India: "Rajasthan High Court Comes Down Heavily Against Non-Speaking Orders"

Last Updated: 27 May 2011
Article by Sonam Lhamu Bhutia and Vasundhara Kamath S

"Reason is the soul of an Order." This was the manner in which the Rajasthan High Court chose to highlight the importance of clearly setting out reasons for allowing or rejecting a prayer while considering an application made before a Court. In Devi Food Products v. A-One Products, the importance of such well-reasoned orders was considered from the perspective of the litigant, the higher courts and the society. It was thereafter clearly laid down that a non-speaking order or an order without proper reasons being spelt out would be bad in law and would be liable to be quashed.

Brief Facts of the Case:

A-One Products, had filed a suit for permanent injunction against Devi Food Products before the Additional District Court (Fast Track) under Sections 134 and 135 of the Trade Marks Act as well as Section 62 of the Copyright Act. Devi Food, after filing their written statement against the averments made by A-One, filed a separate Application praying for rejection of the Plaint under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). Although A-One had not filed any reply to the same, the Court chose to dismiss the application. Moreover, the Court while dismissing the application had not considered the objections raised by Devi Food. Aggrieved by the said order, the Devi Food approached the Rajasthan High Court with a plea to set aside the same and to allow the application for rejection of the Plaint.

It was brought to the attention of the High Court by Devi Food , that they had raised three main contentions in their Application. At the outset, they had raised the question whether the Proprietor of A-One, Shri Ramesh Chand Vijayvergia had any power to institute the suit, in the absence of any documents to prove his proprietorship. Secondly, it was insisted that the Jaipur Court lacked territorial jurisdiction to try the case since the cause of action did not arise there. Lastly, it was alleged that the valuation of the suit had been incorrectly done and sufficient Court fees had not been paid. Devi Food was aggrieved that despite such contentions, the District Court had failed to discuss the same and a non-speaking order had been passed.

A-One, on the other hand, vehemently contended that the order was not erroneous and that it was legally sound.

After examining the said order, the High Court of Rajasthan termed it as 'highly cryptic' and observed that although the Court had noticed the contentions of Devi Food, the same had not been discussed, nor were any judicial findings given with regard to the same. The Court, thereafter, extensively dealt with the importance of reasoned orders and highlighted it's worth for the different participants in the justice delivery system. It opined that since the finding of the Court under Order VII Rule 7 was revisable, it was necessary to give reasoning to the allowing or otherwise of the said application. Not doing so would, in the opinion of the Court, create an impediment for both the litigant as well as the higher Court and would also increase the docket flooding in the higher courts. A litigant was entitled to know the reasons for the grant or rejection of his/her prayer. Moreover, the faith of the people in the Judiciary would also suffer a blow as a result of such Orders.

The High Court echoed the observations of the Apex Court with regard to non-speaking Orders made in Assistant Commissioner, Commercial Tax Department v. Shukla and Brothers (2010) 4 SCC 785 that since reason was the very life of law, law itself would cease in the absence of reason. Reason was necessary in order to eliminate uncertainty and was a useful aid in the observance of the law of precedent. As a result, it acted as an aid in the furtherance of the cause of justice. The Apex Court had also been of the view that the absence of reason could render an Order liable to judicial chastisement. It could hence, almost be equated to an absolute principle of law that reasons had to be recorded by the Courts in order that the higher Courts could exercise their jurisdiction appropriately and in accordance with law.

Describing reasons as the soul of orders, the Court listed the dual infirmities that could be caused in the event of non-recording of reasons viz., prejudice to the affected party and obstruction in the proper administration of justice. The Court emphatically laid down that these principles were not just applicable to administrative or executive actions, but could also be applied to judicial pronouncements with equal force and a greater degree of precision. Furthermore, the orders of the Courts would have to necessarily bear explanation with regard to the granting or declining of the relief as claimed by the Applicant. The stage of the proceedings wherein the reasons were given and the volume of the same were considered to be immaterial by the Court.

The basic tenet of law that correct process of judgments should not only appear to be implemented, but also seem to have been properly implemented, could be considered as the object of stressing on well reasoned judgments. Since, the order of the District Court in this case had failed to do so, the High Court quashed the same and set aside the impugned order. The case was remanded back to the District Court with a direction to consider, examine, discuss and give judicial finding on the contentions raised by the Petitioners.

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