Emphazising the rule of ‘Judicial Discipline and Propriety’, the Supreme Court observed that the lower or subordinate courts do not have the authority to contradict the decisions of higher courts.

The Court was dealing with an appeal filed by the plaintiff who assailed the correctness of the judgment of the Madras High Court by which the second appeal filed by the defendant was allowed.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed, “Following the principles of judicial discipline, lower or subordinate Courts do not have the authority to contradict the decisions of higher Courts.”

Advocate N.S. Nappinai appeared for the appellant while Advocate Vikas Mehta appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the High Court had restored and confirmed the judgment of the Trial Court and set aside the judgment of the Sub-Judge, Padmanabhapuram. The plaintiff/appellant instituted a civil suit for declaration of title, possession, and permanent injunction against the defendants/respondents. The basis for filing the suit was that earlier in 1976, the defendants had filed a suit for ejectment of the plaintiff and the same was dismissed. First Appeal was dismissed and the Second Appeal was also dismissed by the High Court and the same became final as it was not carried any further.

The plaintiff continued in possession of the property in suit. However, as the defendants were trying to interfere with the possession of the plaintiff, she filed the suit. They contested the suit and filed their written statements and according to them, the defence taken was that they had purchased 8 cents of land by way of registered sale deed in 1974 which was with respect to an open piece of land and did not contain any building as such. The suit of 1976 filed by them was with respect to the constructions raised by the plaintiff and not with respect to 8 cents of land. The plaintiff had no right, title or interest over the suit property and the suit was liable to be dismissed.

The Supreme Court in the above regard said, “In the current case, the Trial Court and the High Court, in the second round of litigation, violated this judicial discipline by adopting a position contrary to the High Court's final judgment dated 30.03.1990, from the first round of litigation.”

The Court further noted that the doctrine of merger is a common law doctrine that is rooted in the idea of maintenance of the decorum of hierarchy of courts and tribunals and that the same is based on the simple reasoning that there cannot be, at the same time, more than one operative order governing the same subject matter.

“The rule of ‘Judicial Discipline and Propriety’ and the Doctrine of precedents has a merit of promoting certainty and consistency in judicial decisions providing assurance to individuals as to the consequences of their actions. The Constitution benches of this court have time and again reiterated the rules emerging from Judicial Discipline. Accordingly, when a decision of a coordinate Bench of same High court is brought to the notice of the bench, it is to be respected and is binding subject to right of the bench of such co-equal quorum to take a different view and refer the question to a larger bench. It is the only course of action open to a bench of co-equal strength, when faced with the previous decision taken by a bench with same strength”, also said the Court.

The Court added that the argument of the counsel for respondents is mainly that the judgment of the Trial Court and First Appellate Court in the first round of litigation clearly stated in the case of the plaintiff that it was with respect to the constructed portion only in which the mother of the appellant was residing and not the whole area of 8 cents purchased by them.

“The High Court committed a bona fide error in recording that the suit property was 8 cents along with constructions standing over it. As such the Trial Court and the High Court in the present round were correct in limiting the decree only to the constructions and not the entire area of 8 cents”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the High Court, and restored the judgment of the Sub-Judge.

Cause Title- Mary Pushpam v. Telvi Curusumary & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 8)


Appellant: AOR Rakesh K. Sharma, Advocates V. Balaji, A. Krishna Kumar, C. Kannan, and Nizamuddin.

Respondents: AOR Vikas Mehta

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