February,27,2016: Interestingly but finally, Constitution Bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court has accepted on 25.02.2016 that Section-41 of Punjab Courts Act continues to apply and has also observed that the contrary judgment in Kulwant Kaur does not lay down correct proposition of law. Needless to say, if this is so, a second appeal will lie beyond the substantial question of law in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana where the Punjab Courts Act is applicable.
Following observations from the judgment of constitution bench are relevant:
“We are afraid that this judgment does not state the law correctly on both propositions. First and foremost, when Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976 speaks of any amendment made or any provision inserted in the principal Act by virtue of a State Legislature or a High Court, the said Section refers only to amendments made and/or provisions inserted in the Code of Civil Procedure itself and not elsewhere.
This is clear from the expression “principal Act” occurring in Section 97(1).
What Section 97(1) really does is to state that where a State Legislature makes an amendment in the Code of Civil Procedure, which amendment will apply only within the four corners of the State, being made under Entry 13 of List III of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India, such amendment shall stand repealed if it is inconsistent with the provisions of the principal Act as amended by the Parliamentary enactment contained in the 1976 amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure.
This is further made clear by the reference in Section 97(1) to a High Court. The expression “any provision inserted in the principal Act” by a High Court has reference to Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure by which High Courts may make rules regulating their own procedure, and the procedure of civil courts subject to their superintendence, and may by such rules annul, alter, or add to any of the rules contained in the first schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure.
Thus, Kulwant Kaur’s decision on the application of Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure Amendment Act, is not correct in law.
Even the reference to Article 254 of the Constitution was not correctly made by this Court in the said decision. Section 41 of the Punjab Courts Act is of 1918 vintage. Obviously, therefore, it is not a law made by the Legislature of a State after the Constitution of India has come into force.
It is a law made by a Provincial Legislature under Section 80A of the Government of India Act, 1915, which law was continued, being a law in force in British India, immediately before the commencement of the Government of India Act, 1935, by Section 292 thereof. In turn, after the Constitution of India came into force and, by Article 395, repealed the Government of India Act, 1935, the Punjab Courts Act was continued being a law in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of the Constitution of India by virtue of Article 372(1) of the Constitution of India.
This being the case, Article 254 of the Constitution of India would have no application to such a law for the simple reason that it is not a law made by the Legislature of a State but is an existing law continued by virtue of Article 372 of the Constitution of India. If at all, it is Article 372(1) alone that would apply to such law which is to continue in force until altered or repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or other competent authority.
We have already found that since Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976 has no application to Section 41 of the Punjab Courts Act, it would necessarily continue as a law in force…..”
The judgment of constitution bench is titled as Pankajakshi vs Chandrika dated 25.02.2016.
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