Civil Appeal No. 5393 of 2010
M/S Godrej Sara Lee Ltd. V. The Excise and Taxation Officer-cum-Assessing Authority & Ors.
DATE OF ORDER:
1 February 2023
Justice S Ravindar Bhat
Justice Dipankar Datta
The learned Apex Court in the present case, while observing the difference between entertainability and maintainability of a writ petition held that the High Court should not mechanically refuse to entertain a writ petition merely on the ground that an alternative remedy exists which has not been exhausted by the petitioner yet. The Court reiterated the few exceptions stated in Whirlpool Corporation’s case wherein a writ petition can be allowed despite the availability of an alternative remedy.
BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE
- The appellant had moved the High Court of Punjab & Haryana questioning the jurisdiction of the Revisional Authority to reopen proceedings by exercising the power conferred u/s 34 of the VAT Act and also to pass final order by holding that the order passed by the Assessing Officer was tainted with illegality.
- The learned High Court dismissed the writ petition while holding that the petitioner had not exhausted the remedy of appeal available to it u/s 33 of the Act.
- The dismissal of the writ petition by the High Court has been appealed against in the present case.
- Whether the High Court was justified in declining interference on the ground of availability of an alternative remedy of appeal to the appellant under section 33 of the VAT Act, which it had not pursued?
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The learned Court before proceeding further with the issue at hand, reiterated the thin line of difference between ‘maintainability’ and ‘entertainability’ of a writ petition. The Court stated that while maintainability hints at the capacity/incapacity of the Courts arising on account of law to receive a lis for adjudication, entertainability depends entirely on the discretion of the Courts.
- The Court opined that the High Court should examine whether an exceptional case has been made out in the writ petition, it should not mechanically dismiss it on the ground that an alternative remedy exists for the same.
- In Whirlpool Corporation v. Registrar of Trade Marks, Mumbai and Others, the Apex Court listed out a few exceptions wherein, a writ petition could be entertained despite the availability of an alternative remedy. They include :-
- When jt seeks enforcement of any fundamental right
- When there is any violation of principle of natural justice.
- When the order complained against was passed wholly without jurisdiction
- Wherein the validity of an Act is challenged
- The learned Court observed that a jurisdictional issue( a pure question of law) was raised in the writ petition in the present case. As such, the Court opined that the learned High Court committed a manifest error of law by dismissing it.
- Further, the Court decided to decide the issue at hand itself instead of remanding the same to the High Court. It noted- “However, having regard to the lapse of time (almost a life term of fourteen years) since the orders impugned in the writ petition were made, we feel that it would not be in the best interests of justice to remit the matter to the High Court.”
- The Court while observing the facts on the case and contentions advanced by the parties concluded that the Revisional Authority was bound by the decision of the Tribunal which was also followed by the Assessing Officer. The Court held that it is not the the Assessing Authority’s orders but those passed by the Revisional Authority, which suffer from a patent illegality.
In light of the above observations made, the Court set aside the impugned order passed by the Revisional Authority while upholding the one passed by the Assessing Officer
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