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Supreme Court Directs Bombay High Court to Scrutinize Legality of Advocates’ Filed ‘Minutes of Order’

Case title: Ajay Ishwar Ghute and Ors V. Meher K. Patel and Ors

Case no: Civil appeal No. 4786 of 2024

Dated on: 30th April, 2024

Quorum: Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan

Facts of the case: 
An Arbitration Petition was filed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 before single judge of Bombay High court wherein consent terms were filed in the arbitration petition preferred by the first respondent. In terms of the consent terms the learned single judge recorded that the process of handing over the possession of the suit property by the respondents to the first respondents as commenced. The disputes were related to lands of Parsi Dairy Farm. The seventh respondent filed an interim application after two years of filing the consent terms by stating that High court had directed the Police to give police protection to the parties for completing the process of handing over possession. A compound wall was to be constructed in terms of the consent terms, which according, to the seventh respondent could not be done as local persons obstructed the work. The learned single judge of the Bombay High court disposed the interim application by directing Police/Tahasildar/ Collector/ Gram Panchayat office and all other Government authorities to offer assistance to construct a wall to safeguard the suit property. The persons who had obstructed the construction of the wall were not part to the arbitration proceedings/ interim application. An application was filed to Deputy Superintendent of Land Records by first respondent and five others for measuring the land who vide later dated 20.11.2021 informed the first respondent that several persons have objected, in writing, in carrying out the survey. Hence, holding an enquiry was necessary. First and second respondent filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the constitution for non-compliance with the orders of the Arbitration Petition regarding survey and construction of compound wall. The persons who raised objections were not impleaded in the Writ Petition. The Division Bench on 09.03.2022 ordered the Superintendent of Police to be present. The Superintendent of Police filed an affidavit stating that local tribals have gathered an impression that they were attempted to be illegally dispossessed and they insisted that the lands be demarcated before constructing the compound wall. The District Superintendent of Land Records vide an affidavit stated that there are certain persons to whom the petitioners and others have sold small portions of land and if a compound wall is constructed the third parties are likely to get landlocked. The Division bench without noticing the contentions of the above Government officers, instead of directing impleadment of the affected parties passed an order in terms of ‘Minutes of order’ dated 16.03.2022, for issuing a direction to survey authorities to carry out demarcation of the boundary and to direct the police to provide protection for constructing the compound wall.

Contentions of the appellant: 
Of the thirty review petitioners Nos. 7-18 were shown as interveners in the “Minutes of order” though they had not engaged any advocate. The said interveners never met the advocate who is shown to have signed ‘Minutes of order’ on their behalf. The appellants had rights in respect of several properties which were likely to be adversely affected by the construction of the compound wall. The principles of Natural justice were not followed before permitting the construction of the compound wall. The impugned order based on ‘Minutes of order’ is completely illegal and vitiated by the non-joinder of the necessary parties.

Contentions of the respondent: 
The compound wall had been built in such a manner that no person was landlocked or in any manner inconvenienced. The owners of the adjacent lands continue to enjoy unhindered and unfettered access to their respective land.

Legal provisions:

Article 226- Writ Jurisdiction of High Court.

Issue:

Whether the High court was justified in passing a order while exercising Writ Jurisdiction under Article 226 of the constitution of India permitting the first and second respondent to construct a compound wall under police protection in terms of “Minutes of Order”?

Court’s analysis and judgement: 
The court summarised conclusions regarding the concept of Minutes of order as follows: 
a) The practice of filing ‘Minutes of order’ prevails in Bombay High court the object of which is to assist the court. 
b) An order passed in terms of ‘Minutes of order’ is not a consent order. It is an order in invitum. 
c) The Courts to apply its mind as to whether parties likely to be affected by an order in terms ‘Minutes of order’ have been impleaded to the proceedings and whether such order is lawful? If the court finds that all parties are not impleaded the court to defer passing of the order till all the necessary parties are impleaded. 
d) If the court is of the view that an order made in terms of ‘Minutes of order’ will not be lawful court should decline to pass order in terms of ‘Minutes of order’.  
Findings on the facts of the case- 
It was the duty of the Court to call 1st and 2nd respondent to implead persons who were likely to be affected by the construction of the compound wall. The Division Bench of the High court failed to make an enquiry as to whether the third parties will be affected by the construction of the compound wall. Hence, order dated 16.03.2022 in terms of ‘Minutes of order’ is entirely illegal and must be set aside. The writ Petition to be remanded to the High court. After remand, High court must decide who are the necessary parties to the petition in case of failure of 1st and 2nd respondents to implead the necessary parties the High court is within its power to dismiss the Writ Petition and pass an order of restoration of status quo ante by directing demolition of the compound wall.

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Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V.

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