A Bench of the Supreme Court consisting Justice UU Lalit and Justice Ravindra Bhat has ruled that the High Court can not reopen the issue on merit under the review jurisdiction.

"In our view, the exercise undertaken by the High Court in the present matter clearly amounted to reopening the issues on merits, which exercise the High Court could not have undertaken in its review jurisdiction," the Bench observed while dismissing an order issued by the High Court on Madhya Pradesh.

In this case, appellants had inherited an agricultural land which was given by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to their ancestor Dilip Singh in the year 1960. The Trial Court, in 2005, decreed in favor of the appellants against the Gram Panchayat and Government of Madhya Pradesh about the title and possession of the land.

The determination by the Trial Court was not specifically put in challenge by filing any appeal. Respondent No-1 then filed a suit before the Court of Additional District Judge that the lands in question were allotted to it by way of a permanent lease by the Collector, District Gwalior on August 31, 2001 and it was well before the decision was rendered on November 17,.2005. The suit was dismissed by the Trial Court.

Case before the High Court

The Respondent filed First Appeal before the High Court which was dismissed by the Division Bench in 2013. While delivering the order, the Bench noted that neither any evidence was adduced nor any cross examination has been done on the point that the land was transferred to the Respondent-1 on August 31, 2001. No appeal was preferred by the Gram Panchayat and the Government against the decree in the suit in 2005. No agreement of transfer of land between the Respondent no-1 and the Government was produced. The Appeal was dismissed by the Division Bench of the High Court.

On October 4, 2013, a Review Petition was filed by Respondent No.1 submitting inter alia that certain important documents could not be placed on record. Those documents, according to Respondent No.1, were the allocation of land, Agreement dated August 09, 2001 for transfer of land and grant of the land made by the Collector, District Gwalior in its favour.

Allowing the Review Petition, the Division Bench of the High Court held that there were errors apparent on record justifying interference in the review jurisdiction. It observed that the procedure in terms of which the land was stated to have been transferred in favour of Dilip Singh was not in conformity with the settled procedure and that the initial entry of the name of Dilip Singh was only for a period of two years and his name was deleted from the revenue record after the period of two years.

Case before the Supreme Court

The appellants challenged the decision of the Division Bench. Advocate Prerna Mehta appeared for the Appellants and Advocate Prabuddha Singh appeared for Respondent No.1.

The Bench held that the record clearly indicates that the issue concerning the right, title and interest of the present appellants was initially gone into the suit filed by the appellants. The Trial Court, in 2005, accepted the claim and decreed the suit.

The stand taken by the Government of Madhya Pradesh was quite clear and specific and yet the submission made on its behalf stood negatived. Furthermore, while considering the present suit, the issues were again gone into by the Trial Court and the assessment made by the Trial Court was affirmed by the High Court while dismissing the First Appeal.

"The documents which were the fulcrum for maintaining the review petition were purely in the nature of grant or allocation in favour of the Respondents no.1 and 2. Those documents did not in any way have any bearing on the controversy which was gone into by the Trial Court on the first occasion and again by the Trial Court and the High Court in the second suit. The basic issue was whether the Government of Madhya Pradesh could be said to be having title so as to pass the same in favour of Respondent no.1. The documents annexed to the review petition were not, therefore, of any relevance so as to entertain the review petition."

Thus, the Bench set aside the order of the High Court.

Case Title - Harwansh Kaur & Anr Versus Special Area Development Authority (Counter Magnet) Gwalior & Ors.

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