The jurisdiction to interfere in the second appeal is only where there is an error in law or procedure and not merely an error on a question of fact: The Supreme Court of India

Mere findings of fact cannot interfere within the exercise of second appellate jurisdiction given the three limbs of jurisdiction available under Section 41 of the Punjab Courts Act. Findings of fact that are unreasonable, or which are rendered by overlooking the record, therefore, per se do not appear to fall within the scope of second appellate review by the High Court. The aforesaid has been established by the Supreme Court of India while adjudicating the case of Avtar Singh & Ors. v. Bimla Devi & Ors. [SLP (C) NO. 35655 OF 2016] which was decided upon by a single judge bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat on 29th September 2021.

The facts of the case are as follows. The case was regarding a property that belonged to a Hindu Undivided family and its occupation by the plaintiffs. The suit alleged that Defendant Nos. 2 to 4 broke the lintel portion of the roof illegally and with the intention to take forcible possession of the plaintiffs’ house constructed on the first floor. It was also alleged that they had secretly constructed a staircase in the portion marked ‘AEFG’ for the forcible occupation of the first floor of the building. The trial court and the first appellate court after considering the evidence on record – including the report of a local commissioner who, pursuant to the orders made during the trial, visited the site – dismissed the suit. Bimla Devi (the first plaintiff) preferred a second appeal.

The High Court, framed a substantial question of law, as required by Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) which was later answered in favor of the plaintiffs thus resulting in the decree of the suit. The High Court’s judgment was impugned before this Court. One of the main arguments of the appellants/defendants was that the impugned judgment is erroneous because it upsets concurrent findings of fact. It was emphasized that even though a substantial question of law was framed for consideration in the second appeal, the exercise of jurisdiction and interference in the findings of the two lower courts, was unwarranted

The court perused the facts and arguments presented. It relied on several judgments including Pankajakshi v. Chandrika, (2016) 6 SCC 157; Randhir Kaur v. Prithvi Pal Singh, (2019) 17 SCC 71 and Dhanpat v. Sheo Ram, (2020) 16 SCC 209. It was hence of the opinion that “the High Court’s findings – which are based entirely on the reappreciation of the record – and consequent interference with the concurrent findings of the lower courts, cannot be upheld. In view of the foregoing reasons, the impugned judgment has to be set aside. The appeal is accordingly allowed, without orders on cost.”

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Judgment Reviewed by – Aryan Bajaj

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