The Supreme Court, in Life Insurance Corporation of India v Nandini J Shah & Ors, has held that the appellate officer while exercising power under Section 9 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, does not act as a persona designata but in his capacity as civil court.
The issue before the apex court was whether letters patent appeal filed by the contesting respondents before the Bombay High Court is maintainable against the decision of the single judge rendered in a writ petition (purportedly filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India), questioning the correctness and validity of the decision of appellate officer under the Act.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed that being part of the district judiciary, the judge acts as a court and the order passed by him will be an order of the subordinate court against which remedy under Article 227 of the Constitution of India can be availed, and the division bench, could not have entertained the letters patent appeal against the judgment of the single judge.
The bench, referring to various decisions, observed: “The thrust of Section 9(1) is to provide for remedy of an appeal against the order of the Estate Officer before the District Judge who, undeniably, is a pre-existing authority and head of the judiciary within the district, discharging judicial power of the State including power to condone the delay in filing of the appeal and to grant interim relief during the pendency of the appeal. Though described as an Appellate Officer, the District Judge, for deciding an appeal under Section 9, can and is expected to exercise the powers of the civil court.”
The court said when the appellate officer is either the district judge of the district or any another judicial officer in that district possessing necessary qualification who could be designated by the district judge, the question of such investiture of power of an appellate authority in the district judge or designated judge would by no standards acquire the colour or for those matter trappings of persona designata.
The court also reiterated that an order passed by a civil court is amenable to scrutiny of the high court only in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, which is different from Article 226 of the Constitution and no writ can be issued against the order passed by the civil court and, therefore, no letters patent appeal would be maintainable.