Report No. 14
21. Low value of second appeals.-
Nevertheless, we concur with the view expressed by the Rankin Committee that it is possible to give finality to cases of small and 'intermediate' valuation by providing for only 'one good appeal' on fact and law. The Committee rightly pointed out that the great volume of litigation in India was of a character and value which required "a trial and one good appeal" both on fact and law and that any other elaborate process was unnecessary. This view, which was expressed more than thirty years ago, holds good even today, as will be revealed by a reference to a few figures of the valuation of second appeals filed in some of the High Courts in 1956.
In West Bengal, out of 1,021 second appeals instituted in 1956, 757 were of a value below Rs. 1,000, 154 were of a value between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000 and only in 110 appeals did the value exceed Rs. 2,000. In Bihar, in the same year, 1,034 second appeals out of a total filing of 1,489 were valued below Rs. 1,000, 225 between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000 and only 230 appeals exceeded Rs. 2,000 in value. In Madras, Rs. 1,308 second appeals were filed in that year out of which 1,033 were below Rs. 1,000 in value and 139 were of a value between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000.
In Bombay, only 166 such appeals were of a value above Rs. 2,000, 180 were between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000 in value while in the remaining 704, the value was below Rs. 1,000. Examination of similar figures for the Punjab, U.P., Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and other States leads to the same result namely that in a very large majority of second appeals, the value of the subject-matter is Jess than Rs. 2,000. Most of these appeals are filed merely as a speculation.
The appellant's real object in bringing such appeals is merely to take one more chance even in cases where it is obvious from the start that the appeal is not likely to succeed, and more than anything else to postpone the evil day of the execution of the decree. viewed against the background of the low value of the subject-matter and the high rate of fatality of second appeals in the High Courts, as appears from the figures found in a later chapter, the proposal to give finality to litigation at the stage of the decision of the first appellate-Court has much to commend itself.
22. Objections to curtailment.-
One of the arguments which has been advanced against the proposal to raise the jurisdiction of the district and subordinate Courts and to give finality to the district appellate Court's decisions is that the judiciary of the present day is not as competent as it was in the past. It was said that the calibre and standards of efficiency and integrity must first be raised before any proposal for cutting down second appeals can be considered. It was also said that the value of a suit for the purpose of court-fee or jurisdiction is no test of its importance and that sometimes important points of law arise even in cases of small value.
We believe that these arguments spring largely from the fact that the proposal offends vested interests. The constant hard work which the district officers are required to do with an eye to the number rather than to the quality of disposals as insisted upon by some of the High Courts, the trying conditions under which they work, including the poor equipment in the matter of court houses and libraries have, to some extent, affected their efficiency. There has been no doubt some deterioration in the quality of the personnel.
Nevertheless, by and large the district appellate judges who are senior experienced officers can, in our opinion, be depended upon to decide questions both of fact and law with reasonable satisfaction. We have also made recommendations elsewhere which should help to raise the efficiency and standards of the judicial officers. It should not also be forgotten that the efficiency of a judicial officer is largely conditioned by the efficiency of the Bar and the skill and industry which it brings to bear upon the preparation and presentation of the case.
Even now in cases tried by the Courts of Small Causes, the jurisdiction of which in several States exceeds Rs. 1,000 there is no right of even a first appeal although important questions of law do sometimes arise in those cases. The fact that more than 80 per cent. of the decisions of the district appellate courts are confirmed in second appeal, as appears from the figures in a later chapter, is, in our opinion, a sufficient refutation of the charge of incompetence against them. Nor are we much impressed by the oft repeated argument that cases of small value often involve points of law of general importance. These points of law will arise also in cases of larger value and may well be decided in those cases. There is, in our opinion, no justification for refusing to cut down second appeals to the extent indicated below.
23. Recommendations (Raising limit in section 102 to Rs. 2,000).-
Our first recommendation is that the limit of Rs. 1,000 in section 102 of the Code of Civil Procedure should be raised to Rs. 2,000. Such a proposal was also made by the High Court Arrears Committee in 1949 and the UP. Judicial Reforms Committee in 1951. The limit in section 102 which up to 1956 was only Rs. 500 was raised to Rs. 1,000 in that year by the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act of 1956.
It is interesting to notice in this connection that the proposal to prohibit second appeals in suits of a small cause nature upto the value of Rs. 1,000 goes back to the commencement of the present century. In 1926, the Civil Justice Committee recommended an amendment of section 102 by increasing the limit to Rs. 1,000. Today, the value of Rs. 1,000 is much less than that in 1901 or even in 1925 and we, therefore, have no hesitation in recommending the raising of the limit under section 102 to Rs. 2,000.
24. No second appeals in cases below Rs. 2,000-Exceptions: Suits relating to immovable property.-
We are further of the view that this restriction against second appeals in suits below Rs. 2,000 should be extended, by a suitable amendment of section 102, to all suits except suits involving rights over or in respect of immovable property and not be restricted to suits of a small cause nature.
25. Kerala amendment of section 100, C.P.C.-
We may refer in passing to an amendment of section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code in Kerala. By Travancore-Cochin Act XVII of 1951, the following clause was added to that section in its application to that State:
"(d) the finding of the lower appellate Court on any question of fact material to the right decision of the case on the merits being in conflict with the finding of the Court of first instance on such question."
The amendment permits a second appeal even on questions of fact and thereby enlarges the right to file such appeals. A view that questions of fact should be permitted to b.-raised in second appeal, where the judgment of the first appellate Court is one of reversal on facts, was also pressed upon us by some members of the Bar. This view which has been accepted in Kerala runs counter to the well accepted principle broadly laid down in the Civil Procedure Code and accepted for a long time that second appeals should be only on questions of law.
The acceptance of this view may well create a tendency in the district appellate judges to avoid as far as possible recording a finding of reversal on facts so as to avoid a scrutiny by the High Court in second appeal. It will also result in an increase in the number of appeals brought before the High Courts which are already carrying a heavier load of arrears. We are, therefore, unable to approve of the change brought about by the Kerala amendment or the principle underlying it.
27. Letters Patent Appeals (The present position).-
The complaint that the present law makes for multiplicity of appeals derives great force from the provisions for appeals under the Letters Patent of the High Courts. There is considerable variation in the powers exercised in civil appeals by a Judge sitting singly on the appellate side of the High Court. So far as first appeals from decrees in original suits of subordinate Courts are concerned, there are very few cases in which such appeals are heard and finally decided by a single judge.
In the High Courts of Bombay and Patna, a single judge is empowered to hear first appeals upto Rs. 10,000 and in Madras, upto Rs. 7,500. In Madras and Bombay, these powers, can be exercised only with respect to appeals filed before the appellate jurisdiction of district judges was raised to Rs. 10,000. In the other High Courts, a single judge cannot hear first appeals except those against certain orders under the Civil Procedure Code including orders in execution.
Turning now to second appeals, in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay, Allahabad, Patna and Andhra Pradesh, a judge sitting singly is empowered to bear and finally dispose of all second appeals. In West Bengal, Assam and Orissa, single judge's powers to hear second appeals are limited to cases of the value of not more than Rs. 2,000. From such decisions, an appeal lies under the Letters Patent and this contributes largely to delay in the disposal of cases of small value.
28. Total abolition from judgments on the appellate side recommended.-
It will appear from the annexed Table (Table F) referring to some of the States that the average duration of these Letters Patent Appeals varies from 300 to 1,300 days. Taking into account that second appeals take anything from a year to five years for disposal, as is evident from Table G, a Letters Patent appeal would result in the final decision of a petty case being delayed for at least two to three years after the facts have been finally found by the lower appellate court. In some States, a Letters Patent appeal would result in about 3,000 days being taken in the High Court over a matter which was instituted before a munsif, or a Junior Civil Judge. We, therefore, recommend the total abolition of Letters Patent Appeals from the judgment of a single Judge in appeal on the appellate side of the High Court.
Comparative Table Showing The Average Duration In Days of Letters Patent Or Special Appeals Disposed of By The High Courts of Various States
|Name of the State||Year||
Average duration in days
|Andhra||1954||Not||A. Less 108 days of average duration due to one or more long vacations which intervened in 2 Cases out of a total of 3 Cases.|
|Assam (excluding the Tribal Areas)||1953||Not|
|Hyderabad||1954||Not||B. Less 78 days of average duration due to one or more long vacations which intervened in 3 Cases out of a total of 4 Cases.|
|West Bengal||1955||297.0 B|
Comparative Table Showing The Average Duration In Days of Second Appeal From Decrees Disposed of By The High Courts of Various States.
|Name of the State||Year||Average duration in days||Remarks|
|Andhra||1954||Not available||A. Less 301 days of average duration due to more long vacations one or which intervened in 1084 Cases out of a total of 1139 Cases.|
|Assam (excluding Tribal Areas)||1953||405|
|Madhya Bharat||1954||Not||B. Less 339 days average duration due to one or which intervened in more long vacations 832 Cases.|
|West Bengal||1954||1487.0 A|