Wednesday, 6 July 2016

How to ascertain whether any statute is special or general?

Shri Viswanathan referred various judgments to us on the
applications of the general versus special principle. In particular
he relied strongly on Life Insurance Corporation of India v. D.J.
Bahadur and Others, (1981) 1 SCC 315. The question that arose
before this Court in that case was whether the Life Insurance
Corporation Act, 1956 is a special statute qua the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 when it came to a dispute regarding conditions
of service of the employees of the Life Insurance Corporation of
India. This Court ultimately held that the Industrial Disputes Act
would prevail over the Life Insurance Corporation of India Act as
the Industrial Disputes Act relates specially and specifically to
industrial disputes between workmen and employers, whereas the
LIC Act is a general statute which is silent on what happens to
disputes between management and workmen. The fact that the
LIC Act must be considered to be a special legislation regulating
the takeover of private insurance business not being relevant to
the subject matter at hand would not make the said Act special in
any sense. The working test laid down by this Court to determine
which statute is general and which special, is laid down in
paragraph 52 of the said judgment thus:-
In determining whether a statute is a special or a
general one, the focus must be on the principal
subject-matter plus the particular perspective. For
certain purposes, an Act may be general and for

certain other purposes it may be special and we
cannot blur distinctions when dealing with finer points
of law. In law, we have a cosmos of relativity, not
absolutes — so too in life. The ID Act is a special
statute devoted wholly to investigation and settlement
of industrial disputes which provides definitionally for
the nature of industrial disputes coming within its
ambit. It creates an infrastructure for investigation into,
solution of and adjudication upon industrial disputes. It
also provides the necessary machinery for
enforcement of awards and settlements. From alpha to
omega the ID Act has one special mission — the
resolution of industrial disputes through specialised
agencies according to specialised procedures and with
special reference to the weaker categories of
employees coming within the definition of workmen.
Therefore, with reference to industrial disputes
between employers and workmen, the ID Act is a
special statute, and the LIC Act does not speak at all
with specific reference to workmen. On the other hand,
its powers relate to the general aspects of
nationalisation, of management when private
businesses are nationalised and a plurality of problems
which, incidentally, involve transfer of service of
existing employees of insurers. The workmen qua
workmen and industrial disputes between workmen
and the employer as such, are beyond the orbit of and
have no specific or special place in the scheme of the
LIC Act. And whenever there was a dispute between
workmen and management the ID Act mechanism was
resorted to.”
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.201 of 2005
PANKAJAKSHI (DEAD) THROUGH
L.RS. & OTHERS …
VERSUS
CHANDRIKA & OTHERS …
Citation:(2016) 6 SCC157
R.F. Nariman, J.

1. The present appeals arise out of two reference orders – one
by a Division Bench of this Court dated 8.11.2010 to 3 learned
Judges of this Court, and the second by a 3-Judge Bench of this
Court dated 27.8.2014, placing the matter before 5 learned Judges
of this Court.
1Page 2
2. The reference order by two learned Judges, after referring to
Section 98 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, reads as
follows:-
“6. The above view was followed by three Judge
Bench Court in P.V. Hemalatha vs. Kattamkandi
Puthiya Maliackal Saheeda and Anr. AIR 2002 SC
2445. That was a case in which the High Court of
Kerala had, relying upon Section 98 of CPC, confirmed
the decree under appeal despite difference of opinion
between the two Judges comprising the Bench on a
question of fact. This Court held that while Section 23
of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act is the general
law, Section 98(2) is a special provision. Section 23 of
the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act reads as under:
 "23. Reference by Chief Justice.--Where two
Judges forming a Division Bench agree as to the
decree, order or sentence to be passed, their decision
shall be final. But if they disagree, they shall deliver
separate judgments and thereupon the Chief Justice
shall refer, for the opinion of another Judge, the
matter or matters on which such disagreement exists,
and the decree, order or sentence shall follow the
opinion of the Judges hearing the case."
7. Section 9 of the Kerala High Court Act by which the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act was repealed to the
extent of its repugnance may also be extracted. It
reads:
 "9. Repeal.--The provisions of the TravancoreCochin
High Court Act, 1125 (5 of 1125), insofar as
they relate to matters provided in this Act, shall stand
repealed."
8. In our opinion Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin
Act is in the nature of a special provision while Section
2Page 3
98(2) is in the nature of general law. As between the
two, the former would apply in preference to the latter.
The decision of this Court in P.V. Hemalatha's v.
Kattamkandi Puthiya Maliackal Saheeda and Anr.
(supra) to the extent it takes a contrary view, in our
opinion, requires to be reconsidered.
9. That apart, the question whether in an appeal
arising out of an order passed by the High Court to
which Section 98(2) of the CPC applies, this Court can
in exercise of its power under Article 136 of the
Constitution direct the matter to be placed before a
third Judge to resolve the conflict arising from two
differing judgments, has not been examined either in
P.V. Hemalatha's or Tej Kaur's case. We, therefore,
consider it appropriate to refer to a larger Bench for
consideration and an authoritative pronouncement the
following two questions:
 (1) Whether Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin
Act remains unaffected by the repealing provisions of
Section 9 of the Kerala High Court Act. If so, whether
Section 23 is in the nature of a special provision vis-à-
vis Section 98(2) of CPC.
(2) Whether this Court can under Articles 136 and 142
of the Constitution direct in any appropriate case a
reference to a third judge to resolve the conflict arising
between two judges of the High Court hearing an
appeal, on a question of fact.”
3. The 3-Judge Bench in turn referred the matter to a 5-Judge
Bench as follows:-
“In the reference order, the 2-Judge Bench has
doubted the correctness of the decision of this Court in
P.V. Hemalatha Vs. Kattamkandi Puthiya Maliackal
Saheeda and Anr. Since the decision has been given
by a 3-Judge Bench in P.V. Hemalatha, we are of the
view that correctness of the decision in P.V. Hemalatha
has to be considered by a Bench of 5 Judges.
2. The matter is, accordingly, referred to a Bench of 5
Judges.
3Page 4
3. The matter may be placed before the Chief Justice
for appropriate administrative order in this regard.
S.L.P. (Civil) No. 34457 of 2010
Leave granted.
2. The issues involved in the present Appeal are
identical to the issues that arise in Civil Appeal No. 201
of 2005. Civil Appeal No. 201 of 2005 has been
referred to a Bench of 5 Judges.
3. For the self same reasons, this Civil Appeal is also
referred to a Bench of 5 Judges to be heard along with
Civil Appeal No. 201 of 2005.
4. The matter may be placed before the Chief Justice
for appropriate administrative order in this regard.”
4. In order to appreciate the controversy, which lies in a narrow
compass, we need first to advert to the decision in P.V. Hemalatha
v. Kattamkandi Puthiya Maliackal Saheeda & Another, (2002) 5
SCC 548. In that judgment this Court has held that the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, Section 23 of which contains a
provision which states that if two Judges forming a Division Bench
of the High Court disagree, they shall refer their disagreements to
the opinion of another Judge and the opinion of the majority will
then prevail, was said to be general as against Section 98(2) of the
Code of Civil Procedure which was said to be special. It may be
stated that Section 98(2) in dealing with appeals to a superior
court generally, has a reference to a third or more Judges in the
event of disagreement between two Judges only on a point of law.
If the disagreement exists on a point of fact, the lower court
judgment is to be confirmed. Hemalatha’s case (supra) therefore
4Page 5
decided:
“Submission made on comparing Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin Act and Section 4 of the Kerala Act
read with Section 9 of the latter Act is that as the
procedure indicated to Judges constituting a Division
Bench delivering separate judgments is governed by
Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin Act and as it is
not covered by Section 4 of the Kerala Act, the former
cannot be said to have been repealed by Section 9 of
the Kerala Act. The submission, therefore, is that the
Judges of the Division Bench of the High Court of
Kerala could take recourse to Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin Act and as they had delivered two
separate judgments they could refer the matter to the
Chief Justice for the opinion of the third Judge.
The above argument advanced is attractive but cannot
be accepted for another reason. In our view, the law
contained in the Travancore-Cochin Act and the Kerala
Act regulating the practices, procedure and powers of
the Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court in
relation to all cases from all enactments appearing
before them is a general law which cannot be made
applicable to appeals from the Code of Civil Procedure
regulated by special law that is contained in Sections
96 to 98 of the Code. There is a clear conflict between
the provisions contained in Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin Act which allows the reference by
differing Judges who have delivered separate
judgments or opinions to a third Judge on issues both
on fact and law and the provisions contained in proviso
of sub-section (2) of Section 98 of the Code which
permits reference to one or more Judges only on
the difference of opinion on the stated question of law.
When the Courts are confronted with such a situation,
the Courts' approach should be “to find out which of
the two apparently conflicting provisions is more
general and which is more specific and to construe the
more general one as to exclude the more specific”. The
principle is expressed in the maxims generalia
specialibus non derogant (general things do not
derogate from special things) and specialia
generalibus derogant(special things derogate from
5Page 6
general things). These principles have also been
applied in resolving a conflict between two different
Acts and in the construction of statutory rules and
statutory orders. (See Principles of Statutory
Interpretation by Justice G.P. Singh, 7th Edn., 1999,
pp. 113-14.)
Assuming for the sake of argument that provisions of
Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin Act are saved by
Section 9 of the Kerala Act and are applicable to the
High Court of the new State of Kerala, in our
considered opinion since provisions contained in
Section 98 of the Code is a special law as compared to
the general law contained in Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin Act read with Section 9 of the
Kerala Act, the “special law” will prevail over the
general law and the provisions of Section 98 of the
Code in all its terms will have to be applied to civil
appeals arising from civil suits which are regulated by
the Code.
Undisputedly, the High Court of Kerala is not a
Chartered High Court and was not a court in British
India. It was a High Court established after formation of
the new State of Kerala in 1956 under the SR Act of
1956. The High Court of Kerala, therefore, has no
Letters Patent. The Travancore-Cochin Act and the
Kerala Act are not Letters Patent of the High Court and
therefore they cannot be held to have been saved
under the provisions of sub-section (3) of Section 98 of
the Code. It is interesting to note that provision similar
to Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
and proviso thereunder has been on the statute-book
in Section 577 of the old Civil Procedure Code of 1877.
These provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure were
in existence when the Travancore-Cochin Act, 1125
(Indian calendar 1948-49) and the Kerala Act, 1958
were enacted but at no point of time any change was
made by amendment to sub-section (3) of Section 98
of the Code to give an overriding effect along with the
Letters Patent of the Chartered High Courts to other
enactments dealing with formation of new High Courts
for new States under the SR Act of 1956 or any other
laws.” [at paras 32 – 34 and 38]
6Page 7
Shri V. Giri, learned senior counsel, who has argued on behalf of
the appellants in the present cases, has referred to a judgment of
five learned Judges of this Court in P.S. Sathappan v. Andhra
Bank Ltd. (2004) 11 SCC 672, by which learned counsel has
referred to the exactly opposite finding insofar as appeals under
the Letters Patent are concerned. According to the learned senior
counsel, this judgment having decided that for the purpose of
Section 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure, Section 98 not being a
specific law to the contrary would therefore govern the present
case as well, as it has been expressly held in that decision that
qua the Letters Patent, the Code of Civil Procedure is general and
the Letters Patent is special. Furthermore, in this case also, since
the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, being the old Charter of the
Kerala High Court, is similarly a special law qua the general law
contained in the Code of Civil Procedure. Shri V. Giri’s entire
argument is that therefore Sathappan’s case (supra) concludes
the issue at hand and being inconsistent with the 3-Judge Bench
in Hemalatha’s case (supra), the law declared in Hemalatha’s
case (supra) is no longer good law.
5. Apart from the above, Shri V. Giri also based his arguments
on a judgment of the Privy Council contained in Bhaidas Shivdas
v. Bai Gulab & Another, AIR 1921 PC 6, as followed and
7Page 8
explained in various decisions including two Full Bench decisions
in particular, Immidisetti Dhanaraju & Another v. Motilal Daga &
Another, AIR 1929 MAD 641 and Shushila Kesarbhai & Ors. v.
Bai Lilavati & Others, AIR 1975 Guj 39 (FB). According to Shri V.
Giri, the Privy Council judgment as followed in the two Full Bench
decisions referred to hereinabove again makes it clear that Section
4 of the Code of Civil Procedure when pitted against a High Court
Charter like the Letters Patent, the said Charter being a special
law would prevail over the Code of Civil Procedure unless there is
a specific provision to the contrary in the Code of Civil Procedure
itself. Section 98 was directly held not to be such specific
provision to the contrary in the Privy Council judgment and
therefore it is clear that Section 98(2) did not apply to Letters
Patent Appeals, whether intra court or appeals that arose from
subordinate courts and would have their origins in Section 96 of
the Code of Civil Procedure. His further submission is that when
the legislature, by amendment in the year 1928, introduced
Section 98(3) into the Code of Civil Procedure, it made the position
amply clear that all High Courts were excluded from the ambit of
Section 98. Since, in 1928, only High Courts established by
Letters Patent existed in British India, the Letters Patent alone was
referred to in the said provision. However, after India became
8Page 9
independent and other High Courts were either set up, or
assimilated from the princely States into the constitutional
framework of India, the same position would necessarily obtain
inasmuch as the various High Court Acts setting up High Courts
other than those already set up by the Letters Patent would also
be the basic Charter (like the Letters Patent) of each High Court.
Section 98(3) therefore only declares what is already contained in
Section 4, namely, that qua the High Courts in this country, Section
98 would not be a specific provision to the contrary and that the
High Court Acts being special in this regard would necessarily
prevail by virtue of the other provisions of Section 4 over the
general provision contained in Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil
Procedure.
6. Shri K.V. Viswanathan, learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of the respondents, countered these submissions and
marshalled his arguments on four different points. He argued the
case with great ability and learning and we heard him with
considerable interest. According to learned counsel, the Code of
Civil Procedure Amendment Act of 1951, which extended the Code
of Civil Procedure to the whole of India, contained a provision
(namely Section 20) by which all laws that corresponded to the
Code of Civil Procedure in the territory of India were repealed.
9Page 10
Therefore, according to learned counsel, Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, being a law which
corresponded to the Code of Civil Procedure, was repealed. This
being so, there is no conflict between any provision of the Kerala
High Court Act, 1958 and the Code of Civil Procedure and hence
Section 98(2) would be the only provision governing the field. He
further argued that, assuming that, he were to fail on the first
argument, Section 98 read with Sections 117, 120, 122, 125 and
129 of the Code of Civil Procedure are specific provisions to the
contrary for the purposes of Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil
Procedure and that Section 98 would therefore prevail over
Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act. A third
submission is that, in any event, Section 98(2) is a special
provision which deals with appeals under Section 96 of the Code
of Civil Procedure, and since all appeals under the Kerala High
Court Act, 1958 are appeals under Section 96 of the Code of Civil
Procedure, Section 98 which is an adjunct to Section 96 would
alone apply. For the purposes of this argument, he made a
distinction between appeals which arise under clause 15 of the
Letters Patent, where appellate jurisdiction is conferred by the
Letters Patent, as contrasted with clause 16 of the Letters Patent,
which referred only to appellate jurisdiction conferred by other laws
10Page 11
including the Code of Civil Procedure. He further argued that
viewed thus, Section 98 is undoubtedly a special provision and
Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act would thus be
a general provision in this regard. His fourth submission is that
Articles 136 and 142 cannot be used to apply Section 23 of
the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, if it were otherwise clear
that the said provision had been expressly excluded and Section
98(2) alone were to apply.
7. Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we need to first
set out the relevant statutory provisions:
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
“S. 4:- Savings
(1) In the absence of any specific provision to the
contrary, nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit
or otherwise affect any special or local law now in force
or any special jurisdiction or power conferred, or any
special form of procedure prescribed, by or under any
other law for the time being in force.
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality
of the proposition contained in sub-section (1), nothing
in this Code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise
affect any remedy which a landholder or landlord may
have under any law for the time being in force for the
recovery of rent of agricultural land from the produce of
such land.
S. 96:- Appeal from Original Decree
(1) Save where otherwise expressly provided in the
body of this Code or by any other law for the time
being in force, an appeal shall lie from every decree
passed by any Court exercising original jurisdiction to
the Court authorized to hear appeals from the
11Page 12
decisions of such Court.
(2) An appeal may lie from an original decree passed
ex parte.
(3) No appeal shall lie from a decree passed by the
Court with the consent of parties.
(4) No appeal shall lie, except on a question of law,
from a decree in any suit of the nature cognizable by
Courts of Small Causes, when the amount or value of
the subject-matter of the original suit does not exceed
ten thousand rupees.
S. 98:- Decision where appeal heard by two or
more judges.
(1) Where an appeal is heard by a bench of two or
more Judges, the appeal shall be decided in
accordance with the opinion of such Judges or of the
majority (if any) of such Judges.
(2) Where there is no such majority which concurs in a
judgment varying or reversing the decree appealed
from, such decree shall be confirmed:
Provided that where the Bench hearing the appeal
is composed of two or other even number of Judges
belonging to a court consisting of more Judges than
those constituting the Bench and Judges composing
the Bench differ in opinion on a point of law, they may
state the point of law upon which they differ and the
appeal shall then be heard upon that point only by one
or more of the other Judges, and such point shall be
decided according to the opinion of the majority(if any)
of the Judges who have heard the appeal including
those who first heard it.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to alter or
otherwise affect any provision of the letters patent of
any High Court.
S. 117:- Application of Code to High Courts.
Save as provided in this Part or in Part X or in rules,
the provisions of this Code shall apply to such High
Courts.
12Page 13
Section 120 - Provisions not applicable to High
Court in original civil jurisdiction
(1) The following provisions shall not apply to the
High Court in the exercise of its original civil
jurisdiction, namely, sections 16, 17and 20.
Section 121 - Effect of rules in First Schedule
The rules in the First Schedule shall have effect as if
enacted in the body of this Code until annulled or
altered in accordance with the provisions of this Part.
Section 122 - Power of certain High Courts to make
rules
High Courts not being the Court of a Judicial
Commissioner may, from time to time after previous
publication, make rules regulating their own procedure
and the procedure of the Civil Courts subject to their
superintendence, and may by such rules annul, alter or
add to all or any of the rules in the First Schedule.
Section 129 - Power of High Courts to make rules
as to their original civil procedure
Notwithstanding anything in this Code, any High Court
not being the Court of a Judicial Commissioner may
make such rules not inconsistent with the Letters
Patent or order or other law establishing it to regulate
its own procedure in the exercise of its original civil
jurisdiction as it shall think fit, and nothing herein
contained shall affect the validity of any such rules in
force at the commencement of this Code.”
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, 1125
Preamble –
Whereas it is necessary to make provision regulating
the business of the High Court of Travancore-Cochin,
for fixing the jurisdiction and powers of single Judges,
Division Benches and Full Benches and for certain
other matters connected with the functions of the High
13Page 14
Court;
It is hereby enacted as follows:-
S. 18:- Jurisdiction and powers of the High Court-
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act of the High
Court shall have and exercise all the jurisdiction and
powers vested in it by this Act and any other law in
force or which may hereafter come into force and any
jurisdiction vested in existing High Court immediately
prior to the coming into force of this Act.
S. 21:- Powers of Division Benches of two JudgesA
Division Bench consisting of two Judges of the High
Court, is empowered:
(i) to hear and decide appeals against orders
passed by a single Judge under sub-clause (A) (X) of
clause (4) of Section 20: to hear and decide appeals
against judgments passed by a single Judge under
sub-clause (c) of clause (4) of Section 20 where the
Judge who passed the Judgment declares that the
case is a fit one for appeal and to hear and decide
applications or appeals or other proceedings that a
single Judge may refer under Section 20;
(ii) (a) to hear and decide all appeals, civil and
criminal, preferred from the decrees, orders,
convictions or sentences of the civil and criminal courts
where the same are allowed by law.
(b) to hear and decide all appeals preferred from such
orders as are provided in Section 104 of the Civil
Procedure, 1903, of a single Judge of the High Court
passed in exercise of the original jurisdiction;
(c) to hear and decide all appeals preferred against
convictions or sentences and orders of acquittal
passed by a single Judge of the High Court in the
exercise of original jurisdiction:
(iii) to transfer on its own motion civil or criminal cases
from one court to another;
(iv) to dispose of references made by the subordinate
courts in non-appealable civil cases, and to revise on
its own motion or otherwise, the proceedings of the
civil courts in non-appealable cases;
14Page 15
(v) to revise convictions or sentences or orders
passed by subordinate criminal courts in cases called
up by the High Court on its own motion and to pass
orders on references made by subordinate criminal
courts;
(vi) to hear and determine applications under Section
491 of the Code of the Criminal Procedure, 1898; and
(vii) to pass orders on all petitions and applications,
civil or criminal not falling under any of the preceding
clauses.
Section 23:– Reference by Chief JusticeWhere
two Judges forming a Division Bench agree as
to the decree, order or sentence to be passed, their
decision shall be final. But if they disagree, they shall
deliver separate judgments and thereupon the Chief
Justice shall refer, for the opinion of another Judge, the
matter or matters on which such disagreement exists,
and the decree, order or sentence shall follow the
opinion of the majority of the judges hearing the case.”
Kerala High Court Act, 1958.
PreambleWHEREAS
it is expedient to make provision regulating the
business and the exercise of the powers of the High Court of the
State of Kerala.
BE it enacted in the Ninth Year of the Republic of India as
follows:--
Section 2 – Definition
In this Act, "High Court" means the High Court of the
State of Kerala.
Section 4 - Powers of a Bench of two Judges
The powers of the High Court in relation to the
following matters may be exercised by a Bench of two
15Page 16
Judges, provided that if both Judges agree that the
decision involves a question of law they may order that
the matter or question of law be referred to a Full
Bench:--
(1) Any matter in respect of which the powers of the
High Court can be exercised by a single Judge.
(2) An appeal--
(a) from a decree or order of a Civil Court, except
those coming under section 3;
(b) from the judgment of a Criminal Court in which a
sentence of death or imprisonment for life has been
passed on the appellant or on a person tried with him.
(3) A reference--
(a) under section 113 of the Code of Civil Procedure,
1908;
(b) under section 307, section 374 or section 432 of
the Code of Criminal Procedure,1898.
(4) An application under Rule 2 of Order XLV of the
First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
(5) An application for the exercise of the powers
conferred by section 491 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1898 or by clause (1) of article 226 of the
Constitution of India where such power relates to the
issue of a writ of the nature of habeas corpus.
(6) An appeal from any original judgment, order or
decree passed by a single Judge.
(7) All matters not expressly provided for in this Act
or in any other law for the time being in force.
Section 9 – Repeal
The provisions of the Travancore Cochin High Court
Act, 1125 (5 of 1125) in so far as they relate to matters
provided in this Act, shall stand repealed.”
8. Before proceeding to resolve the controversy at hand, it first
needs to be stated that Section 9 of the Kerala High Court Act,
1958, set out hereinabove, repeals the provisions of the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, insofar as the said Act relates
to matters provided in the Kerala High Court Act. Though Mr.
16Page 17
Viswanathan sought to urge to the contrary, ultimately it was
common ground between the parties that there is no provision
corresponding to Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court
Act in the Kerala High Court Act, 1958 and that therefore the said
provision continues in force, not having been repealed by Section
9 of the Kerala High Court Act, 1958.
9. Shri Viswanathan’s first submission requires us to set out
Section 20(1) of the 1951 amendment to the Code of Civil
Procedure. The said Section reads as follows:-
“20. Repeals and Savings.-
(1) If immediately before the date on which the said
Code comes into force in any Part B State, there is in
force in that State any law corresponding to the said
Code, that law shall on that date stand repealed:
Provided that repeal shall not affect-
(a) The previous operation of any law so repealed or
anything duly done or suffered thereunder, or
(b) Any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired,
accrued or incurred under any law so repealed, or
(c) Any investigation, legal proceeding or remedy in
respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability,
penalty, forfeiture or punishment as aforesaid and any
such investigation, legal proceeding or remedy may be
instituted, continued or enforced, and any such penalty,
forfeiture or punishment may be imposed as if this Act
has not been passed.”
10. Travancore-Cochin was a princely state till the year 1956.
The Constitution of India as originally enacted referred to princely
states as Part B states. Apart from Travancore-Cochin, there were
17Page 18
7 other princely states which got assimilated into India by the
Constitution. Prior to 1951, the Code of Civil Procedure did not
extend to these princely states as even the Adaptation of Laws
Order of 1950 did not extend the Code of Civil Procedure to Part B
States. The 1951 amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure, for
the first time, applied the Code of Civil Procedure to Part B States,
and as a consequence repealed any law which corresponded to
the Code of Civil Procedure in Part B States. According to Shri
Viswanathan, the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, being a law
corresponding to the Code of Civil Procedure, was repealed, and
Section 23, being a part of the said High Court’s Act, would also
therefore stand repealed. For this purpose Shri Viswanathan
relied upon several authorities. First he relied upon Krishan
Prasad Gupta v. Controller, Printing & Stationery, (1996) 1
SCC 69 to buttress this submission. In this judgment, this Court
had to consider Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act,
which stated that authorities constituted under the Industrial
Disputes Act or any other corresponding law for the time being in
force, were exempted from the provisions of Section 28. In
construing the expression “any other corresponding law” this Court
relied upon a New Zealand judgment and observed as follows:-
“The word ‘corresponding’ is defined in Shorter Oxford
Dictionary as “answering to in character and function;
18Page 19
similar to.” This meaning has been adopted
in Winter v.Ministry of Transport [1972 NZLR 539] in
which it has been observed as under:
“We read ‘corresponding’ in Section 20-A as
including a new section dealing with the same subjectmatter
as the old one, in a manner or with a result not
so far different from the old as to strain the accepted
meaning of the word ‘corresponding’ as given in
the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary — ‘answering to
in character and function; similar to’. The new (section)
answers to the old one … in character and function; it
is similar in purpose, prescribes the same thing to be
done, and is designed to produce the same result. We
hold it to be a ‘corresponding’ section.” (See Words &
Phrases, 3rd Edn., Vol. 1)
Our conclusion, therefore, is irresistible that the
‘Authority’, constituted under Section 15 and the
appellate authority under Section 17 of the Payment of
Wages Act, fall within the exception indicated in
Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act and this
Act, namely, Payment of Wages Act, is positively
covered by the connotation “corresponding law” used
in that section. Consequently, the jurisdiction of the
Authority to entertain and decide claim cases under
Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act is not affected
by the establishment of the Administrative Tribunals.”
[at paras 37 and 38]
The test laid down in this decision for a law to correspond to
another is whether it deals essentially with the same subject
matter as was dealt with by the old law.
11. Similarly, in A.B. Abdulkadir & Others v. The State of
Kerala & another [1962] Suppl. 2 SCR 741, this Court dealt with
Section 13(2) of the Finance Act which provided that on and from
1.4.1950, any law corresponding to the Central Excise and Salt
Act, 1944 will stand repealed from that date. What had to be
19Page 20
determined is whether the Cochin Tobacco Act had been so
repealed.
12. In arriving at the conclusion that the said Act had been so
repealed, this Court held that the main object and purpose of both
Acts being the same, namely to provide for control on tobacco
from the time it is grown till the time it reaches the ultimate seller,
and the fact that both Acts levied an excise duty on tobacco, albeit
in completely different ways, the Cochin Act was said to
correspond with the Central Excise Act in that the main object and
purpose of both Acts was in substance the same, and they both
dealt with the same subject matter, namely, control of the tobacco
trade and the levying of excise duty on tobacco.
13. Similarly, in The Custodian of Evacuee Property,
Bangalore v. Khan Saheb Abdul Shukoor, etc. [1961] 3 SCR
855, the question before this Court was whether a later Mysore Act
had been repealed by an earlier Mysore Act. It was held by this
Court, that as both Acts dealt with evacuee property, the fact that
the scheme under the second Act was different from the first would
make no difference as the subject matter that was dealt with was
in substance the same.
14. Applying the test laid down by the aforesaid decisions of this
Court, namely, that the subject matter of the two statutes must
20Page 21
essentially be the same and/or that the main object and purpose of
the statutes should be substantially similar, we find that the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act formed the Charter for
jurisdiction to be exercised by the said High Court. This
jurisdiction is exercised not only in civil matters but criminal and
other matters as well. The main object and purpose of the
Travancore-Cochin Act is to lay down the jurisdiction and powers
of the High Court that was established in the said State. On the
other hand, the subject matter of the Code of Civil Procedure is to
lay down procedure in all civil matters, and no others. Also, the
said Code would apply to all courts which deal with civil matters,
subject to the exceptions contained therein, and not only the High
Court. For this reason, it is difficult to say that the Code of Civil
Procedure corresponds to the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act.
Shri Viswanathan’s first contention must therefore fail.
15. Shri Viswanathan also relied upon two High Court judgments
to buttress his submission that the Travancore-Cochin High Court
Act had been repealed by the introduction of the Code of Civil
Procedure in 1951. He relied upon Jelejar Hormosji Gotla v. The
State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1965 AP 288, in which the Andhra
Pradesh High Court held that with the coming into force of
Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the Hyderabad Suits
21Page 22
against Government Act stood repealed. He also relied
upon Gurbinder Singh and Others v. Lal Singh and
Others, AIR 1959 P&H 123, whereby it was held that
Section 49(2) of a Pepsu Ordinance had been repealed by the
introduction of the Code of Civil Procedure by the 1951
Amendment Act.
16. Neither of these decisions carries the matter any further. In
the Andhra Pradesh decision, the Hyderabad Act dealt only with
civil suits against the Government and thus dealt with civil
procedure insofar as it applied to such suits. In the Punjab and
Haryana case, the High Court itself states that the Pepsu
Ordinance, which stood repealed, earlier provided for the civil
procedure to be applied in all civil courts in Pepsu. Both cases,
therefore, were cases in which the repealed Act dealt with the
same subject matter as the corresponding law, that is civil
procedure.
17. We now come to the main argument in this case, which is
the correct construction of Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil
Procedure. The scheme of Section 4(1), as its marginal note
provides, is to “save” any special or local law from the applicability
of the Civil Procedure Code. The said Section therefore states that
whenever there is a special, local, or other law which deals with
22Page 23
any matter specified in the Code, those laws will continue to have
full force and effect notwithstanding that they deal with the same
matter as is contained in the Code of Civil Procedure. From this,
however, an exception is carved out, and that exception is that
there should not be any “specific provision to the contrary”
contained in the Code itself.
18. At one point in time it was not clear as to whether such
specific provision should be in the Code itself or could also be
contained in any other law. In fact, in Mati Lal Saha v. Chandra
Kanta Sarkar & Others, AIR 1947 Cal 1, the Calcutta High Court
held that such specific provision to the contrary could be contained
in a third Act, namely, the Presidency Small Causes Courts Act,
and need not be contained even in the two competing Acts,
namely the Code of Civil Procedure and a Bengal Agricultural
Debtors Act.
At this point it is necessary to advert to the pari materia
provision contained in the Criminal Procedure Code. Section 1(2)
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 stated:
“Section 1. Short title and commencement.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of
Jammu and Kashmir; but, in the absence of any
specific provision to the contrary, nothing herein
contained shall affect any special or local law now in
force, or any special jurisdiction or power conferred, or
any special form of procedure prescribed, by any other
law for the time being in force, or shall apply –
23Page 24
(a) The Commissioners of Police in the towns of
Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, or the police in the
towns of Calcutta and Bombay;
(b) Heads of villages in the State of Madras as it
existed immediately before the 1st November, 1956; or
(c) Village police-officers in the State of Bombay as it
existed immediately before the 1st November, 1956;
Provided that the State Government may, if it
thinks fit, by notification in the Official Gazette, extend
any of the provisions of this Code, with any necessary
modifications, to such excepted persons.
In 1973, however, the new Code of Criminal Procedure
repeated the same provision in Section 5 as under:
“Section 5 - Saving
Nothing contained in this Code shall, in the absence of
a specific provision to the contrary, affect any special or
local law for the time being in force, or any special
jurisdiction or power conferred, or any special form of
procedure prescribed, by any other law for the time being
in force.”
It will be noticed that Section 1(2) of the old Code
corresponds almost exactly to Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil
Procedure. The change in phraseology in Section 5 clarifies that
what was intended was that the specific provision to the contrary
should only be contained in the Code itself and nowhere else.
Taking note of the legislative scheme contained in the Code of
Criminal Procedure, we have no doubt in construing Section 4(1)
to say that the specific provision to the contrary must be contained
in the Code of Civil Procedure itself and nowhere else.
24Page 25
19. The next inquiry that needs to be made is what is the
meaning of the expression “specific provision to the contrary”. In
Maru Ram v. Union of India and others, (1981) 1 SCC 107, a
Constitution Bench dealt with the pari materia provision to Section
4(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure contained in Section 5 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure. This Court relied upon the Lahore
High Court and the Allahabad High Court to explain what is meant
by “specific provision”. This Court held:-
“Section 1(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, is
the previous incarnation of Section 5 of the Present
Code and contains virtually the same phraseology. The
expression “specific provision to the contrary” in the
Code of 1898 was considered in the two Full Bench
decisions (supra). The setting in which the issue was
raised was precisely similar and the meaning of
“specific provision to the contrary” was considered by
Young, C.J., in the Lahore case where the learned
Judge observed: [AIR 1940 Lah 129, 133]
“The word ‘specific’ is defined in Murray's Oxford
Dictionary as ‘precise or exact in respect of fulfilment,
conditions or terms; definite, explicit’.”
In a similar situation, the same words fell for decision
in the Allahabad case where Braund, J., discussed the
meaning of “specific provision” in greater detail and
observed: [AIR 1940 All 263, 269]
“I have, I confess, entertained some doubt as to
what exactly the words 'specific provision' mean. I think
first, that they must denote something different from
the words ‘express provision’. For a provision of a
statute to be an ‘express’ provision affecting another
statute or part of it, it would have, I think, to refer in so
many words to the other statute or to the relevant
portion of it and also to the effect intended to be
produced on it. Failing this, it could hardly be said to be
‘express’ .... But the word ‘specific’ denotes, to my
25Page 26
mind, something less exacting than the word ‘express’.
It means, I think, a provision which ‘specifies’ that
some ‘special law’ is to be ‘affected’ by that particular
provision. A dictionary meaning of the verb ‘to specify’
as given in Murray's New English Dictionary, is ‘to
mention, speak of or name (something) definitely or
explicitly; to set down or state categorically or
particularly....’ and a meaning of the adjective ‘specific’
in the same dictionary is ‘precise ... definite, explicit ...
exactly named or indicated, or capable of being so,
precise, particular’. What I think the words ‘specific
provision’ really mean therefore is that the particular
provision of the Criminal Procedure Code must, in
order to ‘affect’ the ‘special … law’, clearly indicate, in
itself and not merely by implication to be drawn from
the statute generally, that the 'special law' in question
is to be affected without necessarily referring to that
‘special law’ or the effect on it intended to be produced
in express terms. Lord Hatherley in (1898) 3 AC 933 at
 p. 938 [ Thomas Challoner v. Henry WF Bolikow , (1878)
3 AC 933] has defined the word ‘specific’ in common
parlance of language as meaning ‘distinct from
general’…. It would, no doubt, be possible to multiply
illustrations of analogous uses of the words ‘specify’
and ‘specific’. But this is I think sufficient to show that,
while requiring something less than what is ‘express’,
they nevertheless require something which is plain,
certain and intelligible and not merely a matter of
inference or implication to be drawn from the statute
generally. That, to my mind, is what is meant by the
word ‘specific’ in Section 1(2) CPC....”
In an English case [ Re Net Book Agreement, 1957,
(1962) 3 All ER 751 (RPC)] Buckley, J., has interpreted
the word ‘specific’ to mean explicit and definable. While
Indian usage of English words often loses the Atlantic
flavour and Indian Judges owe their fidelity to Indian
meaning of foreign words and phrases, here East and
West meet, and “specific” is specific enough to avoid
being vague and general. Fowler regards this word
related to the central notion of species as distinguished
from genus and says that it is “often resorted to by
those who have no clear idea of their meaning but hold
it to diffuse an air of educated precision”. [ Fowler's
26Page 27
Modern English Usage, 2nd Edn., p. 574] Stroud
[ Stroud's Judicial Dictionary Vol 4, 3rd Edn., p. 2836]
says “specifically ...” means “as such”. Black [ Blacks
Law Dictionary 4th Edn., p. 1571] gives among other
things, the following meaning for “specific”: definite,
explicit; of an exact or particular nature ... particular;
precise. While legalese and English are sometimes
enemies we have to go by judicialese which is the
draftsman's lexical guide.
The contrary view in the Biram case [(1976) 3 SCC
470 : 1976 SCC (Cri) 428 : 1976 Supp SCR 552] is
more assertive than explanatory, and ipse dixit, even if
judicial, do not validate themselves. We are inclined to
agree with the opinion expressed in the Lahore and
Allahabad cases. [Biram Sardar v. Emperor, AIR 1941
Bom 146 - [AIR 1939 PC 47 : 1939 IA 66 : 40 Cri LJ
364] A thing is specific if it is explicit. It need not be
express. The antithesis is between “specific” and
“indefinite” or “omnibus” and between “implied” and
“express”. What is precise, exact, definite and explicit,
is specific. Sometimes, what is specific may also be
special but yet they are distinct in semantics. From this
angle, the Criminal Procedure Code is a general Code.
The remission rules are special laws but Section 433-A
is a specific, explicit, definite provision dealing with a
particular situation or narrow class of cases, as
distinguished from the general run of cases covered by
Section 432 CrPC. Section 433-A picks out of a mass
of imprisonment cases a specific class of life
imprisonment cases and subjects it explicitly to a
particularised treatment. It follows that Section 433-A
applies in preference to any special or local law
because Section 5 expressly declares that specific
provisions, if any, to the contrary will prevail over any
special or local law. We have said enough to make the
point that “specific” is specific enough and even though
“special” to “specific” is near allied and “thin partition
do their bounds divide” the two are different. Section
433-A escapes the exclusion of
Section 5. [at paras 35 – 38]
20. Thus, “specific provision” must mean that the particular
provision in the Code of Civil Procedure must clearly indicate in
27Page 28
itself and not merely by implication that the special law in question
is to be affected. It is important to note that one of the meanings
of the word “specific” is that it is distinct from something that is
general. In Maru Ram’s case, Section 433A of the Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1973, was challenged as being against
various provisions of the Constitution. That challenge was
repelled by this Court. Section 433-A begins with a non obstante
clause specifically dealing with a particular situation, that is, where
a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed in certain
circumstances, then notwithstanding the commutation power
contained in Section 433, such person is not to be released from
prison unless he has served at least 14 years of imprisonment. In
applying Section 5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to
Section 433A, great emphasis was placed on the non obstante
clause contained in Section 433A, and it was ultimately held that
Section 433A picks out of a mass of imprisonment cases a specific
type of case – namely, life imprisonment cases and subjects such
cases explicitly to a particularized treatment. It was for this reason
that Section 433-A was held to be a specific provision to the
contrary to the Prison Rules which were subsumed in the general
provision contained in Section 432 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973.
28Page 29
21. It is in this primary sense that the expression “specific
provision” is used in Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure
because, as we have seen above, it carves out an exception to
special, local, or other laws which deal with the same subject
matter as the Code of Civil Procedure but get overridden by the
Code of Civil Procedure.
22. Viewed in this perspective, we have to discover whether the
various provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure referred to by
Shri Viswanathan can be said to be “specific provisions to the
contrary” for the purpose of Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil
Procedure.
23. Section 117 is a general provision which applies the Code to
the High Courts of this country. Similarly, Section 120 is another
general provision which states that Section 16, 17 and 20 of the
Code do not apply to the High Courts in exercise of their original
civil jurisdiction. Sections 122, 125 and 129 equally are general
provisions and not specific to the case at hand, namely, what is to
happen if two Judges hearing an appeal differ with each other.
This leaves Section 98, which will be dealt with a little later in this
judgment.
24. Shri Viswanathan also relied upon a Division Bench
judgment of this Court in Kulwant Kaur and Others v. Gurdial
29Page 30
Singh Mann (dead) by LRS and Others, (2001) 4 SCC 262, to
submit that this decision is an authority for the proposition that
there is no need to expressly refer to a local law when the
legislative intent to repeal local laws inconsistent with the Code of
Civil Procedure is otherwise clear.
The judgment in Kulwant Kaur’s case raised a question
which arose on an application of Section 41 of the Punjab Courts
Act, 1918. This Section was couched in language similar to
Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure as it existed before the
Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976, which amended
Section 100 to make it more restrictive so that a second appeal
could only be filed if there was a substantial question of law
involved in the matter. The question this Court posed before itself
was whether Section 41 stood repealed by virtue of Section 97(1)
of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976, which
reads as under:-
“97. Repeal and savings
(1) Any amendment made, or any provision inserted in
the principal Act by a State Legislature or a High Court
before the commencement of this Act shall, except
insofar as such amendment or provision is consistent
with the provisions of the principal Act as amended by
this Act, stand repealed.”
This Court concluded that Section 41 of the Punjab Courts
Act was repealed because it would amount to an amendment
30Page 31
made or provision inserted in the principal Act by a State
Legislature. This Court further held that, in any event, Section 41
of the Punjab Courts Act being a law made by the Legislature of a
State is repugnant to a later law made by Parliament, namely,
Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act,
1976, and that therefore, by virtue of the operation of Article 254 of
the Constitution of India, the said provision is in any case
overridden. In arriving at the aforesaid two conclusions, this Court
held:-
“Now we proceed to examine Section 97(1) of the
Amendment Act and the amendment of Section 100
CPC by the said 1976 Act. Through this amendment,
right to second appeal stands further restricted only to
lie where, “the case involves a substantial question of
law.” This introduction definitely is in conflict with
Section 41 of the Punjab Act which was in pari materia
with unamended Section 100 CPC. Thus so long there
was no specific provision to the contrary in this Code,
Section 4 CPC saved special or local law. But after it
comes in conflict, Section 4 CPC would not save, on
the contrary its language implied would make such
special or local law inapplicable. We may examine now
the submission for the respondent based on the
language of Section 100(1) CPC even after the said
amendment. The reliance is on the following words:
“100. (1) Save as otherwise expressly provided …
by any other law for the time being in force….”
These words existed even prior to the amendment and
are unaffected by the amendment. Thus so far it could
legitimately be submitted that, reading this part of the
section in isolation it saves the local law. But this has
to be read with Section 97(1) of the Amendment Act,
which reads:
“97. (1) Any amendment made, or any provision
inserted in the principal Act by a State Legislature or a
31Page 32
High Court before the commencement of this Act shall,
except insofar as such amendment or provision is
consistent with the provisions of the principal Act as
amended by this Act, stand repealed.” (Noticed again
for convenience.)
Thus language of Section 97(1) of the Amendment Act
clearly spells out that any local law which can be
termed to be inconsistent perishes, but if it is not so,
the local law would continue to occupy its field.
Since Section 41 of the Punjab Act is expressly in
conflict with the amending law, viz., Section 100 as
amended, it would be deemed to have been repealed.
Thus we have no hesitation to hold that the law
declared by the Full Bench of the High Court in the
case of Ganpat [AIR 1978 P&H 137 : 80 Punj LR 1
(FB)] cannot be sustained and is thus overruled.” [at
paras 27 – 29]
25. We are afraid that this judgment does not state the law
correctly on both propositions. First and foremost, when Section
97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976
speaks of any amendment made or any provision inserted in the
principal Act by virtue of a State Legislature or a High Court, the
said Section refers only to amendments made and/or provisions
inserted in the Code of Civil Procedure itself and not elsewhere.
This is clear from the expression “principal Act” occurring in
Section 97(1). What Section 97(1) really does is to state that
where a State Legislature makes an amendment in the Code of
Civil Procedure, which amendment will apply only within the four
corners of the State, being made under Entry 13 of List III of the 7th
32Page 33
Schedule to the Constitution of India, such amendment shall stand
repealed if it is inconsistent with the provisions of the principal Act
as amended by the Parliamentary enactment contained in the
1976 amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure. This is further
made clear by the reference in Section 97(1) to a High Court. The
expression “any provision inserted in the principal Act” by a High
Court has reference to Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure
by which High Courts may make rules regulating their own
procedure, and the procedure of civil courts subject to their
superintendence, and may by such rules annul, alter, or add to any
of the rules contained in the first schedule to the Code of Civil
Procedure.
26. Thus, Kulwant Kaur’s decision on the application of Section
97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure Amendment Act, is not correct
in law.
27. Even the reference to Article 254 of the Constitution was not
correctly made by this Court in the said decision. Section 41 of the
Punjab Courts Act is of 1918 vintage. Obviously, therefore, it is not
a law made by the Legislature of a State after the Constitution of
India has come into force. It is a law made by a Provincial
Legislature under Section 80A of the Government of India Act,
1915, which law was continued, being a law in force in British
33Page 34
India, immediately before the commencement of the Government
of India Act, 1935, by Section 292 thereof. In turn, after the
Constitution of India came into force and, by Article 395, repealed
the Government of India Act, 1935, the Punjab Courts Act was
continued being a law in force in the territory of India immediately
before the commencement of the Constitution of India by virtue of
Article 372(1) of the Constitution of India. This being the case,
Article 254 of the Constitution of India would have no application to
such a law for the simple reason that it is not a law made by the
Legislature of a State but is an existing law continued by virtue of
Article 372 of the Constitution of India. If at all, it is Article 372(1)
alone that would apply to such law which is to continue in force
until altered or repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or
other competent authority. We have already found that since
Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act,
1976 has no application to Section 41 of the Punjab Courts Act, it
would necessarily continue as a law in force. Shri Viswanathan’s
reliance upon this authority therefore does not lead his argument
any further.
28. Shri Viswanathan drew our attention to Section 29(2) of the
Limitation Act which reads thus:-
“29. Saving.
(2) Where any special or local law prescribes for any
34Page 35
suit, appeal or application a period of limitation different
from the period prescribed by the Schedule, the
provisions of section 3 shall apply as if such period
were the period prescribed by the Schedule and for the
purpose of determining any period of limitation
prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by any
special or local law, the provisions contained in
sections 4 to 24 (inclusive) shall apply only in so far as,
and to the extent to which, they are not expressly
excluded by such special or local law.”
29. He also referred us to various judgments, namely,
Hukumdev Narain Yadav v. Lalit Narain Mishra, (1974) 2 SCC
133 at page Nos.146-147, (para 17), Anwari Basavaraj Patil v.
Siddaramaiah, (1993) 1 SCC 636, at page 639 (para 8), Gopal
Sardar v. Karuna Sardar, (2004) 4 SCC 252 at page 264 (para
13), which construed the expression “expressly excluded” as
including something that one can derive from the scheme and
words used in a statute without necessarily referring to the subject
matter at hand specifically.
30. The three decisions cited by him do not carry the matter
much further for the simple reason that the expression “express
exclusion” is to be gleaned from the special or local law and not
from the Limitation Act. Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act thus
differs from Section 4(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure in a very
important respect, namely, that the specific or express exclusion
must be contained in the special or local law, so far as the
Limitation Act, 1963 is concerned, as opposed to Section 4(1) of
35Page 36
the Code of Civil Procedure, where we have to look for the specific
exclusion in the Code of Civil Procedure itself, and not in the
special or local law. It is for this reason that the judgments cited by
Shri Viswanathan embarked upon a survey of the scheme of the
Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the West Bengal
Land Reforms Act, 1955, and held that the said Acts were a
complete Code dealing with elections to Parliament and to
preemptions in the State of West Bengal, respectively, which
expressly excluded Section 5 of the Limitation Act. In the present
case, there is no question of examining the scheme of the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act to see whether it contains any
provision which expressly excludes the applicability of the Code of
Civil Procedure.
31. This brings us to the main contention urged by both parties,
namely, whether the Constitution Bench in Sathappan’s case
(supra) concludes the issue in the present case.
32. Since the judgment in Sathappan’s case was strongly relied
upon by both sides, we need to refer to it in a little detail.
Sathappan was a judgment which dealt with the correct
interpretation of Section 104 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Section 104 provides:
“Section 104 - Orders from which appeal lies
(1) An appeal shall lie from the following orders, and
36Page 37
save as otherwise expressly provided in the body of
this Code or by any law for the time being in force,
from no other orders:--
* * * * * * * *
Provided that no appeal shall lie against any
order specified in clause (ff) save on the ground that no
order, or an order for the payment of a less amount,
ought to have been made.
No appeal shall lie from any order passed in
appeal under this section.” [at para 6]
33. The question which arose before this Court was whether
Letters Patent Appeals, which were referred to in “any other law for
the time being in force”, and therefore outside Section 104(1),
could be said to be governed by Section 104(2) which provided
that no appeal shall lie from any order passed in appeal under this
Section. After noticing several earlier judgments of this Court, this
Court concluded:-
“Thus the unanimous view of all courts till 1996 was
that Section 104(1) CPC specifically saved letters
patent appeals and the bar under Section 104(2) did
not apply to letters patent appeals. The view has been
that a letters patent appeal cannot be ousted by
implication but the right of an appeal under the Letters
Patent can be taken away by an express provision in
an appropriate legislation. The express provision need
not refer to or use the words “letters patent” but if on a
reading of the provision it is clear that all further
appeals are barred then even a letters patent appeal
would be barred.” [at para 22]
This Court then went on to hold:

“Thus, the consensus of judicial opinion has been that
Section 104(1) of the Civil Procedure Code expressly
saves a letters patent appeal. At this stage it would be
appropriate to analyse Section 104 CPC. Sub-section
(1) of Section 104 CPC provides for an appeal from the
orders enumerated under sub-section (1) which
contemplates an appeal from the orders enumerated
therein, as also appeals expressly provided in the body
of the Code or by any law for the time being in force.
Sub-section (1) therefore contemplates three types of
orders from which appeals are provided, namely,
(1) orders enumerated in sub-section (1),
(2) appeals otherwise expressly provided in the body
of the Code, and
(3) appeals provided by any law for the time being in
force.
It is not disputed that an appeal provided under the
Letters Patent of the High Court is an appeal provided
by a law for the time being in force.
As such if an appeal is expressly saved by Section
104(1), sub-section (2) cannot apply to such an
appeal. Section 104 has to be read as a whole. Merely
reading sub-section (2) by ignoring the saving clause
in sub-section (1) would lead to a conflict between the
two sub-sections. Read as a whole and on wellestablished
principles of interpretation it is clear that
sub-section (2) can only apply to appeals not saved by
sub-section (1) of Section 104. The finality provided by
sub-section (2) only attaches to orders passed in
appeal under Section 104 i.e. those orders against
which an appeal under “any other law for the time
being in force” is not permitted. Section 104(2) would
not thus bar a letters patent appeal. Effect must also
be given to legislative intent of introducing Section 4
CPC and the words “by any law for the time being in
force” in Section 104(1). This was done to give effect to
the Calcutta, Madras and Bombay views that Section
104 did not bar a Letters Patent appeal. As appeals
under “any other law for the time being in force”
undeniably include a letters patent appeal, such
appeals are now specifically saved. Section 104 must
be read as a whole and harmoniously. If the intention
was to exclude what is specifically saved in sub-

section (1), then there had to be a specific exclusion. A
general exclusion of this nature would not be sufficient.
We are not saying that a general exclusion would
never oust a letters patent appeal. However, when
Section 104(1) specifically saves a letters patent
appeal then the only way such an appeal could be
excluded is by express mention in Section 104(2) that
a letters patent appeal is also prohibited. It is for this
reason that Section 4 of the Civil Procedure Code
provides as follows:
“4. Savings.—(1) In the absence of any specific
provision to the contrary, nothing in this Code shall be
deemed to limit or otherwise affect any special or local
law now in force or any special jurisdiction or power
conferred, or any special form of procedure prescribed,
by or under any other law for the time being in force.
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality
of the proposition contained in sub-section (1), nothing
in this Code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise
affect any remedy which a landholder or landlord may
have under any law for the time being in force for the
recovery of rent of agricultural land from the produce of
such land.”
As stated hereinabove, a specific exclusion may be
clear from the words of a statute even though no
specific reference is made to Letters Patent. But where
there is an express saving in the statute/section itself,
then general words to the effect that “an appeal would
not lie” or “order will be final” are not sufficient. In such
cases i.e. where there is an express saving, there must
be an express exclusion. Sub-section (2) of Section
104 does not provide for any express exclusion. In this
context reference may be made to Section 100-A. The
present Section 100-A was amended in 2002. The
earlier Section 100-A, introduced in 1976, reads as
follows:
“100-A. No further appeal in certain cases.—
Notwithstanding anything contained in any Letters
Patent for any High Court or in any other instrument
having the force of law or in any other law for the time
being in force, where any appeal from an appellate
decree or order is heard and decided by a Single
Judge of a High Court, no further appeal shall lie from
the judgment, decision or order of such Single Judge in

such appeal or from any decree passed in such
appeal.”
It is thus to be seen that when the legislature wanted to
exclude a letters patent appeal it specifically did so.
The words used in Section 100-A are not by way of
abundant caution. By the Amendment Acts of 1976 and
2002 a specific exclusion is provided as the legislature
knew that in the absence of such words a letters patent
appeal would not be barred. The legislature was aware
that it had incorporated the saving clause in Section
104(1) and incorporated Section 4 CPC. Thus now a
specific exclusion was provided. After 2002, Section
100-A reads as follows:
“100-A. No further appeal in certain cases.—
Notwithstanding anything contained in any Letters
Patent for any High Court or in any instrument having
the force of law or in any other law for the time being in
force, where any appeal from an original or appellate
decree or order is heard and decided by a Single
Judge of a High Court, no further appeal shall lie from
the judgment and decree of such Single Judge.”
To be noted that here again the legislature has
provided for a specific exclusion. It must be stated that
now by virtue of Section 100-A no letters patent appeal
would be maintainable. However, it is an admitted
position that the law which would prevail would be the
law at the relevant time. At the relevant time neither
Section 100-A nor Section 104(2) barred a letters
patent appeal.
Applying the above principle to the facts of this case,
the appeal under clause 15 of the Letters Patent is an
appeal provided by a law for the time being in force.
Therefore, the finality contemplated by sub-section (2)
of Section 104 did not attach to an appeal passed
under such law.
It was next submitted that clause 44 of the Letters
Patent showed that Letters Patent were subject to
amendment and alteration. It was submitted that this
showed that a Letters Patent was a subordinate or
subservient piece of law. Undoubtedly, clause 44
permits amendment or alteration of Letters Patent, but
then which legislation is not subject to amendment or

alteration? CPC is also subject to amendments and
alterations. In fact it has been amended on a number
of occasions. The only unalterable provisions are the
basic structure of our Constitution. Merely because
there is a provision for amendment does not mean
that, in the absence of an amendment or a contrary
provision, the Letters Patent is to be ignored. To submit
that a Letters Patent is a subordinate piece of
legislation is to not understand the true nature of a
Letters Patent. As has been held in Vinita Khanolkar
case [(1998) 1 SCC 500] and Sharda Devi
case [(2002) 3 SCC 705] a Letters Patent is the charter
of the High Court. As held in Shah Babulal Khimji
case[(1981) 4 SCC 8] a Letters Patent is the specific
law under which a High Court derives its powers. It is
not any subordinate piece of legislation. As set out in
the aforementioned two cases a Letters Patent cannot
be excluded by implication. Further it is settled law that
between a special law and a general law the special
law will always prevail. A Letters Patent is a special law
for the High Court concerned. The Civil Procedure
Code is a general law applicable to all courts. It is wellsettled
law, that in the event of a conflict between a
special law and a general law, the special law must
always prevail. We see no conflict between the Letters
Patent and Section 104 but if there was any conflict
between a Letters Patent and the Civil Procedure
Code then the provisions of the Letters Patent would
always prevail unless there was a specific exclusion.
This is also clear from Section 4 of the Civil Procedure
Code which provides that nothing in the Code shall
limit or affect any special law. As set out in Section 4
CPC only a specific provision to the contrary can
exclude the special law. The specific provision would
be a provision like Section 100-A.” [at paras 29 – 32]
34. Based on the aforementioned extracts from the Constitution
Bench decision, Shri Viswanathan sought to urge that a specific
exclusion need not refer to the very provision that is sought to be
excluded but it was enough if the subject matter at hand is referred

to and that therefore it is not necessary for any provision in the
Code of Civil Procedure to expressly refer to Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, but that it would be enough
that on a reading of the said provision it would be clear that the
particular special, local, or other law would not apply.
35. As has been stated by us above, for the exclusion to be
specific, we must first hold that the provision contained in Section
98(2) is special as against Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin
High Court Act. This we are afraid we cannot do, as it would be in
the teeth of the Constitution Bench judgment in Sathappan’s
case, in particular paragraph 32 thereof. This Court has
unequivocally held that a Letters Patent is a special law for the
High court concerned, the Code of Civil Procedure being a general
law applicable to all courts, and that it is well settled that in the
event of a conflict between the two, the special law must always
prevail. In the present case, substitute the words “High Court’s
Act” for “Letters Patent”. What follows is that the High Court’s Act
is a special law for the High Court concerned, the Code of Civil
Procedure being a general law applicable to all courts. This
according to us really concludes the matter in favour of the
appellants. Hemalatha’s case (supra) has therefore been
wrongly decided and must therefore be overruled.

36. Shri Viswanathan referred various judgments to us on the
applications of the general versus special principle. In particular
he relied strongly on Life Insurance Corporation of India v. D.J.
Bahadur and Others, (1981) 1 SCC 315. The question that arose
before this Court in that case was whether the Life Insurance
Corporation Act, 1956 is a special statute qua the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 when it came to a dispute regarding conditions
of service of the employees of the Life Insurance Corporation of
India. This Court ultimately held that the Industrial Disputes Act
would prevail over the Life Insurance Corporation of India Act as
the Industrial Disputes Act relates specially and specifically to
industrial disputes between workmen and employers, whereas the
LIC Act is a general statute which is silent on what happens to
disputes between management and workmen. The fact that the
LIC Act must be considered to be a special legislation regulating
the takeover of private insurance business not being relevant to
the subject matter at hand would not make the said Act special in
any sense. The working test laid down by this Court to determine
which statute is general and which special, is laid down in
paragraph 52 of the said judgment thus:-
“In determining whether a statute is a special or a
general one, the focus must be on the principal
subject-matter plus the particular perspective. For
certain purposes, an Act may be general and for

certain other purposes it may be special and we
cannot blur distinctions when dealing with finer points
of law. In law, we have a cosmos of relativity, not
absolutes — so too in life. The ID Act is a special
statute devoted wholly to investigation and settlement
of industrial disputes which provides definitionally for
the nature of industrial disputes coming within its
ambit. It creates an infrastructure for investigation into,
solution of and adjudication upon industrial disputes. It
also provides the necessary machinery for
enforcement of awards and settlements. From alpha to
omega the ID Act has one special mission — the
resolution of industrial disputes through specialised
agencies according to specialised procedures and with
special reference to the weaker categories of
employees coming within the definition of workmen.
Therefore, with reference to industrial disputes
between employers and workmen, the ID Act is a
special statute, and the LIC Act does not speak at all
with specific reference to workmen. On the other hand,
its powers relate to the general aspects of
nationalisation, of management when private
businesses are nationalised and a plurality of problems
which, incidentally, involve transfer of service of
existing employees of insurers. The workmen qua
workmen and industrial disputes between workmen
and the employer as such, are beyond the orbit of and
have no specific or special place in the scheme of the
LIC Act. And whenever there was a dispute between
workmen and management the ID Act mechanism was
resorted to.”
37. Applying the aforesaid test, we have no doubt that the
principal subject matter contained in the present case is appeals
before the High Court of Kerala. The particular perspective that we
are concerned with is what is to happen, in such appeals, if there
is a difference of opinion between two Judges hearing such
appeals in the High Court. Viewed from this perspective there can
be no doubt that the subject matter pertains to appeals in the High

Court alone and not other courts. Those appeals can deal with
civil, criminal, and other matters. The particular perspective
therefore demands the application of a uniform rule to all such
appeals, which rule is provided by the special rule contained in
Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, which in turn
displaces the general rule which applies under Section 98(2) of the
Code of Civil Procedure to all Courts and in civil proceedings only.
38. Viewed from another perspective, even the topics for
legislation contained in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India
would show that civil procedure is dealt with differently from
jurisdiction and powers of courts. In this regard the relevant entries
in the 7th Schedule make interesting reading:-
“1. List III entry 13
13. Civil procedure, including all matters included in
the Code of Civil Procedure at the commencement of
this Constitution, limitation and arbitration.
2. List I entry 95
95. Jurisdiction and powers of all courts, except the
Supreme Court, with respect to any of the matters in
this List; admiralty jurisdiction.
3. List II entry 65
65. Jurisdiction and powers of all courts, except the
Supreme Court, with respect to any of the matters in
this List.
4. List III entry 46
45Page 46
46. Jurisdiction and powers of all courts, except the
Supreme Court, with respect to any of the matters in
this List.”
39. We now turn to the arguments based on Section 98(3) of the
Code of Civil Procedure.
40. As has been stated hereinabove, Section 98(3) was
introduced in the year 1928 when all the High Courts in British
India were governed only by the Letters Patent establishing them.
The reason for the introduction of the said Section goes back to
the landmark judgment of the Privy Council in Bhaidas’ case and
various other judgments following the said landmark judgment.
41. In Bhaidas’ case (supra), the Privy Council had to decide
whether clause 36 of the Letters Patent would prevail over Section
98 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Clause 36 of the Letters Patent
was similar to Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act.
The Privy Council, after setting out Section 4 of the Code of Civil
Procedure, held:-
“There is no specific provision in section 98, and there
is a special form of procedure which was already
prescribed. That form of procedure section 98 does
not, in their Lordships’ opinion, affect. The
consequence is that the appellant is right in saying that
in this instance a wrong course was taken when this
case was referred to other Judges for decision, and he
is technically entitled to a decree in accordance with
the judgment of the Chief Justice. This view of the
section is not novel, for it has been supported by

judgments in Madras, in Allahabad and in Calcutta.”
42. The controversy which reared its head after the aforesaid
judgment was as to whether appeals under the Code of Civil
Procedure, being referred to in clause 16 of the Letters Patent,
would also be covered by clause 36. In order to appreciate the
aforesaid controversy, it is necessary to set out clauses 15, 16 and
36 of the Letters Patent as follows:-
“Clause 15. Appeal from the courts of original
jurisdiction to the High Court in its appellate
jurisdiction:-
And we do further ordain that an appeal shall lie to the
said High Court of Judicature at Madras, Bombay, Fort
William in Bengal from the judgment (not being a
judgment passed in the exercise of appellate
jurisdiction in respect of a decree or order made in the
exercise of appellate jurisdiction by a Court subject to
the superintendence of the said High Court and not
being an order made in the exercise of revisional
jurisdiction, and not being a sentence or order passed
or made in exercise of the power of superintendence
under the provisions of Section 107 of the Government
of India Act, or in the exercise of criminal jurisdiction) of
one Judge of the said High Court or one Judge of any
Division Court, pursuant to Section 108 of the
Government of India Act, and that notwithstanding
anything hereinbefore provided, an appeal shall lie to
the said High Court or one Judge of any Division
Court, pursuant to Section 108 of the Government of
India Act, on or after the first day of February, 1929 in
the exercise of appellate jurisdiction in respect of a
decree or order made in the exercise of appellate
jurisdiction by a Court subject to the superintendence
of the said High Court where the Judge who passed
the judgment declares that the case is a fit one for
appeal; but that the right to appeal from other
judgments of Judges of the said High Court or of such

Division Court shall be to Us, Our heirs or successors
in Our or Their Privy Council, as hereinafter provided.
Clause 16. Appeal from Courts in the Provinces:-
And we do further ordain that the said High Court of
Judicature at Fort William in Bengal shall be a court of
Appeal from the Civil Courts of the Bengal Division of
the Presidency of Fort William, and from all other
Courts subject to its superintendence, and shall
exercise appellate jurisdiction in such cases as are
subject to appeal to the said High Court by virtue of
any laws or regulation now in force.
Clause 36. Single Judges and Division Courts:—
And we do hereby declare that any function which is
hereby directed to be performed by the said High Court
of Judicature at (Madras), (Bombay), Fort William in
Bengal in the exercise of its original or appellate
jurisdiction, may be performed by any Judge, or by any
Division Court thereof, appointed or constituted for
such purpose, in pursuance of section 108 of the
Government of India Act, 1915; and
if such Division Court is composed of two or more
Judges and the Judges are divided in opinion as to the
decision to be given on any point, such point shall be
decided according to the opinion of the majority of the
Judges if there shall be a majority, but if the Judges
should be equally divided, they shall state the point
upon which they differ and the case shall then be
heard upon that point by one or more of the other
Judges and the point shall be decided according to the
opinion of the majority of the Judges who have heard
the case including those who first heard it.”
43. It will be seen that clause 36 refers to the “appellate
jurisdiction” of the High Court, which jurisdiction would contain
appeals both under clause 15 of the Letters Patent and under
Section 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Despite this, some
High Courts took the view that appeals under Section 96 of the

Code of Civil Procedure would not be covered by clause 36 of the
Letters Patent, and that therefore Section 98(2) and not Clause 36
would be applied in such appeals before the High Courts.
44. In an instructive Full Bench judgment in Immidisetti
Dhanaraju & Another v. Motilal Daga & Another, AIR 1929 MAD
641, owing to the difference of opinion between two learned Judges of
the High Court, the question that had to be decided was whether
clause 36 of the Letters Patent would apply or Section 98 of the
Code of Civil Procedure. Phillips,J. after referring to the Privy
Council judgment in Bhaidas’ case, stated:-
“There is no specific provision in S. 98, and there is a
special form of procedure which was already
prescribed. That form of procedure S. 98 does not, in
their Lordships' opinion, affect.”
This is a very general statement and is wide enough to
include the statement that S. 98 does not affect the
procedure laid down in the Letters Patent. That
procedure is given in Cl. 36 which applies to cases
arising both under Cl. 15 and Cl. 16. It would,
therefore, appear that this dictum would apply equally
to Cls. 15 and 16 of the Letters Patent and this is
supported by the judgment of Lord Sumner in Sabitri
Thakurain v. Savi where he observes.
“In conclusion, there is no reason why there should be
any general difference between the procedure of the
High Court in matters coming under the Letters Patent
and its procedure in other matters.”
In an interesting passage, Phillips,J. went on to hold:-
“It is suggested that the amendment of S. 98 merely
leaves the law as it was before, but as there has been
no pronouncement of the Privy Council saying that S. 4
did not protect Cl. 36 equally with Cl. 15, which it was
definitely held to protect, it cannot be said that S. 98,

prior to the amendment, necessarily affected Cls. 16
and 36. The distinction drawn between the jurisdiction
of the High Court under Cl. 15 and Cl. 16 was based
on the Ianguage of S. 96; for, it has been held that S.
96 refers only to appeals from Subordinate Courts and
not to appeals from one Judge of the High Court to the
High Court, S. 96 does not in terms exclude appeals
from one Judge to the other Judges of the High Court;
for, it includes all appeals from “any Court exercising
original jurisdiction to the Court authorised to hear
appeals from decisions of such Court.” This language
is wide enough to include appeals from one Judge to
the other Judge of the High Court. If that is so then S.
96, applies to all appeals and S. 98 which clearly
relates back to S. 96 must also deal with all appeals. If
S. 98 does not affect appeals under Cl. 15, how can it
be held to affect appeals under Cl. 16? It appears to
me that in view of the judgments of the Privy Council
in Bhaidas Shivdas v. Bai Gulab and Sabitri
Thakurain v. Savi) Sec. 4 of the Civil Procedure Code
of 1908 was enacted in order to save, amongst other
enactments, the provisions of the Letters Patent. That
this was the view of the Legislature is now made
clearly the very recent amendment of S. 98, Civil
Procedure Code.”
45. In the Full Bench decision in the same case, Ramesam,J.,
agreed with the view of Phillips, J., and held:-
“The result is that it is now beyond all doubt that Cl. 36
of the Letters Patent applies to all appeals. It may be
asked, when does S. 98 of the Civil Procedure Code
have any operation and why should the legislature not
say that the section does not apply to Chartered High
Courts instead of adding an explanation to the section?
The reply is that S. 98 applies now only to Courts other
than the Chartered High Courts, that is, the Chief
Courts, and Courts of Judicial Commissioners and the
reason why the legislature adopted this particular form
of elucidating the matter is that it was intended to
retain S. 98, as applicable even to Chartered High
Courts, but to make the application subject to Cl. 36 of
the Letters Patent. If, at any time, Cl. 36 of the Letters

Patent ceases to exist, S. 98 will come into operation.
It is to attain this particular result that the explanation
was added to S. 98, instead of saying that S. 98 does
not apply to Chartered High Courts at all. I would
answer the question referred to us thus:
“The procedure adopted by the High Court should be
governed by Cl. 36 of the Letters Patent.”
While so holding, the Full Bench of the Madras High Court held
that Section 98(3) was declaratory of the law as it always stood. It
was held:
“It is true that the Amending Act is intended to be
declaratory, that is, not only is its object to make the
law clear from its date but also to make the Act
retrospective; that is, there is no change in the law. The
law both before the amendment and after the
amendment is the same. To this extent I agree with the
argument of the learned Advocate, that the
amendment is declaratory. But to assume from this that
the Amending Act did not intend to alter the law, as
expounded by the decisions up to that date, does not
follow: In the first place, it is not correct to say that
there is a well-understood rule of law prior to the
amendment, in the manner stated by the learned
Advocate for the respondents. The decision
in Lachmam Singh v. Ram Lagan
Singh and Veeraraghava Reddi v. Subba
Reddi indicate the contrary. In my opinion, the object of
the amendment is to make it now perfectly clear that
for any purpose Cl. 36 of the Letters Patent should
never be controlled by the Civil Procedure Code. This
was the view of Lord Buckmaster in Bhaidas
Shivdas v. Bai Gulab and the cases approved therein.
The Amending Act is really the response of the
legislature to the invitation of Page, J.”
46. In an instructive Full Bench judgment reported in Shushila
Kesarbhai & Ors. v. Bai Lilavati & Ors., AIR 1975 Guj. 39 (FB),
the Full Bench of the Gujarat High Court had to consider whether a
51Page 52
decision given by the Full Bench of the Bombay High Court in
Bhuta v. Lakadu Dhansing reported in AIR 1919 Bom 1 (FB), laid
down the correct law. After an exhaustive discussion discussing
the entire history of the CPC Acts starting from 1859 right up to
1908 the Gujarat High Court held:
“It would thus be seen that under the Code of 1882 the
High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and
Allahabad were all agreed that Section 575
superseded Clause 36 and since appeals from
subordinate Courts were covered, by Section 575, the
procedure in case of difference of opinion in such
appeals was governed by Section 575 and not by
Clause 36, though, if Section 575 had not been there
and Clause 36 had not been superseded by it, the
procedure applicable would have been that set out in
Clause 36. There was difference of opinion amongst
the High Courts only in regard to the procedure
applicable in case of intra-High Court appeals under
the Letters Patent. The Calcutta High Court took the
view that even in case of intra-High Court appeals,
Section 575 applied and Clause 36 was excluded while
the Madras and Allahabad High Courts held that the
procedure in case of intra-High Court appeals was
governed by Clause 36 and not by Section 575.”
After setting out Sections 98 and 117 of the Code of Civil
Procedure the Full Bench further went on to say:
“If these were the only relevant Sections there can be
no doubt that by reason of Section 117, Section 98
would ordinarily apply in case of difference amongst
Judges hearing an appeal from a subordinate Court as
did Section 575 by reason of Section 632 of the Code
of 1882. But Section 4, sub-section (1) provides in so
many terms that nothing in the Code and since the
Code includes Section 98, nothing in Section 98, shall
be deemed to limit or otherwise affect any special form
of procedure prescribed by or under any other law for
52Page 53
the time being in force. We have already discussed the
scope and content of Clause 36 and it is apparent from
that discussion that Clause 36 is wide enough to
include appeals from subordinate Courts as well as
intra-High Court appeals and, therefore, the procedure
for resolving difference of opinion, set out in Clause 36
is applicable not only in case of intra-High Court
appeals but also in case of appeals from subordinate
Courts. This procedure is different from that set out in
Section 98 and it is clearly, qua Section 98, a special
form of procedure prescribed by Clause 36. Now there
is no specific provision to the contrary in Section 98 or
any other provision of the Code and nothing in Section
98 is, therefore, to be deemed to limit or otherwise
affect the special form of procedure prescribed by
Clause 36 and consequently notwithstanding Section
98, Clause 36 must operate in its fullness and apply to
appeals from subordinate Courts. Section 4,
subsection (1) saves the special form of procedure
prescribed in Clause 36 and provides that it shall
prevail despite conflict with Section 98. It is therefore,
clear as a matter of plain grammatical construction that
under the present Code the procedure in case of
difference of opinion in appeals from subordinate
Courts is governed by Clause 36 and not by S. 98.
This would appear to be the undoubted position in
principle but let us see what the decided cases say.
The first decision to which we must refer in this
connection is the decision of the Full Bench of the
Bombay High Court in 21 Bom LR 157 : (AIR 1919
Bom 1 (FB)) (supra) but before we do so, we may
make a brief reference to an earlier decision of the
Bombay High Court in Suraj Mal v. Horniman, 20 Bom
LR 185 : (AIR 1917 Bom 62 (SB)). That was a case of
an intra-High Court appeal under Clause 15 and the
question arose whether on difference of opinion
amongst the Judges, Section 98 applied or Clause 36.
The Division Bench observed that Clause 36
prescribed a special form of procedure in certain cases
where the Judges of a Division Bench differed and this
special form of procedure was saved by Section 4,
sub-section (1) and the applicability of Section 98
excluded in cases to which this special form of

procedure applied. It was held that Section 129 made it
abundantly clear that the intention of the Legislature
was that in trial of oases on the Original Side as well
as appeals arising in the Original Jurisdiction, nothing
should be done which is inconsistent with the Letters
Patent and, therefore, the special form of procedure
prescribed in Clause 36 applied in case of intra-High
Court appeals arising from the Original Side and
Section 98 had no application in case of such appeals.
This decision was no doubt given in the context of
intra-High Court appeals but the principle on which it
was based must apply equally in relation to appeals
from subordinate Courts. Clause 36, as we have
already pointed out, embraces appeals from
subordinate Courts as well as intra-High Court appeals
and, therefore, if the special form of procedure
prescribed in Clause 36 is saved from intra-High Court
appeals, it must be held equally to be saved for
appeals from subordinate Courts and Clause 36 must
accordingly be held to apply in relation to them and not
Section 98.”
The Full Bench of Gujarat then went on to state that the Full Bench
of the Bombay High Court stood overruled by referring to Bhaidas’
case in the following terms:-
“This fallacy underlying the decision of the Full Bench
in 21 Bom LR 157 : (AIR 1919 Bom 1 (FB)) was
exposed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
in a decision given only two years later in Bhaidas
Shivdas v. Bai Gulab, 23 Bom LR 623 : 48 Ind App 181
: (AIR 1921 PC 6). That was, of course, a case of an
intra-High Court appeal under Clause 15 and while
dealing with the question as to what is the procedure to
be followed in case of difference of opinion in such an
appeal, Lord Buckmaster, after referring to Section 4,
sub-section (1) of the Code of 1908 observed:—
“There is no specific provision in Section 98, and
there is a special form of procedure which was already
prescribed. That form of procedure Section 98 does
not, in their Lordships' opinion, affect. The
consequence is that the appellant is right in saying that

in this instance a wrong course was taken when this
case was referred to other Judges for decision, and he
is technically entitled to a decree in accordance with
the judgment of the Chief Justice. This view of the
section is not novel, for it has been supported by
judgments in Madras, in Allahabad, and in Calcutta:
see Roop Lal v. Lakshmi Doss, (1906) ILR 29 Mad
1: Lachman Singh v. Ram Lagan Singh, (1904) ILR 26
All 10 and Nundeepat Mahta v. Urquhart, (1870) 4
Beng LR 181.” These observations were undoubtedly
made in the context of intra-High, Court appeals but
the reasoning behind these observations is equally
applicable in case of appeals from subordinate Courts
because both categories of appeals are embraced by
Clause 36. This decision of the Privy Council must,
therefore, be held to have overruled 21 Bom LR 157 :
(AIR 1919 Bom 1 (FB)) by necessary implication.
Moreover, the Judicial Committee pointed out that the
view taken by them in regard to the inter-action of
Section 98 and Clause 36 was not novel for it was
supported inter alia by the judgment of the Calcutta
High Court in 1870 Beng LR 181 (supra). The case of
1870 Beng LR 181 as we have pointed out above,
related to an appeal from a subordinate Court and it
was held by the Calcutta High Court in that case that
the procedure in case of difference of opinion in such
an appeal was governed by Clause 36. This decision
of the Calcutta High Court was approved by the
Judicial Committee and it must, therefore, be held that
according to the Judicial Committee it is Clause 36 and
not Section 98 which applies in case of an appeal from
a subordinate Court. The decision in 21 Bom LR 157 :
(AIR 1919 Bom 1) (FB) cannot, therefore, be regarded
as good law after the decision of the Judicial
Committee in 23 Bom LR 623 : (AIR 1921 PC 6) and it
need not deter us from taking a different view.”
After this long discussion on the point at hand, the Full Bench went
on to consider the amendment made in Section 98 by adding
Section 98(3). The Full Bench held that Section 98(3) merely
clarified the existing legal position by removing a doubt which was
55Page 56
cast upon it by some judicial decisions. The very Statement of
Objects and Reasons of the Repealing and Amending Act of 1928
said that the object of introduction of sub-section (3) in Section 98
is to enact more clearly a provision which was previously implied in
Section 4 of the Code. Thus, the Full Bench of the Gujarat High
Court held:-
“This sub-section makes it clear beyond doubt that
nothing in Section 98 shall be deemed to alter or
otherwise affect Clause 36. Clause 36 is not to be
controlled by Section 98. If there is any area in which
Section 98 and Clause 36 operate simultaneously.
Clause 36 must prevail and Section 98 must give way.
Now we need not repeat that Clause 36 embraces
exercise of appellate jurisdiction in both categories of
appeals, namely, appeals from subordinate Courts as
well as intra-High Court appeals under Clause 15. It is,
therefore, obvious that, at any rate, since the
introduction of sub-section (3), the procedure in case
of difference of opinion in appeals from subordinate
Courts must be held to be governed by Clause 36 and
not by Section 98. In fact as we have pointed out
above, that was always the law under the Code of
1908 even before the amendment by reason of Section
4, sub-section (1). Sub-section (3) of Section 98
merely clarified the existing legal position by removing
a doubt which was cast upon it by some judicial
decisions. That is made clear by the Statement of
Objects and Reasons of the Repealing and Amending
Act 18 of 1928 where it is stated that the object of
introduction of sub-section (3) in Section 98 is to enact;
more clearly the provision which was previously
implied in Section 4 of the Code. The respondents
relied on the decision of the Allahabad High Court
in Muhammad Ishaq Khan v. Muhammad Rustam Ali
Khan, ILR 40 All 292 : (AIR 1918 All 412) and urged
that it is a recognised rule that where there have been
decided cases before an Act is amended, if the
amendment does not expressly show that the law as

interpreted by the decisions is altered, the rule laid
down by the decisions must be adhered to. We accept
this principle but we do not see how it has any
application here. The law prior to the amendment was
never different. The amendment did not seek to alter
the law: it merely clarified what was always the law
under the Code of 1908 and what that law was on a
proper interpretation of Section 4, sub-section (1) has
already been discussed by us. But even if the view be
taken that prior to the amendment, the law was that
appeals from subordinate Courts were governed by
Section 98 despite the existence of Section 4, subsection
(1). sub-section (3) introduced in Section 98
made it very clear that Clause 36 must operate in its
fulness and its applicability to appeals from
subordinate Courts should not be excluded by Section
98 and to that extent the preexisting law must be held
to have been altered. The decision in 21 Bom LR 157 :
(AIR 1919 Bom 1) (FB) (supra) cannot, therefore, in
any view of the matter, stand after the introduction of
sub-section (3) in Section 98.
We may now turn to the decisions of the other High
Courts. The Madras High Court in a Division Bench
judgment in Veeraraghava Reddy v. Subba Reddy, ILR
43 Mad 37 : (AIR 1920 Mad 391) (SB) held that even
in case of appeals from subordinate Courts. Clause 36
applies and not Section 98 but this judgment is not of
much help because it does not contain any discussion
of the question on principle. This question again came
up for consideration before a Division Bench of the
Madras High Court
in Venkatasubbiah v. Venkatasubbamma, AIR 1925
Mad 1032. The Division Bench held that the previous
practice of the Court was to apply Section 98 to
appeals from subordinate Courts and the decision in
23 Bom LR 623 : (AIR 1921 PC 6) was not intended to
override the rule of law enshrined in this practice. This
decision is plainly incorrect for reasons which we have
already discussed. We need not repeat those reasons.
The Madras High Court was again called upon to
consider this question in Dhanaraju v. Motilal, AIR 1929
Mad 641 (FB) which was a Full Bench decision. The
Full Bench relied on 23 Bom LB 623 : (AIR 1921 PC 6)
(supra) and also emphasized Section 98. sub-section
57Page 58
(3) for taking the view that Clause 36 is not controlled
by Section 98 and it applies to all appeals, whether
from a Single Judge of the High Court or from
subordinate Court. This decision of the Full Bench has
been consistently followed in the Madras High Court
and it supports the view we are taking.
The view taken by the Calcutta High Court on this point
varied from time to time, though there was no specific
decision on the point in Suresh Chandra v. Shiti Kanta,
AIR 1924 Cal 855 (SB), Page J., observed in that case
that Clause 36 applies to all appeals, whether intraHigh
Court or from subordinate Courts. Two different
views were expressed in the subsequent case
of Becharam v. Purna Chandra, AIR 1925 Cal 845
(FB). There Walmsley, J., took the view that Clause 36
applies not only to intra-High Court appeals but also to
appeals from subordinate Courts while Suhrawardy J.,
observed that so far as appeals from subordinate
Courts are concerned, they are governed by Section
98. The next decision which followed was that
in Prafulla Kamini v. Bhabani Nath, AIR 1926 Cal 121.
In this case Page, J., who was a party to the judgment
in AIR 1924 Cal 855 (supra) changed his opinion and
held that 23 Bom LR 623 : (AIR 1921 PC 6) was
confined to appeals under the Letters Patent and did
not apply to appeals from subordinate Courts and
Walmsley, J., also allowed himself to be persuaded to
take the same view as Page, J. Page, J., observed in
the opening paragraph of his judgment that this
controversy can be satisfactorily set at rest “only by the
action of the Legislature now long overdue” and invited
the legislature to solve the doubts and differences by
an express enactment. There were in fact no doubts
and differences. The effect of Section 4, sub-section
(1) was clear and indubitable and in our opinion, it
saved the full content and operation of Clause 36
notwithstanding Section 98. But even so the
Legislature in response to the invitation of Page J., and
with a view to leave no scope for doubts or debate,
introduced sub-section (3) in Section 98 by the
Repealing and Amendment Act 18 of 1928. Since then
the Calcutta High Court has taken the view that the
procedure in case of difference of opinion in appeals
from subordinate Courts also is governed by Clause

36.
So far as the Lahore High Court is concerned, a
Division Bench of that Court held in AIR 1926 Lah 65
(supra) that appeals under the Code were governed by
Section 98 and those under the Letters Patent by
Clause 36. Shadilal, C.J., who presided over the
Bench pointed out that if the matter were res integra,
he would have held that Clause 26 of the Letters
Patent of the Lahore High Court applied to all appeals
heard by the High Court and it was immaterial whether
they were appeals within the High Court itself or from
Courts of inferior jurisdiction but he felt compelled by
authorities to take a different view. We do not think, for
reasons “which we have already discussed, that the
learned Chief Justice should have felt constrained to
decide the case contrary to his personal opinion. The
personal opinion entertained by the learned Chief
Justice was plainly correct. This question again came
up for consideration before a Full Bench of the Lahore
High Court in Mt. Sardar Bibi v. Haq Nawaz Khan, AIR
1934 Lah 371. The Full Bench held relying on AIR
1929 Mad 641 (FB) (supra) and Debi
Prasad v. Gaudham Rai, AIR 1933 Pat 67 that “It is
now well-settled that with the addition of sub-section
(3), Section 98 of the CPC, made by the Repealing
and Amending Act, 18 of 1928, that Section has no
application to cases heard by a Division Bench of a
Chartered High Court, whether in appeals from
decrees of subordinate Courts or from decrees passed
by a Judge of the High Court on the original side, and
that all cases of difference of opinion among the
Judges composing the Division Bench are governed by
Clause 26, Letters Patent”. This decision completely
supports the view we are taking.
We have no decision of the Patna High Court prior to
the introduction of sub-section (3) in Section 98 — at
any rate none was cited before us. The first case
where the question of competing claims between
Section 98 and Clause 28 of the Letters Patent of the
Patna High Court in relation to appeals from
subordinate Courts came to be considered by the
Patna High Court was that in AIR 1933 Pat 67 (supra).
The Division Bench held in that case that the
introduction of subsection (3) in Section 98 had
59Page 60
resolved the controversy and it was clear that Clause
28 applied to all appeals, irrespective whether they
were intra-High Court appeals or appeals from
subordinate Courts. The same view was reiterated by
the Patna High Court in Rajnarain v.Saligram, (1948)
ILR 27 Pat 332 and Bokaro and Bangur Ltd. v. State of
Bihar, AIR 1966 Pat 154.
It would, therefore, be seen that there is now a
consensus amongst most of the High Courts in the
country that the procedure in case of difference of
opinion in appeals from subordinate Courts is
governed by the appropriate clause of the Letters
Patent and not by Section 98 and the view we are
taking is in accord with the decisions of the other High
Courts.”
47. The Gujarat High Court’s Full Bench decision, with which we
respectfully concur, is important on several counts. Not only does
it correctly explain what is meant by a “specific provision to the
contrary” in Section 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure, but it also
goes on to state that what was achieved by Section 98(3) of the
Code of Civil Procedure was already previously implied in Section
4 of the Code of Civil Procedure inasmuch as Section 98 being a
general provision could not possibly be said to be a “specific
provision” which would take away the effect of the Letters Patent in
that case. The self same reasoning would apply to the question of
law presented before us. If the Letters Patent, being the Charter
of the High Courts in British India, was a special law governing the
High Courts untouched by any specific provision to the contrary in
the Code of Civil Procedure, so would the High Court Acts, being

the Charter of other High Courts, similarly remain as special laws
untouched by any specific provision in the Code of Civil Procedure
for the self-same reason. Viewed from any angle, therefore, it is
clear that Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act,
alone is to be applied when there is a difference of opinion
between two learned Judges of the Kerala High Court in any
appeal, be it civil, criminal, or otherwise, before them.
48. At this juncture, we may also point out that if we were to
accept Shri Viswanathan’s argument, several anomalous
situations would arise. First and foremost, Section 23 of the
Travancore-Cochin High Court Act would not apply to appeals
under the Code of Civil Procedure before the High Court, but
would apply to criminal and other appeals, making appeals before
the same High Court apply a different procedure, depending upon
their subject matter. As against this, having accepted Shri V. Giri’s
argument, a uniform rule applies down the board to all appeals
before the High Court, whether they be civil, criminal, or otherwise
by applying Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act to
all of them. In fact, in Civil Appeal No. 8576 of 2014 which on facts
arises out of the Malabar region of Kerala, Clause 36 of the Letters
Patent of the Madras High Court would directly apply. As we have
seen, Clause 36 of the Letters Patent is pari materia to Section 23

of the Travancore Cochin High Court Act. This being so, even for
regions that were governed by a different law – namely, the Letters
Patent of the Madras High Court – a uniform rule is to be applied
to the entire Kerala High Court. It may be mentioned here in
passing that the Letters Patent of the Madras High Court which
applied to the Malabar region in the State of Kerala has been
continued by virtue of Article 255 of the Constitution of India read
with Sections 5, 49(2), 52 and 54 of the States Reorganisation Act,
1956.
49. At this juncture it is necessary to refer to the decision in Tej
Kaur and another v. Kirpal Singh and another, (1995) 5 SCC
119, which was referred to in the course of arguments by both Shri
Giri and Shri Viswanathan. This judgment only decided that a
difference between two Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High
Court would have to be decided in accordance with the provisions
of Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure because Section
98(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure would not apply, as the
Punjab High Court is not governed by the Letters Patent. What
appears to have been missed by this decision is the fact that the
Punjab and Haryana High Court continues to be governed by the
Letters Patent governing the High Court set up at Lahore. The
Lahore Letters Patent contains a provision similar to clause 36 of
62Page 63
the Letters Patent that governed Bombay and Calcutta by a pari
materia provision contained in clause 26 of the Lahore Letters
Patent. In accordance with our judgment, therefore, it is clear that
this authority is no longer good law inasmuch as Section 98(3) of
the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 would expressly save the said
Letters Patent, and would thus make clause 26 applicable in place
of Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure. 1
50. Even between the High Courts themselves another
anomalous situation would arise. Those High Courts, such as
Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, which are “Letters Patent” High
Courts so to speak, would not be governed by Section 98 in view
of sub-section (3) thereof, but if we were to accept Shri
Viswanathan’s argument, High Courts like the Kerala High Court
which are not established by any Letters Patent, would be so
governed. This again would lay down two different rules for
different sets of High Courts depending upon a wholly irrelevant
circumstance – whether their Charter originated in the Letters
Patent or in a statute. Here again the acceptance of Shri V. Giri’s
argument leads to one uniform rule applying down the board to all
1
In fact, even the PEPSU Ordinance which governed the princely states of Punjab and which had set up a
High Court for such states, also contained a provision similar to Clause 26 of the Letters Patent. Clause 56 of
this PEPSU Ordinance stated as follows:
Clause 56 – Difference of opinion between two judges – In all appeals or other proceedings heard
by two judges, if there is a difference of opinion between them, each judge shall record his separate opinion
and the case shall be laid for hearing before a third judge and the decision of the Court shall be in accordance
with the opinion of such third judge.
63Page 64
the High Courts in this country.
51. For the aforesaid reasons we conclude that Hemalatha’s
case was wrongly decided and answer Question 1 referred to us
by stating that Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act
remains unaffected by the repealing provision of Section 9 of the
Kerala High Court Act, and that, being in the nature of special
provision vis-à-vis Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure,
would apply to the Kerala High Court.
52. In view of the answer to Question 1, it is not necessary to
answer Question 2. The reference is disposed of accordingly.
……………………………J.
(Anil R. Dave)
……………………………J.
(Kurian Joseph)
……………………………J.
(Shiva Kirti Singh)
……………………………J.
(Adarsh Kumar Goel)
……………………………J.
(R.F. Nariman)
New Delhi;
February 25, 2016.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 201 OF 2005
PANKAJAKSHI (DEAD) THROUGH L.RS.
AND OTHERS ... APPELLANT (S)
VERSUS
CHANDRIKA AND OTHERS ... RESPONDENT (S)
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8576 OF 2014
PULPARAMBIL VASUDEVAN ... APPELLANT (S)
VERSUS
NANGANADA TH PULPARAMBIL
DEVADSAN AND OTHERS ... RESPONDENT (S)
J U D G M E N T
KURIAN, J.:
1. I wholly agree with the excellent exposition of law by my
esteemed brother Rohinton Fali Nariman, J. I have nothing to add on
the reference part. However, for appropriate guidance at the
quarters concerned, I feel a few observations would be contextually
relevant.
2. Legislature has thought it fit to allocate certain matters to be
heard by a Single Judge and a few by a Bench of not less than two
Judges, in common parlance what is known as Single Bench and
66
REPORTABLE
Division Bench. A matter is stipulated to be heard by a Division
Bench on account of the seriousness of the subject matter and for
enabling two or more heads to work together on the same. Sitting in
Division Bench is not as if two Single Judges sit. In Division Bench or
in a Bench of larger strength, there is a lot of discussion in-between,
clarifications made, situations jointly analysed and positions in law
getting evolved.
3. Under Section 98 of The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (for short,
‘the CPC’), when the Judges differ in opinion on a point of law, the
matter is required to be placed for opinion of the third Judge or more
of other Judges as the Chief Justice of the High Court deems fit and
the point of law on which a difference has arisen is decided by the
majority and the appeal is decided accordingly. It is to be seen that
under the proviso to Section 98 (2) of the CPC, hearing by a third
Judge or more Judges is only on the point of law on which the
Division Bench could not concur. There is no hearing of the appeal
by the third Judge or more Judges on any other aspect. Under
Section 98 (2) of the CPC, in case an appeal is heard by a Division
Bench of two or more Judges, and if there is no majority and if the
proviso is not attracted, the opinion of that Judge or of the equally
divided strength in the Bench which concurs in a judgment following
or reversing the decree appealed from, such decree shall stand
67Page 68
confirmed.
4. Kerala High Court Act, 1958 has provided for the powers of a
Bench of two Judges under Section 4. It is clarified thereunder that if
the Judges in the Division Bench are of opinion that the decision
involves a question of law, the Division Bench may order that the
matter or question of law be referred to a Full Bench. Needless to
say, it should be a question of law on which there is no binding
precedent.
5. Under Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act,
1125, if the Division Bench disagrees either on law or facts, the
Chief Justice is required to refer the matter or matters of
disagreement for the opinion of another Judge and the case will be
decided on the opinion of the majority hearing the case.
6. Under The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘the
Cr.PC’), the position is slightly different. Section 392 reads as
follows:
“392. Procedure when Judges of Court of Appeal
are equally divided.-When an appeal under this
Chapter is heard by a High Court before a Bench of
Judges and they are divided in opinion, the appeal, with
their opinions, shall be laid before another Judge of that
Court, and that Judge, after such hearing as he thinks
fit, shall deliver his opinion, and the judgment or order
shall follow that opinion:
Provided that if one of the Judges constituting the
Bench, or, where the appeal is laid before another
Judge under this section, that Judge, so requires, the
appeal shall be re-heard and decided by a larger Bench

of Judges.”
7. The emerging position is that there is no uniformity or clarity
with regard to the Judge strength in the event of difference of
opinion, and according to me, it has affected the purpose for which
the matters are required to be heard by a strength of more than one
Judge, be it a Division Bench or Full Bench (Larger Bench).
8. Under the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act, 1125, Section 23
enables the Chief Justice to refer for the opinion of another Judge,
the matter or matters on which the Division Bench has disagreed
either on law or on facts and the appeal will be ultimately decided
on the view taken by that Judge sitting and hearing the appeal
alone.
9. Under Section 392 of the Cr.PC, the situation again is different.
In case, the Division Bench is divided in their opinion, the appeal
with the opinions should be laid before another Judge of that Court
and the appeal will be decided clearly on the basis of the opinion
rendered by that Judge hearing the matter sitting alone. However,
the proviso under Section 392 of the Cr.PC enables any one of the
Judges of the Division Bench or the third Judge to order the appeal to
be heard by a larger Bench of Judges.
10. The coram is not dealt with in the CPC or the Cr.PC. It is
stipulated by the respective High Court Acts. When the High Court
69Page 70
Act provides for an appeal to be heard by a Division Bench in
situations where Section 98 (2) without proviso operates, it virtually
becomes a decision of the Single Judge since the differing view is
only to be ignored. When the Judges hearing the appeal differ in
opinion on a point of law, under the proviso, the said point of law
has to be heard by one or more of other Judges and the appeal be
decided according to the opinions of the majority of the Judges who
have heard the appeal, including at the initial stage. In such
situations also, unless the Chief Justice decides otherwise, the
opinion on the point of law is formed only by one Judge, the third
Judge. This position is actually against the very principle of reference
on difference. Reference is always made to a larger coram. Not only
that, when two judicial minds sitting together could not concur, that
difficulty is to be resolved, ideally, if not on common sense, not by a
third one, but by a Bench of larger coram.
11. In my humble view, if the purpose behind the requirement of a
matter to be heard by a Bench of not less than two Judges is to be
achieved, in the event of the two Judges being unable to agree
either on facts or on law, the matters should be heard by a Bench of
larger strength. Then only the members of the Bench of such larger
strength would be able to exchange the views, discuss the law and
together appreciate the various factual and legal positions. The

conspectus of the various provisions, in my view, calls for a
comprehensive legislation for handling such situations of a Bench
being equally divided in its opinion, either on law or on facts, while
hearing a case which is otherwise required to be heard by a Bench
of not less than two Judges, both civil and criminal. It is for the High
Court and the Legislature of the State concerned to take further
steps in that regard.
……………………..J.
 (KURIAN JOSEPH)
New Delhi;
February 25, 2016.
71
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