LPA Cannot Be Entertained Against Orders Lacking Traits And Trappings Of Finality – Supreme Court
A two-judge Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai has held that the order of the Single Judge did not contain the traits and trappings of finality hence Letters Patent Appeal was not maintainable against such order.
In this context, the Court observed –
Each and every order passed by the Court during the course of the trial, though may cause some inconvenience to one of the parties or, to some extent, some prejudice to one of the parties, cannot be treated as a 'judgment.'
Senior Counsel Mr. Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Appellants-Defendants while Senior Counsel Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul appeared for Respondent – Plaintiff before the Apex Court.
In this case, the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court had allowed the LPA and granted an injunction restraining the Appellants- Defendants from, in any way, manufacturing, selling, or advertising their goods with the mark 'SHYAM' or with a label or device containing the mark 'SHYAM' till the disposal of the suit.
The Single Judge had earlier made a prima facie observation that no injunction would be passed to restrain the Appellants- Defendants from using the said word 'SHYAM' on their packaging. Further, the Court deemed it appropriate to grant time to the Appellant – Defendant to file an affidavit in opposition and the matter was adjourned.
The Appellants contended before the Supreme Court that the order passed by the Single Judge cannot be construed to be a 'judgment' within the meaning of Clause 15 of the Letters Patent before the High Court and as such the appeal was not maintainable.
While the Respondent argued that a vital and valuable right of the Respondent was infringed by the non-grant of ad-interim order of the Single Judge, the appeal was very much maintainable.
The Apex Court restricted itself only to consider the question with regard to the tenability of the appeal against the order of the Single Judge and the correctness of the approach of the Division Bench of the High Court.
The Court placed reliance on Shah Babulal Khimji v. Jayaben D. Kania and Another and observed –
"It could thus be seen that both the judgments of Justice S. Murtaza Fazal Ali as well as Justice A.N. Sen have a common thread that, as to whether an order impugned would be a 'judgment' within the scope of Clause 15 of Letters Patent, would depend on facts and circumstances of each case. However, for such an order to be construed as a 'judgment', it must have the traits and trappings of finality. To come within the ambit of 'judgment', such an order must affect vital and valuable rights of the parties, which works serious injustice to the party concerned. Each and every order passed by the Court during the course of the trial, though may cause some inconvenience to one of the parties or, to some extent, some prejudice to one of the parties, cannot be treated as a 'judgment'. If such is permitted, the floodgate of appeals would be open against the order of Single Judge."
Further, the Bench noted that it was clear that there was no adjudication with regards to the rights of the Respondent-Plaintiff to get an ad-interim injunction during the pendency of the suit. In this context, the Court further held –
"Though by postponement of the issue with regard to grant of adinterim injunction, the order might have caused some inconvenience and may be, to some extent, prejudice to the respondent plaintiff; the same could not be treated as a 'judgment' inasmuch as there was no conclusive finding as to whether the respondentplaintiff was entitled for grant of adinterim injunction or not."
The Court held that the appeal to the Division Bench of the High Court was not tenable.
The Bench also expressed its displeasure over the way the Division Bench of the High Court itself disposed of the appeal instead of relegating it to the Court below for its disposal.
In this context, the Court noted –
"When the Division Bench of the High Court itself took 89 months to decide the appeal, it is difficult to understand as to what the learned Judges of the Division Bench of the High Court meant by "unnecessary prolongation of the litigation and utter wastage of time". If the learned Judges of the Division Bench were so much concerned with the prolongation of litigation, they could have very well requested the learned Single Judge to decide the injunction application within a stipulated period. Instead of waiting for a period of 89 months, this could have been done by them at the very first instance when the appeal was listed. The hierarchy of the trial court and the appellate court exists so that the trial court exercises its discretion upon the settled principles of law. An appellate court, after the findings of the trial court are recorded, has an advantage of appreciating the view taken by the trial judge and examining the correctness or otherwise thereof within the limited area available. If the appellate court itself decides the matters required to be decided by the trial court, there would be no necessity to have the hierarchy of courts."
Accordingly, the Court held, "We find that it is high time that this Court should take note of frivolous appeals being filed against unappealable orders wasting precious judicial time. As it is, the courts in India are already overburdened with huge pendency. Such unwarranted proceedings at the behest of the parties who can afford to bear the expenses of such litigations, must be discouraged. We therefore find that the present appeal deserves to be allowed with token costs."
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal with a token cost of Rs. 5 Lacs to be paid by the Respondent – Plaintiff to Supreme Court Middle Income Group Legal Aid Society (MIG). The Court directed the Single Judge to decide the application filed by the Respondent – Plaintiff under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 CPC as expeditiously as possible, within a period of six weeks from the date of the judgment.