The Supreme Court on August 29, 2019, in the case of Sudam Kisan Gavane v. Manik Ananta Shikketod has observed that the order of the High Court admitting a second appeal should specifically state what are the substantial questions of law on which the appeal is admitted.
The Bench comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose set aside a High Court order on the ground that substantial questions of law were not framed before arguments were heard.
In this case, the High Court admitted the second appeal under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, without framing any question of law and the order read: "Heard. Admit". When the appeal came up for hearing, arguments were heard and judgment was reserved. The said order also did not indicate that any question(s) of law was framed on that date. Thereafter, judgment was delivered, which made mention of certain substantial questions of law. Disapproving this approach, the Bench observed:
"It is obvious that these substantial questions of law were framed by the learned Judge at the time of dictation of the judgment. This procedure, in our opinion, is not to the parties. The parties must know what are the substantial questions of law which the Court is required to answer in a particular case. It is only then that the parties and their counsel can properly assist the Court."
Referring to Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the Bench observed that the hearing of the appeal should revolve around the substantial questions of law and the court at the final hearing cannot go beyond the substantial questions of law.
The court said: “Normally the order of admission of the appeal should clearly indicate on what substantial questions of law the appeal has been admitted. Even if the High Court is of the view that the substantial questions of law, as framed in the memorandum of appeal, are substantial questions of law, the order admitting the appeal should specifically state what are the questions of law on which the appeal is admitted. Obviously, if no substantial question(s) of law arises then the appeal has to be dismissed at the threshold.”
The Bench further observed: "The proviso to Section 100 of Code of Civil Procedure makes it clear that the Court has the power to hear the appeal from any substantial questions of law not formulated by it if it is satisfied that the case involves such questions. However, it is important to note, that in such eventuality the Court has to record its reasons for formulating such questions of law. This obviously means that the Court will pass a reasoned order while formulating the substantial question(s) of law at this stage. The natural corollary is that the parties have to be heard after the framing of such substantial questions of law. The hearing cannot be prior to the substantial questions of law. We are clearly of the view that the High Court erred in hearing the appeal finally when questions of law have not been framed and formulated the questions of law only in the judgment. "
Thus, the Bench remanded the matter to the High Court and directed it to decide the questions of law after hearing the parties.