not adequate because it is discretionary. It is not more discretionary than a remedy by means of a writ petition. A remedy by way of an appeal may be more adequate than a remedy by means of a writ petition but any other remedy has not to be more adequate than a remedy by a writ petition in order to attract the principle of exhaustion. It is enough if the remedy is at least as adequate as the remedy by means of a writ petition even though it is not as adequate as that by means of an appeal.
12. Section 7-A (4) itself substitutes the revisional remedy for an appellate remedy. As the Legislature did not provide for an appellate remedy it provided for a revisional remedy, in other words it treated the revisional remedy as a substitute for an appellate remedy. It contemplated that a Commissioner would in the ends of justice pass any order that could be passed by an appellate court.
13. Though no period of limitation has been prescribed for a petition for a writ it is settled that a petition can be rejected by a High Court in its discretion on the ground of laches on the part of the petitioner. The reasonable time within which a High Court expects a petitioner to apply for a writ is 90 days from the date of the impugned order or act. Petitioners for writs themselves compute this conventional period of limitation from the date of the order passed on their revision application if any, and all High Courts permit them to do so. If an application for revision were not an alternative adequate remedy it is not understood why a petitioner should be allowed to compute the conventional period of limitation from the date of the order on his application for revision. The time spent by him on an application for revision from an impugned order is deducted on the basis that thereby he is availing himself of an alternative adequate remedy. To say that applying for revision is not alternative adequate remedy is inconsistent with deducting this time spent on such an application when considering the question of laches. Surely he has not the right of extending the time within which to approach a High Court with a petition for a writ by his own act of applying for revision.
14. The Supreme Court has held in Bhagwan v. Ham Chand : 3SCR218 , that the State Government exercise quasi-judicial power when acting under Section 7-F. There is now even less justification than before for holding that the remedy of applying to the State Government under Section 7-F is not an adequate remedy.
15. There are no onerous conditions attached to an application for revision either under Section 7-A(4) or under Section 7-F and, therefore, the question whether a remedy subject to an onerous condition is adequate remedy or not does not arise here.
16. Sri K.B. Sinha pressed that the remedy of applying for revision should not be treated as adequate remedy because the Commissioner or the State Government cannot stay enforcement or operation of the impugned order during the pendency of a revision application. The petitioner had need ordered to vacate within three days and was threatened with use of force if he failed to comply with the order. It was argued that if he applied for revision against the order to the Commissioner or to the State Government neither of them could give him any relief against the threatened use of force and that if he had been forcibly evicted his application for revision would become in-fructuous. Reliance was placed upon the observation of Dwivedi, J. in Bashi Ram v. Mantri Lal : AIR1965All498 , that he was inclined to the view that the State Government has no power to issue an interim order suspending the operation of the impugned order during the pendency of a revision application. Assuming, though without deciding, that the powers conferred upon Commissioners and the State Government by the provisions of Section 7-A (4) and Section 7-F do not include the power of suspending the operation of the impugned orders of Rent Control and Eviction Officers during the pendency of revision applications, I do not consider that the lack of power at all affects the question whether the remedy of applying for revision is adequate remedy or not. The question is of remedy against the impugned order which means the final remedy and not any interim remedy that may be given for the time being.
Further there is no reason to think that a High Court has any greater power in respect of interim stay than a Commissioner or the State Government has when proceeding under Section 7-A (4) or Section 7-F. Article 226 does not expressly confer any power upon a High Court to grant interim stay during the hearing of a petition for a writ. Nor can such a power be inferred from any provision contained in it. It is true that it empowers a High Court to issue any direction, order or writ but its power of issuing a direction or order is exactly similar ex parte, i.e. without giving an opportunity to be heard to the other party it also cannot issue a direction or order without giving such an opportunity to the other party, If no ex parte writ can be granted, no ex parte order of stay also can be granted by virtue of the authority conferred by Article 226. Lastly a petitioner has no absolute right to an interim order of stay, ex parte or even after hearing the other party, and if applying for revision is held to be not an adequate remedy because revisional jurisdiction is discretionary applying for interim stay, whether ex parte or after hearing the other party, also should not be held to be an adequate remedy because it is at the discretion of the High Court. Consequently the fact that a petitioner may obtain an interim order of stay from the High Court in a petition for a writ does not make applying for it writ an adequate remedy if otherwise it is not.
17. For these reasons I am of the view that applying for revision under Section 7-A(4) or Section 7-F is an adequate remedy alternative to that of applying for a writ.
18. There is no law that failure to pursue an alternative adequate remedy is an absolute bar to relief under Article 228 and this was not the contention of Sri Jagdish Gopal Mathur. What is held by authorities is that a High Court can refuse a writ on the ground that an alternative adequate remedy was not pursued. So a High Court can refuse a writ on the ground that the petitioner did not exhaust the statutory remedy even if it consists of applying for revision.
19. The Assam Sales Tax Act created a hierarchy of taxing tribunals competent to decide questions regarding liability of tax payers with a right to have questions of law arising out of orders of taxing authorities decided by the High Court. An appeal lies against an order of taxing authorities to an Assistant Commissioner and a revision lies against the latter's order to the Commissioner. A reference may be demanded against the Commissioner's order and on its being refused the High Court may be moved to call for a reference. In Thansingh v. Supdt. of Taxes, Dhubri, AIR 1904 SC 1419, a tax-payer instead of calling for a reference from an order of the Commissioner moved the High Court for a writ. Shah, J. expressed himself as follows with regard to the High Court's jurisdiction:--
'... .the exercise of the jurisdiction is discretionary ...... Resort to that jurisdiction is not intended as an alternative remedy for relief which may be obtained in a suit or other mode prescribed by statute. Ordinarily the Court will not entertain a petition........ Where the petitioner has an alternative remedy, which without being unduly onerous provides an equally efficacious remedy. ...... Where it is open to the aggrieved petitioner to move another tribunal, or even itself in another jurisdiction, for obtaining redress in the manner provided by a statute, the High Court normally will not permit by entertaining a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution the machinery created under the statute to be bypassed, and will leave the party applying to it to seek resort to the machinery, so set up.'
What holds good for a petitioner's failing to ask for a reference holds good for a petitioner's failing to apply for revision. Further the above observations make it clear that applying for revision as permitted under a statute is an equally efficacious remedy.
In the British India Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. v. Jasjit Singh : AIR1964SC1451 Gajendragadkar, C. J. stated that
'the Court generally does not entertain appeals against the orders passed by a Tribunal unless the alternative remedies provided by the relevant Act by way of appeals or revisions have been pursued by the aggrieved party.'
There the impugned order was passed by a Collector of Customs under the Sea Customs Act and the learned Chief Justice pointed out the fact that an appeal lay from the Collector's order and a revision lay from the appellate authority's order. He laid down that
'the High Court should be slow in encouraging parties to circumvent the special provisions made providing for appeals and revisions in respect of orders which they seek to challenge by writ petition under Article 226.'
In view of these decisions of the Supreme Court the decisions of this Court already referred to cannot be considered to lay down good law.
20. Rule 6 of Chapter XXII of Rules of Court 'Direction Order or Writ under Article 226 of the Constitution other than a writ in the nature of Habeas Corpus', 1952, made by this Court reads as follows:--
'No application under this Chapter shall be maintainable if adequate relief is obtainable by the applicant by any other process of law.'
It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that this rule is ultra vires inasmuch as it takes away the power conferred by Article 226 in certain circumstances as a matter of law. The vires of this rule was considered by a Full Bench of this Court in Babu Ram v. Antarim Zilla Parishad : AIR1964All534 , but it did not decide the question. Dwivedi, J. expressed his opinion that it is ultra vires but Takru, J. and I did not express any opinion. From what I have said above it is clear that the rule is ultra vires.
21. I propose the following answer to the question:--
The High Court can refuse a writ on the ground that the petitioner has not availed himself of the remedy of applying to the Commissioner or the State Government for revision; whether it should do so or not in a particular case depends upon its circumstances and is a matter within its discretion. The remedy is an alternative adequate remedy within the meaning of the principle of exhaustion but really it is immaterial whether it is or is not because even if it is not, it is a material fact which the High Court may take into consideration in exercising its discretion of granting or refusing the writ.
22. This answer may be laid before the Bench concerned.
L. Prasad, J.
23. I agree.
R.A. Misra, J.
24. I agree. Reference answered accordingly.