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Nagendra Nath Bora and anr. Vs. the Commissioner of Hills Division and Appeals, Assam and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Reported inAIR1958SC398; (1958)36MysLJ(SC)389; [1958]1SCR1240
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 226 and 227; Eastern Bengal and Assam Excise Act, 1910 - Sections 9 - Schedule - Rule 343
AppellantNagendra Nath Bora and anr.
RespondentThe Commissioner of Hills Division and Appeals, Assam and ors.
Cases ReferredDalmia Jain Airways Ltd. v. SukumarMukherjee
Books referredHalsbury's Laws of England Vol. II. 3rd Edn.
excise - jurisdiction - articles 226 and 227 of constitution of india, schedule, rule 343 and section 9 of eastern bengal and assam excise act, 1910 - whether high court can issue writ of certiorari on findings that impugned orders had been vitiated by errors of fact and not of law apparent on face of record - under article 226 power of interference may extent to quashing of impugned order on ground of mistake apparent on face of records but under article 227 power of interference is limited to seeking that tribunal functions within limits of its authority - interference by high court either under article 226 or 227 not justified. - - a number of unsuccessful tenderers filed appeals before thecommissioner of excise questioning the settlement with the first appellant andhis father in.....sinha, j. 1. these appeals by special leave are directed against the judgments andorders of the assam high court, exercising its powers under arts. 226 and 227of the constitution, in respect of orders passed by the revenue authoritiesunder the provisions of the eastern bengal and assam excise act, 1910 (e.b. andassam act 1 of 1910) (hereinafter referred to as the act). they raise certaincommon questions of constitutional law, and have, therefore, been heardtogether, and will be disposed of by this judgment. though there are certaincommon features in the pattern of the proceedings relating to the settlement ofcertain country spirit shops, when they passed through the hierarchy of theauthorities under the act, the facts of each case are different, and have to bestated separately in so far.....

Sinha, J.

1. These appeals by special leave are directed against the judgments andorders of the Assam High Court, exercising its powers under Arts. 226 and 227of the Constitution, in respect of orders passed by the Revenue Authoritiesunder the provisions of the Eastern Bengal and Assam Excise Act, 1910 (E.B. andAssam Act 1 of 1910) (hereinafter referred to as the Act). They raise certaincommon questions of constitutional law, and have, therefore, been heardtogether, and will be disposed of by this Judgment. Though there are certaincommon features in the pattern of the proceedings relating to the settlement ofcertain country spirit shops, when they passed through the hierarchy of theauthorities under the Act, the facts of each case are different, and have to bestated separately in so far it is necessary to state them.

(I) Civil Appeal No. 668 of 1957.

2. The two appellants Nagendra Nath Bora and Ridananda Dutt are partners,the partnership having been formed in view of the Government notification datedNovember 30, 1956, amending rule 232 of the Assam Excise Rules, to the effectthat the settlement of the country spirit shops which may be declared by theGovernment to be 'big shops', shall be made with two or more partners who shallnot belong to the same family nor should be related to one another (videcorrection slip at p. 106 of the Assam Excise Manual, 1946). In accordance withthe rules framed under the Act, tenders were invited by the Deputy Commissionerof Sibsagar, for the settlement of Jorhat country spirit shop for the financialyear 1957-58, in December, 1956. The appellants as members of the partnershipaforesaid, submitted a tender in the prescribed form. Respondents 3 and 4, DharmeshwarKalita and Someswar Neog, respectively, also were amongst the tenderers. TheCommissioner of Hills Division and Appeals, Assam, and the Commissioner ofExcise, Assam, are the first and the second respondents in this case. It isnecessary to stage at this stage that in respect of the financial year 1956-57,the shop in question was ordered by the first respondent as the ExciseAppellate Authority to be settled with the first appellant Nagendra Nath as anindividual, setting aside the orders of the Deputy Commissioner and the ExciseCommissioner. The other competitors for the settlement of the said shop beingdissatisfied with the orders of the first respondent, moved the Assam HighCourt and challenged the validity of the settlement made in the firstappellant's favour. Similar right cases challenging orders of settlement by thefirst respondent as the Excise Appellate Authority, had been instituted in theHigh Court. All those cases were heard together, and the High Court, be itsjudgment dated May 22, 1956, quashed the orders passed by the first respondent,chiefly on the ground that the Appellate Authority had been illegallyconstituted. The matter was brought by way of special leave to this Court, andwas heard by the Constitution Bench which, by its judgment dated January 31,1957, decided that the constitution of the Commissioner of Hills Division andAppeals as the ultimate appellate Authority under the Act, was notunconstitutional. The judgment of this Court is reported in the case of The Stateof Assam v. A. N. Kidwai : [1957]1SCR295 . It will be necessary, in thecourse of this judgment, to make several references to that decision which, forthe sake of brevity, we shall call the 'ruling of this Court'. The result ofthe ruling of this Court, was that the determination by the Assam High Courtthat the orders passed by the first respondent, were void, was set aside, andthe settlement made by that Authority, consequently, stood restored. But in themeantime, as the orders of the first respondent stood quashed as a result ofthe judgment of the High Court, the direction of the Excise Commissioner thatthe shop in question be re-settled, was carried out, and the settlement wasmade with the third respondent aforesaid as an individual. He continued inpossession of the shop until February 26, 1957, on which date, the firstappellant was put in possession as a result of the ruling of this Court. Evenso, the first appellant could exercise his rights as lessee of the shop onlyfor a few months during the financial year ending March 31, 1957.

3. For the financial year 1957-58, the Deputy Commissioner, in consultationwith the local Advisory Committee, settled the shop in question with the thirdand the forth respondents, aforesaid. The tender submitted by the appellants,was not considered by the licensing authority on the erroneous ground that theorders passed by the first respondent as the ultimate Revenue Authority in thematter of settlement of excise shops, had been rendered null and void as aresult of the decision of the High Court, referred to above. The appellants, asalso others who were competitors for the settlement aforesaid, preferredappeals to the Excise Commissioner who set aside the settlement made in favourof the respondents 3 and 4, and ordered settlement of the shop with theappellants. The Excise Commissioner took into consideration the fact that theorder of the first High Court, nullifying the proceedings before the firstrespondent, had been set aside by the ruling of this Court. The consequence ofthe order of this Court, was, as the Commissioner of Excise pointed out, that asupposed disqualification of the appellants as competent tenderers, stoodvacated as a result of the first respondent's order. The third and the fourthrespondents, as also other dissatisfied tenderers preferred appeals to thefirst respondent against the order of the second respondent (the ExciseCommissioner). The first respondent dismissed those appeals and confirmed theorder settling the shop with the appellants, by his order dated June 10, 1957.The respondents 3 and 4, then, moved the High Court under Arts. 226 and 227 ofthe Constitution, for an appropriate writ for quashing the order passed by thefirst respondent. The High Court, by its order dated August 6, 1957, quashedthe aforesaid order of settlement in favour of the appellants by the firstrespondent. The High Court further directed that all the tenders bere-considered in the light of the observations made by it. The main ground ofdecision in the High Court, was that the Excise Appellate Authority had actedin excess of its jurisdiction, and that its order was vitiated by errorsapparent on the face of the record. The prayer for a certificate that the casewas a fit one for appeal to this Court, having been refused by the High Court,the appellants obtained special leave to appeal.

(II) Civil Appeal No. 669 of 1957.

4. This appeal relates to the settlement of the Murmuria country spirit shopin the district of Sibsagar, for the financial year 1957-58. The appellantLakhiram Kalita and the first respondent Bhanuram Pegu, amongst others, hadsubmitted their tenders for the settlement of the shop. The DeputyCommissioner, after consulting the Advisory Committee, settled the shop withthe first respondent aforesaid. The appeals field by the appellant and otherdisappointed tenderers, were dismissed by the Excise Commissioner by his orderdated March 25, 1957. Against the said order, the appellant and another partyfiled further appeals to the Commissioner of Hills Division and Appeals, who,by his order dated May 30, 1957, set aside the settlement in favour of thefirst respondent, and ordered settlement with the appellant. In pursuance ofthat order, the appellant took possession of the shop with effect from June 5,1957. The first respondent's application for review of the order aforesaid,stood dismissed on June 11, 1957. Against the aforesaid orders of theCommissioner of Hills Division and Appeals, the first respondent moved the HighCourt under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution, for a proper writ forquashing them. On June 17, 1957, the writ petition was heard ex parte, and theHigh Court issued a rule to show cause why a writ as prayed for, should not beissued. The rule was made returnable within three weeks. The High Court alsomade the further order in these terms :-

'Meanwhile, the status quo ante will bemaintained.'

5. This last order was mis-interpreted by the first respondent and hisadvisers as entitling them to be put in possession of the shop, and it isstated that the first respondent threatened the appellant to oust him from theshop on the basis of the order of the High Court quoted above. The appellantmoved the High Court for a clarification of its order aforesaid. The High Courtnaturally observed that by 'maintaining status quo ante', the High Court meantthat whoever was in possession of the shop on June 17, 1957, will continue tobe in possession during the pendency of the case in the High Court. But,curiously enough, the Deputy Commissioner, by an ex parte order, on June 21,1957, directed that the first respondent be put in charge of the shopforthwith, and the order was carried out. When the Deputy Commissioner wasapproached by the appellant to restore him to possession in view of theobservation of the High Court, he asked the appellant to obtain further orderfrom the High Court. Thereafter, the appellant again moved the High Court onJune 28, 1957, stating all the facts leading to his wrongful dispossession, andseeking relief in the High Court. No order was passed on that petition.Ultimately, the High Court, by its order dated July 31, 1957, set aside theorder of the Commissioner of Hills Division and Appeals. The appellant's prayerfor a certificate that the case was a fit one for appeal to this Court, havingbeen refused by the High Court, he moved this Court and obtained special leaveto appeal.

(III) Civil Appeal No. 670 of 1957.

6. This appeal is on behalf of the Commissioner of Hills Division and Appeals,Assam, against the judgment and order of the High Court relating to theMurmuria shop which is the subject-matter of Civil Appeal No. 669 referred toin the previous paragraph. The first respondent to this appeal is Bhanuram Peguwho is also the first respondent in Civil Appeal No. 669 of 1957. The secondrespondent is Lakhiram Kalita who is the appellant in Civil Appeal No. 669 of1957. Both these respondents, as already indicated, are the competing tenderersfor the shop in question. The facts of this case have already been stated inrelation to Civil Appeal No. 669 of 1957. This appeal has been brought with aview to getting the legal position clarified in view of the frequent appealsmade to the appellant in the matter of settlement of excise shops.

(IV) Civil Appeal No. 672 of 1957.

7. This appeal relates to the Tinsukia country spirit shop in the districtof Lakhimpur. The appellants, Rafiulla Khan and Mahibuddin Ahmad, are partners,and as such, are interested in the settlement of the shop for the financialyear 1957-58. This shop had been jointly settled with the first appellant andhis father for a number of years. For the year 1956-57 also, the lease had beengranted to them by the Deputy Commissioner, after consulting with the AdvisoryCommittee. A number of unsuccessful tenderers filed appeals before theCommissioner of Excise questioning the settlement with the first appellant andhis father in respect of the year 1956-57. The Excise Commissioner set asidethe settlement, and ordered a re-settlement. The first appellant and his fatherfiled an appeal before the Excise Appellant Authority, against the order of theCommissioner of Excise. The Appellate Authority allowed the appeal, and setaside the orders of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner. One RafiqulHussain, one of the competitors for the shop, filed a writ petition before theHigh Court under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution. This writ application,along with other similar applications, was heard and decided by the High Court,as aforesaid, by its judgment dated May 23, 1956. Against the judgment of theHigh Court, the first appellant and his father appealed to this Court by socialleave, with the result indicated above. During the pendency of the appeal inthis Court in the absence of a stay order, the direction of the Commissionerfor a re-settlement, was carried out. The Deputy Commissioner, with theunanimous advice of the Advisory Committee settled the shop with the firstappellant on July 25, 1956. The first respondent and some others preferredappeals before the Commissioner of Excise, against the order aforesaid of theDeputy Commissioner. As the special leave appeals to this Court were pending atthat time, the Excise Commissioner, under a misapprehension of the effect ofthis Court's order refusing interim stay, set aside the Deputy Commissioner'sorder, and directed the settlement to be made with the first respondent. Asthere was no Excise Appellate Authority functioning at the time as a result ofthe decision, aforesaid, of the High Court, declaring the constitution movedthe an Authority to be void, the first appellant moved the High Court underArts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution, on the ground that the order of theExcise Commissioner was vitiated by an error apparent on the face of the recordin so far as he had misunderstood the order of the Supreme Court passed on thestay petition. The High Court admitted the application but rejected the prayerfor maintenance of status quo in the sense that the first appellant'spossession be maintained. On the stay petition being rejected by the HighCourt, the first respondent took possession of the shop from the firstappellant as a result of the Excise Commissioner's order in his favour. TheHigh Court ultimately dismissed the writ application by its order datedDecember 6, 1956. The appeal filed by the appellant and his father, alreadypending in this Court, was heard and determined as aforesaid, in January, 1957.This Court reversed the decision of the High Court, and restored the status ofthe Excise Appellate Authority. As a result of the ruling of this Court, theExcise Appellate Authority, by its order dated February 25, 1957, directeddelivery of possession back to the first appellant and his father, holding thatthe order of re-settlement and the resettlement, itself, in pursuance of thatorder, were all wiped out. Against the said order, the first respondent movedthe High Court under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution for quashing theorder for delivery of possession, on the ground of want of jurisdiction, andfor an interim stay. The High Court issued a rule and passed an order forinterim stay on February 26, 1957. The High Court made the rule absolute by itsorder dated March 26, 1957, taking the view that the attention of this Courthad not been drawn to the interim settlement of the shop in the absence of anorder of stay. It appears further that during the tendency of the appeal inthis Court, fresh settlement for the financial year 1957-58, took place towardsthe end of 1956, and the beginning of 1957. The Tinsukia shop was settled withrespondents 1 and 2 though the appellants also had jointly submitted a tenderfor the same. The appellants and other parties preferred appeals against thesaid order of settlement made by the Deputy Commissioner. The ExciseCommissioner set aside the settlement by the Deputy Commissioner, and directedsettlement in favour of the appellants by his order dated April 16, 1957.Against that order, respondents 1 and 2 and others preferred appeals before theExcise Appellate Authority who, by an order dated June 3, 1957, dismissed theappeals. Accordingly, the appellants were given possession of the shop on June7, 1957. The respondents 1 and 2 again moved the High Court for quashing theorder of the Excise Appellate Authority, affirming that of the ExciseCommissioner, and also prayed for the status quo being maintained. The HighCourt admitted the petition and ordered 'meanwhile, status quo ante bemaintained.' This took place on June 10, 1957. In pursuance of theaforesaid order of the High Court, the appellants were dispossessed of the shopeven though they had been put in possession only three days earlier. This wasdone on a complete misapprehension of the true effect of the order of the HighCourt maintaining status quo ante. If the High Court had passed its order in aless sophisticated and more easily understood language in that part of thecountry, perhaps, the party in possession, would not have been dispossessed ofthe shop settled with it. The appellants moved the High Court against theCommissioner's order directing possession to be given to the respondents 1 and2. The High court issued a rule but refused to grant stay of the operation ofthe order directing possession to be given. During the final hearing of therule before the High Court, the appellants again moved a petition on July 5,1957, for vacating the order of possession which was based on a misapprehensionof the order of the High Court maintaining status quo ante, but apparently, noorder was passed because possession had already been given to the respondents 1and 2. During the hearing of the rule by the High Court, an unfortunateincident occurred, for which the appellants cannot altogether be absolved of someresponsibility, as a result of which, one of the learned judges constitutingthe Bench, namely, Deka J. expressed his unwillingness to proceed with thehearing of the case. The hearing had, therefore, to be adjourned on July 15,1957, until a new Bench could be constituted. The appellants renewed theirapplication already made on July 5, as aforesaid, for undoing the unintendedeffect of the order of the High Court, that the status quo ante was tocontinue. But on July 30, the Chief Justice directed that the matter be placedbefore a Division Bench. As there was no third judge at the time, the disposalof the case, naturally had to stand over until the third judge was available.The matter of delivery of possession was again mentioned before the Division Benchof the Chief Justice and Deka J. The High Court rejected the application ongrounds which cannot bear a close scrutiny. The petitioners also approached theExcise Appellate Authority, but is refused to re-consider the matter as thecase was then pending before the High Court. Again on August 14, 1957, a freshapplication was made to the High Court, along with a copy of the orders passedby the Excise Appellate Authority and the Deputy Commissioner, Lakhimpur,giving delivery of possession to respondents 1 and 2. But, this time, Deka J.refused to hear the matter, and naturally, the Chief Justice directed thematter of be placed before him, sitting singly. On August 19, 1957, the matterwas placed before the Chief Justice sitting singly, and he directed a rule toissue on the opposite party cited before that Court, to show cause. Apparently,the learned Chief Justice treated the matter as new case and not as anoff-shoot of the case already pending before the High Court. The High Courtclosed for the long vacation on September 2, and to re-open on November 3,1957. The vacancy of the third judge had not been filled till then, and as theappellants felt that they had been wrongfully deprived of their right to holdtheir shop, as a result of an erroneous interpretation of the order of the HighCourt, passed on June 10, as aforesaid, and as there was no prospect of thecase being disposed of quickly, the appellants moved this Court and obtainedspecial leave to appeal.

8. As is evident from the statement of facts in connection with each one ofthe appeals, set out above, these cases have followed a common pattern. Theycome from the 'non-prohibited areas' in the State of Assam where sale of'country spirit' is regulated by licences issued by the authorities under theprovisions of the Act. Settlement of shops for the sale of such liquor is madefor one year April 1 to March 31. According to the present practice containedin Executive Instructions, intending candidates for licences, have to submittenders to the Deputy Commissioner for the Sadar Division and to Sub-Divisionalofficers for Sub-Divisions, in accordance with the terms of notices publishedfor the purpose. Such tenders are treated as strictly confidential. Settlementis made by the Deputy Commissioner or the Sub-Divisional Officer concerned, asthe case may be, in consultation with an Advisory Committee consisting of 5local members or less. The selection of a particular tenderer is more or less amatter of administrative discretion with the officer making the settlement.Under the Act, an appeal from an order of settlement made by a DeputyCommissioner or Sub-Divisional officer, lies to the Commissioner of Excise, andfrom an order of the Commissioner of Excise to the Excise Appellant Authoritywhose decision becomes final. Section 9 of the Act, dealing with appeal andrevision, has undergone a series of amendments, and the section as it hasemerged out of the latest amendment by the Amending Act - The Assam Act 23 of1955 - which received the assent of the Governor of Assam on December 22, 1955,and was published in the Assam Gazette dated December 28, 1955, is in theseterms :

'9. (1) Orders passed underthis Act or under any rule made hereunder shall be appealable as follows in themanner prescribed by such rules as the State Government may make in this behalf-

(a) to the Excise Commissioner,any order passed by the District Collector or a Collector other than theDistrict Collector,

(b) to the Appellate Authorityappointed by the State Government for the purpose, any order passed by theExcise Commissioner.

(2) In cases not provided for byclauses (a) and (b) of sub-section (1), orders passed under this Act or underany rules made hereunder shall be appealable to such authorities as the StateGovernment may prescribe.

(3) The Appellate Authority, theExcise Commissioner or the District Collector may call for the proceedings heldby any officer or person subordinate to it or him or subject to its or hiscontrol and pass such orders thereon as it or he may think fit.'

9. Rules 339, 340, 341 and 345 of the Assam Excise Manual, have, thus,become obsolete and have been deleted as a result of the latest amendmentaforesaid. The power of hearing appeals and revisions under the Act, has beenvested successively in the Board, the Assam Revenue Tribunal, the Commissionerfor Hills Division and Appeals; and ultimately, under the amended section, inthe Appellate Authority. The history of the legislation relating to the highestRevenue Authority under the Act, has been traced in the judgment of this Courtin the State of Assam v. A. N. Kidwai (supra), and need not be repeated here.

10. It is convenient, first, to deal with the general questions of publicimportance raised on behalf of the appellant in Civil Appeal No. 670 of 1957.At the forefront of the arguments advanced on behalf of the AppellateAuthority, was the plea that the several authority already indicated, concernedwith the settlement of excise shops like those in question in these appeals,are merely administrative bodies, and, therefore, their orders whether passedin the first instance or on appeal, should not be amenable to the writjurisdiction or supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court under Arts. 226 and227 of the Constitution. If the matter had rested only with the provisions ofthe Act, apart from the rules made under s. 36 of the Act, much could have beensaid in support of this contention. As observed by this Court in the case ofCooverjee B. Bharucha v. The Excise Commissioner and the Chief Commissioner,Ajmer and others : [1954]1SCR873 there is no inherent right in aCitizen to sell liquor. It has further been observed by this Court in therecent case of the State of Assam v. A.N. Kidwai, (supra), at page 301asfollows :

'A perusal of the Act and rules will make it clearthat no person has any absolute right to sell liquor and that the purpose ofthe Act and the rules is to control and restrict the consumption ofintoxicating liquors, such control and restriction being obviously necessaryfor the preservation of public health and morals, and to raised revenue.'

11. It is true that no one has an inherent right to settlement of liquorshops, but when the State, by public notice, invites candidates for settlementto make their tenders, and in pursuance of such a notice, a number of personsmake such tenders each one makes a claim for himself in opposition to theclaims of the others, and the public authorities concerned with the settlement,have to choose from amongst them. If the choice had rested in the hands of onlyone authority like the District Collector on his subjective satisfaction as tothe fitness of a particular candidate without his orders being amenable to anappeal or appeals or revision, the position may have been different, But s. 9of the Act has laid down a regular hierarchy of authorities, one above theother, with the right of hearing appeals or revisions. Though the Act and therules do not, in express terms, require reasoned orders to be recorded, yet, inthe context of the subject-matter of the rules, it becomes necessary for theseveral authorities to pass what are called 'speaking orders'. Where there is aright vested in an authority created by statute, by it administrative orquasi-judicial, to hear appeals and revisions, it becomes its duty to hearjudicially, that is to say, in an objective manner, impartially and aftergiving reasonable opportunity to the parties concerned in the dispute, to placetheir respective cases before it. In this connection, the observations of LordHaldane at p. 132, and of Lord Moulton at p. 150, in the Local Government Boardv. Arlidge [1915] A.C. 120, to the following effect are very apposite :

12. Lord Haldane : 'My Lords, when the duty of deciding an appeal isimposed, those whose duty it is to decide it must act judicially. They mustdeal with the question referred to them without bias, and they must give toeach of the parties the opportunity of adequately presenting the case made. Thedecision must be come to in the spirit and with the sense of responsibility ofa tribunal whose duty it is to mete out justice. But it does not follow thatthe procedure of every such tribunal must be the same.'

13. Lord Moulton : 'In the present case, however, the Legislature hasprovided an appeal, but it is an appeal to an administrative department ofState and not to a judicial body. It is said, truthfully, that on such anappeal the Local Government Board must act judicially, but this, in my opinion,only means that it must preserve a judicial temper and perform its dutiesconscientiously, with a proper feeling of responsibility, in view of the factthat its acts affect the property and rights of individuals. Parliament haswisely laid down certain rules to be observed in the performance of itsfunctions in these matters, and those rules must be observed because they areimposed by statute, and for no other reason, and whether they give much orlittle opportunity for what I may call quasi-litigious procedure depends solelyon what Parliament has though right. These rules are beyond the criticism ofthe Courts, and it is not their business to add to or take away from them, oreven to discuss whether in the opinion of the individual members of the Courtthey are adequate or not.'

14. The legal position has been very succinctly put in Halsbury's Laws ofEngland [Vol. II. 3rd Edn., pp. 56-57], as follows :-

'Moreover an administrative body, whose decision isactuated in whole or in part by questions of policy, may be under a duty to actjudicially in the course of arriving at that decision. Thus, if in order toarrive at the decision, the body concerned had to consider proposals andobjections and consider evidence, if at some stage of the proceedings leadingup to the decision there was something in the nature of a lis before it, thenin the course of such consideration and at that stage the body would be under aduty to act judicially. If, on the other hand, an administrative body inarriving at its decision has before it at no stage any form of lis andthroughout has to consider the question from the point of view policy andexpediency, it cannot be said that it is under a duty at any time to actjudicially. Even where the body is at some stage of the proceedings leading upto the decision under a duty to act judicially, the supervisory jurisdiction ofthe Court does not extend to considering the sufficiency of the grounds for, orotherwise challenging, the decision itself.'

15. The provisions of the Act are intended to safeguard the interest of theState on the one hand, by stopping, to at any rate, checking illicitdistillation, and on the other hand, by raising the maximum revenueconsistently with the observance of the rules of temperance. The authoritiesunder the Act, with Sub-divisional Officers at the bottom and the AppellateAuthority at the apex of the hierarchy, are charged with those duties. Therules under the Act and the executive instructions which have no statutoryforce but which are meant for the guidance of the officers concerned, enjoinupon those officers, the duty of seeing to it that shops are settled withpersons of character and experience in the line, subject to certainreservations in favour of tribunal population. Except those generalconsiderations, there are no specific rules governing the grant of leases tolicences in respect of liquor shops, and in a certain contingency, even drawingof lots, is provided for, vide Executive Instructions 110 at p. 174 of theManual. The words of sub-s. (3) of s. 9 as amended, set out above, vestcomplete discretion in the Appellate Authority, the Excise Commissioner or theDistrict Collector, to 'pass such orders thereon as it or he may think fit.'The sections of the Act do not make any reference to the recording of evidenceor hearing of parties or even recording reasons for orders passed by theauthorities aforesaid. But we have been informed at the bar that as a matter ofpractice, the authorities under the Act, hear counsel for the parties, and givereasoned judgments, so as to enable the higher authorities to know why aparticular choice has been made. That is also apparent from the several orderspassed by them in course of these few cases that are before us.

16. But when we come to the rules relating to appeals and revisions, we findthat the widest scope for going up in appeal or revision, has been given topersons interested, because r. 344 only lays down that no appeal shall lieagainst the orders of composition, thus, leaving all other kinds of orders opento appeal or revision. Rule 343 provides that every memorandum of appeal shallbe presented within one month from the date of the order appealed against,subject to the requisite time for obtaining a certified copy of the order beingexcluded. Rule 344 requires the memorandum of appeal to be accompanied by acertified copy of the order appealed against. The memorandum of appeal has tobe stamped with a requisite court-fee stamp. Rule 343 was further amended bythe Notification dated March 14, 1957, by adding the following proviso andexplanations to that rule :

'Provided further that thecompetent Appellate Authority shall have the power to admit the appeal afterthe prescribed period of limitation when the appellant satisfies the AppellateAuthority that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal withinsuch period.

Explanation (1). The fact thatthe appellant was mislaid by any order, practice or judgment of any AppellateAuthority in ascertaining or computing the prescribed period of limitation maybe sufficient cause within the meaning of this Rule.

Explanation (2). The fact thatthe Appellate Authority was unable to function for any period by reason of anyjudicial pronouncement shall be sufficient cause within the meaning of thisRule.

The amendment shall be deemed tohave been made on 23rd May, 1956, and shall have retrospective effect sincethat date.'

17. These rules, read along with the recent amendments, set out above,approximate the procedure to be followed by the Appellate Authorities, to theregular procedure observed by courts of justice in entertaining appeals. Aswould appear from the ruling of this Court at p. 304, where the provisions andeffect of the Assam Revenue Tribunal (Transfer of Powers) Act, 1948, (Assam IVof 1948) have been set out, the ultimate jurisdiction to hear appeals andrevisions, was divided between the Assam High Court and the Authority referredto in s. 3(3) of that Act. Appeals and revisions arising out of cases coveredby the provisions of the enactments specified in Schedule 'A' to that Act, wereto lie in and to be heard by the Assam High Court, and the jurisdiction toentertain appeals and revisions in matters arising under the provisions of theenactments specified in Schedule 'B' to that Act, was vested in the Authorityto be set up under s. 3(3), that is to say, for the purposes of the presentappeals before us, the Excise Appellate Authority. Thus, the Excise AppellateAuthority, for the purposes of cases arising under Act, was vested with thepower of the highest appellate Tribunal, even as the High Court was, respect ofthe other group of cases. That does not necessarily mean that the ExciseAppellate Authority was a Tribunal of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the HighCourt, or that that Authority was not amenable to the supervisory jurisdictionof the High Court under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution. But thejuxtaposition of the parallel highest Tribunals, one in respect ofpre-dominantly civil cases, and the other, in respect of pre-dominantly revenuecases (without attempting any clear cut line of demarcation), would show thatthe Excise Appellate Authority was not altogether an administrative body whichhad no judicial or quasi-judicial functions.

18. Neither the Act nor the rules made thereunder, indicate the grounds onwhich the first Appellate Authority, namely the Excise Commissioner, or thesecond Appellate Authority (the Excise Appellate Authority), has to exercisehis or its appellate or revisional powers. There is no indication that theymake any distinction between the grounds of interference on appeal and inrevision. That being so, the powers of the Appellate Authorities in the matterof settlement, would be co-extensive with the powers of the primary authority,namely, the District Collector or the Sub-Divisional Officer. See in thisconnection, the observations of the Federal Court in Lachmeshwar Prasad Shukuland others v. Keshwar Lal Chaudhuri and others [1940] F.C.R. 84, and ofthis Court in Ebrahim Aboobakar and another v. Custodian-General of EvacueeProperty : [1952]1SCR696 . In the latter case, this Court, dealing withthe powers of the Tribunal (Custodian-General of the Evacuee Property), unders. 24 of Ordinance No. 27 of 1949, observed :

'Like all courts of appeal exercising generaljurisdiction in civil cases, the respondent has been constituted an appellatecourt in words of the widest amplitude and the legislature has not limited hisjurisdiction by providing that such exercise will depend on the existence ofany particular state of facts.'

19. Thus, on a review of the provisions of the Act and the rules framedthereunder, it cannot be said that the authorities mentioned in s. 9 of theAct, pass purely administrative orders which are beyond the ambit of the HighCourt's power of supervision and control. Whether or not an administrative bodyor authority functions as a purely administrative one or in a quasi-judicialcapacity, must be determined in each case, on an examination of the relevantstatute and the rules framed thereunder. The first contention raised on behalfof the appellant must, therefore, be overruled.

20. Now, turning to the merits of the High Court's order, it was contendedon behalf of the appellant that the High Court had misdirected itself inholding that the Appellate Authority had exceeded its jurisdiction in passingthe order it did. There is no doubt that if the Appellate Authority whose dutyit is to determine questions affecting the right to settlement of a liquorshop, in a judicial or quasi-judicial manner, acts in excess of its authorityvested by law, that is to say, the Act and the rules thereunder, its order itsubject to the controlling authority of the High Court. The question,therefore, is whether the High Court was right in holding that the AppellateAuthority had exceeded its legal power. In this connection, it is best toreproduce, in the words of the High Court itself, what it conceived to be thelimits of the appellate jurisdiction :

'In other words, it is not for the AppellateAuthority to make the choice, since the choice has already been made by theofficers below; and it is not only where the choice is perverse or illegal andnot in accordance with the Rules that the Appellate Authority can interferewith the order and make its own selected (sic.) out of the persons offeringtenders. If the Appellate bodies chose to act differently and considerthemselves free to make their own choice of the person to be offered settlementirrespective of the recommendations of the Deputy Commissioner or the Officerconducting the settlement, the Appellate bodies will be obviously exceeding thejurisdiction, which they possess under the law or going beyond the scope oftheir authority as contemplated by the Rules.'

21. In our opinion, in so circumscribing the powers of the AppellateAuthority, the High Court has erred. See in this connection, the decision ofthis Court in Raman and Raman Ltd. v. The State of Madras : [1956]1SCR256 .In that case, this Court dealt with the powers of the State Government, whichhad been vested with the final authority in the matter of grant of stagecarriage permits. This Court held that as the State Government had beenconstituted the final authority under the Motor Vehicles Act, to decide asbetween the rival claimants for permits, its decision could not be interferedwith under Art. 226 of the Constitution, merely because the Government's viewmay have been erroneous. In the instant cases, the Appellate Authority iscontemplated by s. 9 of the Act, to be the highest authority for decidingquestions of settlement of liquor shops, as between rival claimants. The appealor revision being undefined and unlimited in its scope, the highest authority underthe Act, could not be deprived of the plenitude of its powers by introducingconsiderations which are not within the Act or the rules.

22. It is true that the Appellate Authority should not lightly set aside theselection made by the primary Authority, that is to say, a selection made by aSub-Divisional Officer or by a District Collector, should be given due weightin view of the fact that they have much greater opportunity to know localconditions and local business people than the Appellate Authority, even as theappeal courts are enjoined not to interfere lightly with findings of factrecorded by the original courts which had the opportunity of seeing witnessesdepose in court, and their demeanour while deposing in court. But it is notcorrect to hold that because the Appellate Authority, in the opinion of theHigh Court, has not observed that caution, the choice made by it, is in excessof its power or without jurisdiction.

23. The next ground of attack against the order of the High Court, underappeal, was that the High Court had erred in coming to the conclusion thatthere had been a failure of natural justice. In this connection, the High Courthas made reference to the several affidavits filed on either side, and theorder in which they had been filed, and the use made of those affidavits orcounter-affidavits. As already indicated, the rules make no provisions for thereception of evidence oral or documentary, or the hearing of oral arguments, oreven for the issue of notice of the hearing to the parties concerned. Theentire proceedings are marked by a complete lack of formality. The severalauthorities have been left to their own resources to make the best selection. Inthis connection, reference may be made to the observations of this Court in thecase of New Prakash Transport Co., Ltd. v. New Suwarna Transport Co., Ltd. : [1957]1SCR98 . In that case, this Court has laid down that the rules ofnatural justice vary with the varying constitutions of statutory bodies and therules prescribed by the Act under which they function; and the question whetheror not any rules of natural justice had been contravened, should be decided notunder any pre-conceived notions, but in the light of the statutory rules andprovisions. In the instant case, no such rules have been brought to our notice,which could be said to have been contravened by the Appellate Authority. Simplybecause it viewed a case in a particular light which may not be acceptable toanother independent tribunal, is no ground for interference either under Art.226 or Art. 227 of the Constitution.

24. It remains to consider the last contention raised on behalf of theappellants in these cases, namely, whether there has been any error apparent onthe face of the record, in the order of the Appellate Authority, which wouldattract the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court. In this connection, thefollowing observations of the High Court are relevant :

'But the most glaring error on face of the order ofthe Appellate Authority is that it does not even refer to the report of theDeputy Commissioner on which the Excise Commissioner had so strongly relied. Inmy opinion, it was under the Rules obligatory on the Appellate Authority toconsider that report before disposing of the appeal, and in failing to do so,the officer acted arbitrarily and in excess of his powers as an AppellateAuthority.'

25. It may be that during the prolonged hearing of these cases before the HighCourt where counsel for the different parties placed their respectiveview-points after making copious references to the documents, the High Courtwas greatly impressed that the order of settlement in one case (Murmuria shop),made by the Deputy Commissioner, as confirmed by the Excise Commissioner, wasthe right one and that the choice made by the Appellate Authority did notcommend itself to the High Court. It may further be that the conclusions offact of the High Court were more in consonance with the entire record of theproceedings, and that the choice made by the ultimate Revenue Authority, waswrong. But, under the law as it stands, the High Court exceeded its powers inpronouncing upon the merits of a controversy which the Legislature has left tothe Discretion of the Appellate Authority. But is that a mistake apparent onthe face of the record, as understood in the context of Art. 226 of theConstitution

26. That leads us to a consideration of the nature of the error which can besaid to be an error apparent on the face of the record which would be one ofthe grounds to attract the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court underArt. 226 of the Constitution. The ancient writ of certiorari which now inEngland is known as the order of certiorari, could be issued on very limitedgrounds. These grounds have been discussed by this Court in the cases of :

Parry & Co. v. CommercialEmployee's Association, Madras : (1952)ILLJ769SC ,

Veerappa Pillai v. Raman andRaman Ltd., and others : [1952]1SCR583 ,

Ibrahim Aboobakar v. CustodianGeneral of Evacuee Property : [1952]1SCR696 ,

T.C. Basappa v. T. Nagappa : [1955]1SCR250 .

27. All these cases have been considered by this Court in the case of Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Syed Ahmad Ishaque and others : [1955]1SCR1104 .Venkatarama Ayyar J., speaking for the full Court, laid down four propositionsbearing on the character and scope of the writ of certiorari as establishedupon the authorities. The their proposition out of those four, may be stated inthe words of that learned Judge, as follows :

'The Court issuing a writ of certiorari acts inexercise of a supervisory and not appellate jurisdiction. One consequence ofthis is that the Court will not review findings of fact reached by the inferiorCourt or Tribunal, even if they be erroneous.'

28. While considering the fourth proposition whether the writ can be issuedin the case of a decision which was erroneous in law, after considering therecent Authorities, the same learned Judge, in the course of his judgment, atp. 1123, has observed as follows :

'It may therefore be taken as settled that a writof certiorari could be issued to correct an error of law. But it is essentialthat it should be something more than a mere error : it must be one which mustbe manifest on the face of the record.'

29. The High Court appears to have been under the impression that theexpression 'error apparent on the face of the record' may also be inrespect of findings of fact. For example, in Civil Appeal No. 668 of 1957,relating to Jorhat shop, the High Court has observed as follows :

'The Appellate Authority further reinforced itssuspicion by mentioning that Dharmeswar, his father and brother are summoned inconnection with some complaint, but that was a matter purely extraneous, tospeak the least - and it could have found that the complaint was filed afterthe settlement. The complaint had no reference to any offence of smuggling orthe like as has been conceded. These were errors apparent on the face of therecord.'

30. Later, in the course of the same judgment, it has been observed asfollows :

'This is another instance where I find that theExcise Appellate Authority has misconceived its powers as much and purported todecide the appeal either on errors of record, speculations or on irrelevantconsiderations, irrespective of all that happened in the earlier stages of thematter. It starts with an apparent error of record when it says that in thejudgment of the Excise Commissioner it finds 'a clear admission that ShriGarela Kalita, father of Shri Dharmeswar Kalita, is a suspected smuggler.' Infact, there was no such admission. It was held by the Commissioner on thecontrary that 'the learned Deputy Commissioner and members of the Advisory Committeethought that the major son who bears an excellent character should not bepunished for the alleged sin of his father'.'

31. These excerpts from the judgment of the High Court are not exhaustive,but only illustrative of the observation that the High Court appears to havetreated an error of fact on the same footing as an error of law apparent on theface of the record. The question, naturally, arises whether an error fact canbe invoked in aid of the power of the High Court to quash an order of a subordinatecourt or Tribunal. The High Court would appear to have approximated it to an'error apparent on the face of the record' as used in r. 1 of O. 47 of theCivil Procedure Code, as one of the grounds for review of a judgment or anorder; but that is clearly not the correct position. Ordinarily, a mistake oflaw in a judgment or an order of a court, would not be a ground for review. Itis a mistake or an error of fact apparent on the face of the record, which mayattract the power of review as contemplated by r. 1 of O. 47. But is the powerof a High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution, to interfere on certiorari,attracted by such a mistake, and not the revise of it, in the sense that it isonly an error of law apparent on the face of the record, which can attract thesupervisory jurisdiction of a High Court

32. This question, so far as we know, has not been raised in this form inthis Court in any one of the previous decisions bearing on the scope andcharacter of the writ of certiorari. It is, therefore, necessary to examinethis question directly raised in this batch of appeals, because, in each case,the High Court has been invited to exercise its powers under Art. 226, toissued a writ of certiorari on the specific found that the orders impugnedbefore it, had been vitiated by errors apparent on the face of the record -errors not law but of fact.

33. The ancient case of the Queen v. James Bolton [1841] (1) Q B 66; 113 ER 1054], is treated as a landmarkon the question of the power to issue a writ or order of certiorari. That was acase in which an order of justices for delivering up a house to parishofficers, under a statute, was called up on certiorari. Lord Denman C.J. whiledischarging the rule, made the following observations in the course of hisjudgment, which have been treated as authoritative and good law even now :

'The first of these is a point of much importance,because of very general application; but the principle upon which it turns isvery simple : the difficulty is always found in applying it. The case to besupposed is one like the present, in which the Legislature has trusted theoriginal, it may be (as here) the final, jurisdiction on the merits to themagistrates below; in which this Court has no jurisdiction as to the meritseither originally or on appeal. All that we can then do, when their decision iscomplained of, is to see that the case was one within their jurisdiction, andthat their proceedings on the face of them are regular and according to low.Even if their decision should upon the merits be unwise or unjust, on thesegrounds we cannot reverse it.'

34. While dealing with the argument at the Bar, complaining of theunsoundness of the conclusions reached by the magistrates and the hardships tobe caused by their erroneous order, the Court made the following observationswhich are very apposite to the facts and circumstances disclosed in the instantappeals, and which all courts entrusted with the duty of administering law,should bear in mind, so that they may not be deflected from the straight pathof enforcing the law, by considerations based on hardship or on vague ideas ofwhat is sometimes described as justice of the cause :

'Beyond this we cannot go.The affidavits, being before us, were used on the argument; and much was saidof the unreasonableness of the conclusion drawn by the magistrates, and of thehardship on the defendant if we would not review it, there being no appeal tothe sessions. We forbear to express any opinion on that which is not before us,the property of the conclusion drawn from the evidence by the magistrates :they and they alone were the competent authority to draw it; and we must notconstitute ourselves into a Court of Appeal where the statute does not make ussuch, because it has constituted no other.

It is of much more importance tohold the rule of law straight than, from a feeling of the supposed hardship ofany particular decision, to interpose relief at the expense of introducing aprecedent full of inconvenience and uncertainty in the decision of futurecases.'

35. The case of Reg v. Bolton (supra) was approved and followed by the PrivyCouncil in the case of the King v. Nat Bell Liquors, Limited [1922] 2 A.C.128. In that case their Lordships of the Judicial Committed held that aconviction by a magistrate for a non-indictable offence, cannot be quashed oncertiorari on the ground that the record showed that there was no evidence tosupport the conviction, or that the magistrate had misdirected himself inconsidering the evidence. It was further laid down that the absence of evidencedid not affect the jurisdiction of the magistrate to try the charge. In thecourse of their judgment, their Lordships further observed that the law laiddown in Reg v. Bolton (supra) has never been seriously questioned in England,and that the same rules were applicable to other parts of the Commonwealth,except in so far as they may have been modified by statute. They also observedthat the decision in Reg v. Bolton (supra) 'undoubtedly is a landmark inthe history of certiorari, for it summarises in an impeccable form theprinciples of its application......' But latterly, the rule laid down inBolton's case, appears to have been slurred over in some decided cases, inEngland, which purported to lay down that a writ or order of certiorari couldbe obtained only if the order impugned disclosed an error of jurisdiction, thatis to say, complete lack of jurisdiction or excess of jurisdiction or the refusalto exercise jurisdiction, and not to correct an error of law, even thoughapparent on the face of the record. The question was brought to a head in thecase of Rex v. Northumberland Compensation Appeal Tribunal [1951] 1 K.B. 711.It arose out of an application for an order of certiorari for quashing adecision reached by the respondent - Northumberland Compensation AppealTribunal. Lord Goddard C.J. began his judgment by observing that the pointinvolved in the case was 'of the very greatest importance' which had'necessitated the examination of a large number of cases and considerationof the principles which apply to the doctrine of certiorari'. He furtherobserved that certiorari is a remedy of a very special character. He, then, discussesthe object and scope of the writ of certiorari and the history of thejurisdiction as exercised in the English courts. He then dealt with thecontention directly raised for the determination of the court that an order ofcertiorari, can issue only to remove a defect of jurisdiction and that it doesextend to removing an order out of the way of the parties on account of amistake of law apparent on the face of the record. The court then consideredthe relevant authorities, and came to the conclusion that it was wrong to holdthat the ground of interference on certiorari, was only an error or excess ofjurisdiction, and that it did not extend to correction of an error of lawapparent on the face of the record. The Lord Chief Justice then pointed outthat the examination of the authorities bearing on the exercise of the power ofcertiorari, yielded the result that it was open to the High Court to examinethe record and to see whether or not there was an error of law apparent on theface of the record. The Lord Chief Justice concluded his observations withthese remarks :-

'The tribunal have told us what they have takeninto account, what they have disregarded, and the contentions which theyaccepted. They have told us their view of the law, and we are of opinion thatthe construction which they placed on this very complicated set of regulationswas wrong.'

36. This decision was challenged, and on appeal, the Court of Appeal dealtwith this point in Rex v. Northumberland Compensation Appeal Tribunal [1952] 1 K.B. 338. The Court of Appeal affirmed the proposition laid down by the HighCourt that an order for certiorari, can be granted and the decision of aninferior court such as a statutory tribunal, quashed on the ground of an errorof law apparent on the face of the record. Singleton L.J. in the course of hisjudgment, observed that an error on the face of the proceedings, which in thatcase was an error of law, has always been recognized as one of the founds forthe issue of an order of certiorari. Denning L.J. also, in the course of hisjudgment, examined the question whether the High Court could intervene tocorrect the decision of a statutory tribunal which is erroneous in point oflaw. On an examination of the authorities from ancient times, the Lord Justicemade the following observations :-

'Of recent years the scopeof certiorari seems to have been somewhat forgotten. It has been supposed to beconfined to the correction of excess of jurisdiction, and not to extend to thecorrection of errors of law; and several judges have said as much. But the LordChief Justice had, in the present case, restored certiorari to its rightfulposition and shown that it can be used to correct errors of law which appear onthe face of the record even though they do not go jurisdiction. I have lookedinto the history of the matter, and find that the old cases fully support allthat the Lord Chief Justice said. Until about 100 years ago, certiorari wasregularly used to correct errors of law on the face of the record. It is onlywithin the last century that it has fallen into disuse, and that is onlybecause there has, until recently, been little occasion for its exercise. Now,with the advent of many new tribunals, and the plain need for supervision overthem, recourse must once again be had to this well-tried means ofcontrol.' The other Lord Justice who took part in the hearing of theappeal, Morris L.J. also examined that question and concluded as follows :-

'It is plain thatcertiorari will not issue as the cloak of an appeal in disguise. It does notlie in order to bring up an order or decision for rehearing of the issue raisedin the proceedings. It exists to correct error of law where revealed on theface of an order or decision, or irregularity, or absence of, or excess of,jurisdiction where shown.'

37. It is clear from am examination of the authorities of this Court as alsoof the courts in England, that one of the grounds on which the jurisdiction ofthe High Court on certiorari may be invoked, is an error of law apparent on theface of the record and not every error either of law or fact, which can becorrected by a superior court, in exercise of its statutory powers as a courtof appeal or revision.

38. So far as we know, it has never been contended before this Court that anerror of fact, even though apparent on the face of the record, could be aground for interference by the court exercising its writ jurisdiction. Noruling was brought to our notice in support of the proposition that the courtexercising its powers under Art` 226 of the Constitution, could quash an orderof an inferior tribunal, on the ground of a mistake of fact apparent on theface of the record.

39. But the question still remains as to what is the legal import of theexpression 'error of law apparent on the face of the record.' Is it every errorof law that can attract the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court, toquash the order impugned This court, as observed above, has settled the lawin this respect by laying down that in order to attract such jurisdiction, itis essential that the error should be something more than a mere error of law;that it must be one which is manifest on the face of the record. In thisrespect, the law in India and the law in England, are, therefore, the same. Itis also clear, on an examination of all the authorities of this Court and ofthose in England, referred to above, as also those considered in the severaljudgments of this Court, that the Common Law writ, now called order ofcertiorari, which was also adopted by our Constitution, is not meant to takethe place of an appeal where the statute does not confer a right of appeal. Itspurpose is only to determine, on an examination of the record, whether theinferior tribunal has exceeded its jurisdiction or has not proceeded inaccordance with the essential requirements of the law which it was meant to administer.Mere formal or technical errors, even though of law, will not be sufficient toattract this extraordinary jurisdiction.

40. The principle underlying the jurisdiction to issue a writ or order ofcertiorari, is no more in doubt, but the real difficulty arises, as it oftendoes, in applying the principle to the particular facts of a given case. In thejudgments and orders impugned in these appeals, In the High Court has exercisedits supervisory jurisdiction in respect of errors which cannot be said to beerrors of law apparent on the face of the record. If at all they are errors,they are errors in appreciation of documentary evidence or affidavits, errorsin drawing inferences or omission to draw inferences. In other words, those areerrors which a court sitting as a court of appeal only, could have examinedand, if necessary, corrected. As already indicated, the Appellate Authority hadunlimited jurisdiction to examine and appreciate the evidence in the exerciseof its appellate or revisional jurisdiction. Section 9(3) of the Act, gives itthe power to pass such orders as it thought fit. These are words of every greatamplitude. The jurisdiction of the Appellate Authority, to entertain theappeals, has never been in doubt or dispute. Only the manner of the exercise ofits appellate jurisdiction was in controversy. It has not been shown that inexercising its powers, the Appellate Authority disregarded any mandatoryprovisions of the law. The utmost that has been suggested, is that it has notcarried out certain Executive Instructions. For example, it has been said thatthe Appellate Authority did not observe the instructions that trial people haveto be given certain preferences, or that persons on the debarred list, likesmugglers, should be kept out (see p. 175 of the Manual). But all these areonly Executive Instructions which have no statutory force. Hence, evenassuming, though it is by no means clear, that those instructions have beendisregarded, the non-observance of those instructions cannot affect the powerof the Appellate Authority to make its own selection, or affect the validity ofthe order passed by it.

41. The High Court, in its several judgments and orders, has scrutinized, ingreat detail, the orders passed by the Excise Authorities under the Act. Wehave not thought it fit to examine the record or the orders below in anydetail, because, in our opinion, it is not the function of the High Court or ofthis Court to do so. The jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Constitution islimited to seeing that the judicial or quasi-judicial tribunals oradministrative bodies exercising quasi-judicial powers, do not exercise theirpowers in excess of their statutory jurisdiction, but correctly administer thelaw within the ambit of the statute creating them or entrusting those functionsto them. The Act has created its own hierarchy of officers and Appellateauthorities, as indicated above, to administer the law. So long as thoseAuthorities function within the letter and spirit of the law, the High Courthas no concern with the manner in which those powers have been exercised. Inthe instant cases, the High Court appears to have gone beyond the limits of itspowers under Art. 226 and 227 of the Constitution.

42. In one of the cases, the High Court has observed that though it couldhave interfered by issuing a writ under Art. 226 of the Constitution, theywould be content to utilize their powers of judicial superintendence under Art.227 of the Constitution vide its judgment dated July 31, 1957, in appealsrelating to Murmuria shop (Civil Appeals Nos. 669 and 670 of 1957). In exerciseof that power, the High Court set aside the order of the Appellate Authority,and directed it to re-hear the appeal 'according to law in the light of theprinciples indicated in this judgment'.

43. A Constitution Bench of this Court examined the scope of Art. 227 of theConstitution in the case of Waryam Singh and another v. Amarnath and another : [1954]1SCR565 . This Court, in the course of its judgment, made the followingobservations at p. 571 :

'This power of superintendence conferred by article227 is, as pointed out by Harries, C.J. in Dalmia Jain Airways Ltd. v. SukumarMukherjee : AIR1951Cal193 , to be exercised most sparingly and only inappropriate cases in order to keep the Subordinate Courts within the bounds oftheir authority and not for correcting mere errors'.

44. It is, thus, clear that the powers of judicial interference under Art.227 of the Constitution with orders of judicial or quasi-judicial nature, arenot greater than the powers under Art. 226 of the Constitution. Under Art. 226,the power of interference may extend to quashing an impugned order on theground of a mistake apparent on the face of the record. But under Art. 227 ofthe Constitution, the power of interference is limited to seeing that thetribunal functions within the limits of its authority. Hence, interference bythe High Court, in these cases, either under Art. 226 or 227 of theConstitution, was not justified.

45. After having dealt with the common arguments more or less applicable toall the cases, it remains to consider the special points raised on behalf ofthe respondents in Civil Appeal No. 672 of 1957, relating to the Tinsukiacountry spirit shop. It was strenuously argued that the appeal was incompetentin view of the fact that the rule issued by the High Court, was still pending,and that this Court does not ordinarily, entertain an appeal against aninterlocutory order. It is true that this Court does not interfere in caseswhich have not been decided by the High Court, but this case has someextraordinary features which attracted the notice of this Court when specialleave to appeal was granted. As already stated, the shop in question wassettled with the appellants by the Excise Commissioner, and his order wasupheld by the Appellate Authority. Accordingly, the appellants, had been put inpossession of the shop on June 7, 1957. The High Court, while issuing the rule,passed an order on the stay application, which, as already indicated, had beenmisunderstood by the District Excise authorities, and the appellants weredispossessed and the respondents 1 and 2 put back in possession, without anyauthority of law. This was a flagrant interference with the appellants' rightsarising out of the settlement made in their favour by the highest revenueauthorities. The High Court had not and could not have authorized thedispossession of the persons rightfully in possession of the shop. Theappellants brought this flagrant abuse of power to the notice of the High Courtseveral times, but the High Court felt unduly constrained to permit the wrongto continue. We heard the learned counsel for the respondents at great lengthas to whether he could justify the continuance of this undesirable andunfortunate state of affairs. It has to be remembered that the appellants, as aresult of fortuitous circumstances, had been deprived of the possession of theshop during the best part of the financial year 1956-57. The appellants had beendeprived of the fruits of their hard-won victory in the revenue courts, withoutany authority of law, and the High Court failed to right the wrong in time,though moved several times. In these circumstances, we found it necessary tohear both the parties on the merits of the orders passed by the Commissioner ofExcise and the Appellate Authority, in favour of the appellants, against which,the respondents had obtained a rule. After having heard both sides, we havecome to the conclusion that no grounds have been made out for interference bythe High Court, under its powers under arts. 226 & 227 of the Constitution.This case shares the common fate of the other cases before us, of having runthrough the entire gamut of the hierarchy created under the Act, read alongwith the amending Act and the rules thereunder. We do not find any grounds inthe orders of the Excise Authorities which could attract the supervisoryjurisdiction of the High Court, there being no error of law apparent on thefact of the record, or a defect of jurisdiction in the Authorities whose ordershave been impugned in the High Court. We would, however, like to make it clearthat we are interfering with the interlocutory order passed by the High Courtin this case because of its unusual and exceptional features. It is clear thatour decision on the main points urged in the other appeals necessarily leads tothe inference that, even if all the allegations made by the respondents intheir petition before the Assam High Court are accepted as true, there would beno case whatever for issuing a rule. Indeed, the respondent found it difficultto resist the appellant's argument that, if the other appeals were allowed onthe general contentions raised by the appellants, the dismissal of his petitionbefore the Assam High Court would be a foregone conclusion. It is because ofthese special circumstances that we have decided to interfere with theinterlocutory order in this case in the interests of justice.

46. As a result of these considerations, the appeals must be allowed and theorders passed by the High Court in the several cases, set aside. On thequestion of costs, we direct that the appellants in each case, should get theircosts here and in the High Court, except the appellant in Civil Appeal No. 670,who was failed on the main point raised on his behalf, and who, therefore, mustbear his own costs.

47. Appeals allowed.

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