The Supreme Court has advised high courts not to admit civil appeals for hearing in a routine manner as it “is one of the main reasons of delay in the administration of justice in civil matters”.
Pointing out that the practice of high courts to entertain second appeals ignoring statutory provisions is the main reason behind the large backlog of cases, a bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari asked high courts to show “reasonable restraint” before admitting appeals.
The court drew attention to section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code (as amended in 1976), according to which if the judgment by the appeal court and lower court is similar, a second appeal should be admitted only if a “substantial question of law” is involved.
“It must be clearly understood that the… legislature never wanted second appeal to become ‘third trial on facts’ or ‘one more dice in the gamble’,” the SC said. The Law Commission, too, in its 54th report said that in civil cases there should be only two hearings on facts — one before the trial court and the other before the first appellate court.
The SC set aside an Andhra Pradesh High Court order that had reversed the concurrent findings of the trial court and the first appellate court in a contract case and asked the high court to first frame the question of law before deciding it afresh. It said high courts were not supposed to entertain a second appeal and launch a fresh fact-finding exercise, even if the two similar rulings of the lower courts happened to be erroneous on facts.
“A search for absolute truth in the administration of justice, however, laudable, must be put under some reasonable restraint. A search for truth has to be reconciled with the doctrine of finality,” it said, adding, “Even litigants have to be protected against too persistent a pursuit of their goal of perfectly satisfactory justice.”