- This article answers the question of whether an order passed by a higher authority be overruled by a lower authority.
- Whether the decision made by a Court of Higher authority be over-ruled by a court of lower authority
- Provides an in-depth analysis of various provisions dealing with these issues.
In a recent judgment in the case of Ajeet Chopra v. Union Territory of J and K and others The Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed an order issued by the superintendent of police on a re-investigation in a case already closed by his superior, Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu. The petitioner Ajeet Chopra had challenged the order issued by the Superintendent of Police directing the further investigation of the case even though the investigation was already closed as Not Admitted by the orders of the Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court observed that once a superior officer of Police approves the closure of a case (as not admitted), the case cannot be opened for re-investigation by an officer who is inferior in rank.The Bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar further added that if at all there was any scope for re-investigation of the case, the officer could have placed his opinion before his senior officer asking for his permission instead of taking it upon himself and directing further reinvestigation of the case. With these observations, the High Court, quashed an order issued by Superintendent of Police, City South, Jammu directing for re-investigation in a case, which was already closed by his superior, Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu, and gave the liberty to the relevant authorities of the Police Department to take appropriate disciplinary action against the inferior rank officer for insubordination and abuse of process of law.
Under what provisions can such officer be charged under
The Police Act, 1861
• Section 29 of The Police Act, 1861- Provides Penalties for neglect of duty. This section states that every police officer who shall be guilty of any violation of duty or willful breach or neglect of any rule or regulation of lawful order made by a competent authority, or any officer who shall withdraw from his duties without permission, or without having given prior notice for the period of two months, or any officer being on leave, shall without any reasonable cause fail to report himself on duty on the expiration of such leave, or who shall engage without authority in any employment other than this police duty, or who shall be guilty of cowardice, or who shall offer any unwarrantable personal violence to any person in his custody, shall be liable, on conviction before a Magistrate, to a penalty not exceeding three months’ pay, or to imprisonment with or without hard labor, for a period not exceeding three months, or to both.
• Section 7 The Police Act, 1861 - Appointment, dismissal, etc., of inferior officers. Subject to the provisions of article 311 of the Constitution, and such rules the Inspector-General, Assistant Inspectors-General and District Superintendents of Police, Deputy Inspectors-General may at any time dismiss, suspend or reduce any police officer of the subordinate ranks whom they think is negligent in the discharge of his duty, or is unfit for the same.
They may also award any one or more of the following punishments to any policeofficer of the subordinate rankswho shall discharge his duty carelessly or negligently, or any police officer who by any act of his own shall render himself unfit for the discharge to the following punishment-
a) A fine of any amount not exceeding his one-month salary;
b) confine such officer to his quarters for a term not exceeding fifteen days, with or without punishment-drillor other duties;
c) deprive him/her of good-conduct pay;
d) removal from any office of distinction or special benefits.
Model Police Act, 2006
Section 152- Under this section,police misconduct is considered a criminal offense. Identified misconduct includes disobedience of lawful orders, illegal arrest, detention, search and seizure, failure to present an arrested person before a magistrate within 24 hours, subjecting a person to torture,gross misbehavior, inhuman or unlawful violence, and making threats or promises unwarranted by law. Non-registration of a First Information Report is also considered punishable with three months imprisonment or fine or both.
Can lower courts challenge orders of higher court
In India, the doctrine of judicial precedent is followed which states that the decision made in the judgment of a High Court or Supreme courtis cited as an authority to decide similar cases and it is also used as a reference for making decisions in the future. Thus, any decision given by a court regarding a particular matter cannot be later overruled by a court of lower authority while dealing with a similar matter.
Therefore, The High Courts are bound by the law declared by the Supreme Court. Its decision is binding as long as it is not overruled by the Supreme Court itself. In the same way, the decisions of a High Court are binding on all the courts below it within its jurisdiction. However, the judgment of a particular High Court is not binding on other High Courts as they are considered to be courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction.
If a person is aggrieved by the decision of the court, he/she can challenge the decision before the court of Higher jurisdiction for appeal. An Appeal is considered to be a process by which the judgment or the order of the subordinate court is challenged before the court of higher authority. Thus, a lower court cannot overrule the judgment of the higher court by itself.
In the case of Union of India Vs. Raghubir Sing ,1933it was held that the doctrine of binding precedent has the merit of promoting certainty and consistency in judicial decisions which enables an organic development of the law and, therefore, fulfills the need for a clear and consistent legal principle in the decisions of a court.
Provision relating to this
• Article 141 of the constitution of India states that Law declared by Supreme Court to be binding on all courts in the territory of India.
• Article 226 of the Indian Constitution- Article 226, empowers the high courts to issue, to any person or authority, including the government (in appropriate cases), directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari or any of them.
• Article 227 in The Constitution of India –It determines that every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction
1. Suganthi Suresh Kumar Vs. Jagdeeshan,2002- In this case, the Supreme Court observed that it is impermissible for a High Court to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court on the ground that the Supreme Court has laid down legal position without considering any other point. High Court cannot question the correctness of the decision of the Supreme Court in such a manner.
2. Commissioner of Income Tax Vs. M/s Sun Engineering Works Private Limited, 1993- In this case, the Supreme Court held that, while applying the decision to latter cases, the court must carefully try to ascertain the true principle laid down by the decision of Supreme Court and not merely pick out words or sentences from the judgments derived out of the context of the question under consideration by the court to support their reasoning. The court further held that any interim order passed even by Supreme Court is limited to that particular case and should not be used as a precedent for others cases specifically when the Supreme Court itself has earlier authoritatively decided the question which is squarely involved in the latter case.
3. Megh Singh Vs. State of Punjab,2003 – In this case, the Supreme Court held that Circumstantial flexibility should always be considered as one additional or different fact that may make a world of difference between conclusions of two different cases or between two accused in the same case. Each case has its unique facts and a close similarity between the two cannot be considered sufficient because a single significant detail may change the entire scenario.
Thus, in conclusion, we can say that even if an officer or lower court believes that the decision taken by the higher authority is not corrected, it cannot take the matter in its own hand to correct the same. It should only try to correct the wrong through the use of various provisions as provided under the law.