By Adv. R. S. Agrawal :
According to the Supreme Court the real object and purpose of suit, in the guise and pretext of challenging the auction notice by MDA was to affirm the title of the first respondent. Both the HC and trial court have failed to correctly assess the issue regarding jurisdiction of the civil court to try a suit.
JUDGEMENT of the case –Shri Saurav Jain & Another v. M/s ABP Design & Another, delivered on August 5, 2021, Dr. Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah, at the Supreme Court have held that though the appellant did not assail the finding of the trial Court on the issue of jurisdiction before the Allahabad High Court under Order XLI Rule 22 CPC either by filing a memorandum of cross-objection or otherwise, he is not precluded from raising the argument before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in view of its plenary jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution read with its power to do complete justice under Article 142, can entertain new grounds raised for the first time, if it involves a question of law which does not require adducing additional evidence, specifically one concerning jurisdiction of the court which goes to the root of the matter. This appeal arose from a judgement delivered by the Allahabad High Court in a first appeal on February 22, 2018 against dismissal of a suit by the Addl.
District Judge, Moradabad on October 18, 2011. This suit was instituted by the first respondent. The HC had reversed the judgement of the trial court in appeal. The trial Court at Moradabad had held that the auction conducted by the Moradabad Development Authority –MDA- in respect of the land in dispute was null and void. The appellant is an auction-purchaser, who had purchased the suit land from the MDA. The MDA was joined as the second respondent to these proceedings. Both the appellant and the second respondent were restrained from interferring with the possession of the first respondent over the land admeasuring 1295.04 sq. meters. On October 18, 2011, the trial court delivered the judgement holding that it had the jurisdiction to grant declaratory and injunctive relief and the suit was therefore maintainable. The trial court had dismissed the suit holding that the MDA was the lawful owner of the land and the auction held on September 12, 2008 was valid.
The HC, through its judgement, now impugned before the Supreme Court, on February 22, 2018, had reversed the judgement and the decree passed by the trial court. The judgement of the HC makes no mention that a plea of lack of jurisdiction was taken either by the appellant or the MDA. Before the SC, the appellant had not filed counter-affidavit, it had filed before the HC. Thus the conclusion emanating from the records before the SC is that the ground of jurisdiction was only raised by the appellant before the trial court and not before the HC. In effect then, the SC would have to adjudicate on a plea which did not form a part of the decision of the HC in challenge before the SC. With regard to new grounds being raised before the SC in a Special Leave Petition under Article 136, the SC has noted that under Order 21 Rule 3 (c) of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, SLPs are to be confined to the pleadings before the court whose order is challenged. However, with the leave of the Court, additional grounds can be urged at the time of hearing. Based on the position of law, The Supreme Court has found it just to allow the appellant to raise the ground of jurisdiction, pointing out that allowing this ground to be raised would not require the submission of additional evidence since it is a pure question of law and strikes at the heart of the matter. According to the SC the real object and purpose of the suit, in the guise and pretext of challenging the auction notice by MDA was to affirm the title of the first respondent. Both the HC and trial court have failed to correctly assess the issue regarding jurisdiction of the civil court to try a suit, which in its essence arises out of matters pertaining to the ULCRA (Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976.
The first respondent has made efforts to artfully draft the plaint in a manner that would make it appear as if the issue only pertains to the auction notice issued by MDA. The SC has warned time and again against drafting of this nature which seeks to distract attention away from real cause of action. Therefore, the jurisdiction of the civil court to entertain the suit instituted by the first respondent was barred. The HC had allowed the appeal against the judgement of the trial court on the ground that after the District Judge allowed the appeal and set aside the order of March 16, 1988 passed by the Competent Authority under section 8(4) of ULCRA, - all further proceedings pursuant to the order under section 8(4) of the ULCRA - including the taking of possession by the State-would be null and void. The bench has held then, that even otherwise, only ‘paper possession’ and not ‘actual possession’ of the suit land was taken, and thus in these circumstances, the auction purchaser would have both the title and possession of the suit land. Even then, according to the SC, the purported transfer to the first respondent is null and void. The HC ought to have upheld the dismissal of the suit on this ground.
A plaintiff has to stand on their own legs and the respondent-plaintiff had no valid title or interest in law on the basis of which the suit could have been founded. The respondent-plaintiff had no cause of action to challenge the auction by MDA in favour of the appellant, once the purported transfer was invalid. In conclusion, the Supreme Court has held that the suit instituted by the first respondent had to be dismissed. The judgement of the trial court dismissing the suit was correct, but for reasons pointed out by the apex court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgement of the High Court delivered on February 22, 2018 and dismissed the suit instituted by the first respondent with Rs 50,000/-costs payable to the appellant.