SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Before :- J.C. Shah, V. Ramaswami and A.N. Grover, JJ.
Civil Appeal No. 605 of 1966. D/d. 2.8.1968.
For the Appellant:- Mr. E.C. Agrawala and Mrs. E. Udayarathnam, Advocates.
M/s Baburam Prakash Chandra Maheshwari - Appellant Versus Antarim Zila Parishad now Zila Parishad, Muzaffarnagar - Respondent
For the Respondent :- Mr. M.C. Chagla, Senior Advocate with Mr. P.C. Agrawala, Advocate.
Under the U.P. District Boards Act No. X of 1922, the District Board of Muzaffarnagar was empowered to levy tax under Sections 108 and 114 in the rural area. Section 114 was to the following effect :-
- "The power of a board to impose a tax on circumstances and property shall be subject to the following conditions and restrictions namely -
- (a) The tax may be imposed on any person residing or carrying on business in the rural area provided that such person has so resided or carried on business for a total period of at least six months in the year under assessment.
- (b) The total amount of tax imposed on any person shall not exceed such maximum (if any) as may be prescribed by rule.
- .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ...."
- "It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 29th day of April, 1958, and shall expire on the 31st day of December, 1959."
2. The sole argument presented on behalf of the appellant is that the High court was in error in holding that an appeal under the U.P. District Boards Act No. X of 1922 was an adequate and efficacious remedy and that the appellant should have exhausted the statutory remedy before applying for a writ under Article 226 of the Constitution.
3. It is a well-established proposition of law that when an alternative and equally efficacious remedy is open to a litigant he should be required to pursue that remedy and not to invoke the special jurisdiction of the High Court to issue a prerogative writ. It is true that the existence of a statutory remedy does not affect the jurisdiction of the High Court to issue a writ. But, as observed by this Court in Rashid Ahmed v. Municipal Board, Kairana, 1950 SCR 566, "the existence of an adequate legal remedy is a thing to be taken into consideration in the matter of granting writs" and where such a remedy exists it will be a sound exercise of discretion to refuse to interfere in a writ petition unless there are good grounds therefor. But it should be remembered that the rule of exhaustion of statutory remedies before a writ is granted is a rule of self-imposed limitation, a rule of policy, and discretion rather than a rule of law and the Court may therefore in exceptional cases issue a writ such as a writ of certiorari notwithstanding the fact that the statutory remedies have not been exhausted. In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Mohammad Nooh, 1958 SCR 595 605, SectionRule Das, C.J., speaking for the Court, observed :-
- "In the next place it must be borne in mind that there is no rule, with regard to certiorari as there is with mandamus, that it will lie only where there is no other equally effective remedy. It is well established that, provided the requisite grounds exist, certiorari will lie although a right of appeal has been conferred by statute. (Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd Ed., Vol. II, p. 130 and the cases cited there). The fact that the aggrieved party has another and adequate remedy may be taken into consideration by the superior Court in arriving at a conclusion as to whether it should, in exercise of its discretion, issue a writ of certiorari to quash the proceedings and decisions of inferior Courts subordinate to it and ordinarily the Superior Court will decline to interfere until the aggrieved party has exhausted his other statutory remedies, if any. But this rule requiring the exhaustion of statutory remedies before the writ will be granted is a rule of policy, convenience and discretion rather than a rule of law and instances are numerous where a writ of certiorari has been issued in spite of the fact that the aggrieved party had other adequate legal remedies. In the King v. Postmaster-General Ex parte Carmichael, (1928 (1) KB 291) a certiorari was issued although the aggrieved party had an alternative remedy by way of appeal. It has been held that the superior Court will readily issue a certiorari in a case where there has been a denial of natural justice before a Court of summary jurisdiction. The case of Rex v. Wandsworth Justices Ex parte Read, 1942 (1) KB 281 is an authority in point. In that case a man had been convicted in a court of summary jurisdiction without giving him an opportunity of being heard. It was held that his remedy was not by a case stated or by an appeal before the quarter sessions but by application to the High Court for an order of certiorari to remove and quash the conviction."
4. It is manifest in the present case that the appellant had alleged in the writ petition that the Taxing Officer had no authority to impose the tax and there was no validly constituted Antarim Zila Parishad after December 31, 1959. It was further alleged that Sections 114 and 124 of the U.P. District Boards Act No. X of 1922 violated Article 14 of Constitution as arbitrary power was granted to District Boards as well as the State Government to exempt any person or class of persons or any property or class of properties from the scope of the Act. There is also an allegation that the imposition of the tax violated the provisions of Article 276 of the Constitution and that the Antarim Zila Parishad could not impose the tax beyond the maximum limit of Rs. 250/- per annum prescribed in that Article. It was further contended on behalf of the appellant that the procedure for assessment of the tax was not followed and there was violation of the principles of natural justice. In view of the allegations of the appellant that the taxing provisions are ultra vires and that there was violation of the principles of natural justice, we think that the High Court was in error in summarily dismissing writ petition on the ground that the appellant had an alternative remedy of statutory appeal. It was contended Mr. Chagla on behalf of the respondent that in dismissing the writ petition the High Court was acting in its discretion. But it is manifest in the present case that the discretion of the High Court has not been exercised in accordance with law and the judgments of the Division Bench dated March 27, 1964 and of the learned single Judge dated February 13, 1964 summarily dismissing the writ petition are defective in law.
5. For the reasons expressed we hold that this appeal must be allowed, the judgments of the Division Bench in special Appeal No. 322 of 1964 dated March 27, 1964 and of the learned Single judge dated February 13, 1964 should be set aside and Civil Miscellaneous Writ No. 2371 of 1962 should be restored to file and dealt with in accordance with law. There will be no order with regard to the costs of this appeal in this Court.