The Supreme Court has observed that a High Court is not precluded from entertaining a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India even if there are disputed questions of fact which fall for consideration but if they do not require elaborate evidence to be adduced.
The bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, was considering an appeal against a Bombay High Court judgment which declined to entertain a writ petition on the ground that it involves question of facts. The writ petitioner’s case was that in spite of the he being the highest bidder and in spite of him depositing the entire amount of auction, since the possession of the sand block was not given to him for reasons not attributable to him and he could not excavate the sand, he will be entitled to get refund of the amount deposited by him.For the said refund, he approached the concerned authorities by filing representations.
While considering his appeal, the bench observed that, normally, when a petition involves disputed questions of fact and law, the High Court would be slow in entertaining the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. But it is a rule of self-restraint and not a hard and fast rule, it said.
The Court further, referring to ABL International Ltd. & Anr. vs. Export Credit Guarantee Corpn. of India Ltd., observed thus:
Even if there are disputed questions of fact which fall for consideration but if they do not require elaborate evidence to be adduced, the High Court is not precluded from entertaining a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. However, such a plenary power has to be exercised by the High Court in exceptional circumstances. The High Court would be justified in exercising such a power to the exclusion of other available remedies only when it finds that the action of the State or its instrumentality is arbitrary and unreasonable and, as such, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
In the present case, the bench said that there is hardly any disputed question of fact. The action of the authorities, in denying the refund of the amount of the appellant, when they themselves had failed to give possession of the sand block and as a result of which the appellant could not excavate the sand, would smack of arbitrariness, the bench said while allowing the writ petition.
Case name: POPATRAO VYANKATRAO PATIL vs. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA
Case no.: CIVIL APPEAL No. 1600 OF 2020
Coram: CJI SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant