Conflicting Decisions

Jaisri Sahu v. Rajdewan Dubey, (1962) 2 SCR 558 lays the position of conflict among decisions of benches of the same High Court:

  1. Then there is the question of the practice to be followed when there is a conflict among decisions of Benches of, the same High Court. When a Bench of the High Court gives a decision on a question of law, it should in general be followed by other Benches unless they have reasons to differ from it, in which case the proper course to adopt would be to refer the question for the decision of a Full Bench. In Buddha Singhv. Laltu Singh [(1915) ILR 37 All 604] the Privy Council had occasion to discuss the procedure which should be adopted when a Bench of a High Court differs from the opinion given by a previous Bench. After referring to Suraya Bhukta v. Lakhshminarasamma [(1881) ILR 5 Mad 291] and Chinnasami Pillai v. Kunju Pillai [(1912) ILR 35 Mad 152], where decisions had been given based on the opinions expressed by Devananda Bhatta in the Smriti Chandrika, the Privy Council observed:

“Curiously enough there is no reference in either of the Madras judgments referred to above to a previous decision (Parasara Bhattar v. Rangaraja Bhattar, (1880) IL Rule 2 Mad. 2) of the same court to which Turner, C.J., was also a party. In that case the rule of the Smriti Chandrika was not accepted nor was the literal construction of the Mitakshara followed. It is usual in such cases where a difference of opinion arises in the same court to refer the point to a Full Bench, and the law provides for such contingencies. Had that course been followed their Lordships would probably have had more detailed reasoning as to the change of opinion on the part at least of one Judge.”

As regards two High Court orders in conflict with each other, the Supreme Court needs to be approached to settle the issue.  In Kishorebhai Khamanchand Goyal v. State of Gujarat, (2003) 12 SCC 274  the issue was whether, notwithstanding the enactment of the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961, the obligation to comply with the requirement of the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act, 1948 did not get wiped out. The appellant contended that the problem is of a recurring nature and, therefore, the issues should be settled. It was contended that there was divergence in views of several High Courts. The Patna High Court in Bihar SRTC v. Orang Bahadur [AIR 1968 Pat 200] and Amarnath Singh v. Presiding Officer, Industrial Tribunal, Bihar [AIR 1970 Pat 269] held that the enactment of the Act did away with the requirement to comply with the requirements of the Establishments Act by applying the logic of implied repeal. The Bombay High Court also held likewise in Corpn. of the City of Nagpur v. Inland Carriers [(1987) 1 LLJ 270 (Bom)]. But a different view was adopted by the Gujarat High Court in the impugned judgment which differed from the view of the Patna High Court and the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court observed that the submissions require careful consideration and concluded that the view taken by the Patna High Court and the Bombay High Court in the decisions, does not lay down the correct position of law while the one taken by the Gujarat High Court in the impugned judgment, merits approval in our hands. Thereafter, the Court held that “Above being the position, the judgment of the High Court does not suffer from any infirmity to warrant interference. The appeal fails and is dismissed.”

In Hemalatha Gargya v. CIT, (2003) 9 SCC 510 the issue involved in the appeals was whether the time for payment fixed under Section 67 of the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997 is extendable. There were conflicting views taken not only by different High Courts but also by different Benches of the same High Court. On the one hand, the decisions in Laxmi Mittal v. CIT [(1999) 238 ITR 97 (P&H)], E. PrahalathaBabu v. CIT  [(2000) 241 ITR 457 (Mad)] and CIT v. E. Prahalatha Babu [(2001) 249 ITR 309 (Mad)] have held that the period is extendable, whereas on the other hand, the decisions in Kamal Sood v. Union of India [(2000) 241 ITR 567 (P&H)], Vyshnavi Appliances (P) Ltd. v. CBDT [(2000) 243 ITR 101 (AP)]; Atamjit Singh v. CIT [(2001) 247 ITR 356 (Kant)]; M. Kuppan v. CIT [(2001) 249 ITR 543 (Mad)] and K. Dilip Kumar v. CIT [(2001) 247 ITR 16 (Ker)] have held that the period mentioned for payment of the tax due on the undisclosed income was inflexible. The Court held that:

  1. The submission of the assessees that this Court should not interfere under Article 136 of the Constitution in those cases where the Revenue is in appeal is unacceptable because the issue is purely one of law and given the divergent opinions of the different High Courts, it is an appropriate case where this Court should interfere and settle the difference finally.

It should be noted that the Court in Hemalatha Gargya v. CIT observed that “in one of such decisions, the Revenue had sought to prefer an appeal before this Court by way of a special leave petition which was dismissed in limine. It needs hardly to be stated that such dismissal would not operate as confirmation of the reasoning in the decision sought to be appealed against, nor does such dismissal by itself operate as an argument in favour of the assessee and against the Revenue.

The Court in Hemalatha Gargya v. CIT, (2003) 9 SCC 510 also notes:

  1. The decisions of this Court in Union of Indiav. KaumudiniNarayan Dalal[(2001) 10 SCC 231 : (2001) 249 ITR 219] and Union of India v. Satish Panalal Shah [(2002) 1 SCC 605 : (2001) 249 ITR 221] do not, as contended by the assessees, hold that the Revenue can never challenge an interpretation which they have not chosen to do so earlier. First, it appears to us that the principle appears to be limited to decisions of the jurisdictional High Court. Additionally, the decisions make it clear that given “just cause”, the Department could challenge the interpretation subsequently. We accept the submission of the Revenue that in this case, decisions of other High Courts holding to the contrary as well as the subsequent conflicting decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court itself would come within the phrase “just cause”.

Author: Vikrant Narayan Vasudeva

Photo by Cristian V/ CC BY-ND 2.0