Higher Court cannot stay / quash orders in anticipation of being passed by appellate authority – SC

Higher Court cannot stay /quash orders in anticipation of being passed by an appellate authority. Supreme Court quashes High Court direction

ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2702 (2019) (01) SC

Important Case Laws Cited/relied upon:
Awani Kumar Upadhyay vs. High Court of Judicature of Allahabad & Ors., (2013) 12 SCC 392

An FIR was registered by the State Excise Department against the Liquor Shop owners/license holders for undertaking home delivery of liquor on telephonic /internet based orders and for commission of other offences.

As a result the liquor shops was sealed by the State Excise officials. However, the Collector (Excise) (licensing authority) passed an interim order and directed de-­sealing of the shops.

Against the order of the Collector, the Superintendent of State Excise filed an appeal before the Commissioner  State  Excise questioning  its  legality and correctness. 

The Commissioner State Excise in exercise of her appellate powers stayed the operation of the  interim order passed by the Collector (Excise). Later, the Collector (Excise) passed the final order, whereby he directed the licencees to pay compounding fees for the breaches committed. However, on appeal by the Superintendent State Excise, the Commissioner State Excise again, vide ex­parte order stayed the operation of the order

Aggrieved, the shop owners filed Writ Petitions before the High Court.

By the impugned order, the High Court quashed the order directing sealing of the liquor shops. The High Court also quashed the ex­parte interim order passed by the Commissioner.

The High Court, however, while disposing of the Writ Petitions has made serious observations and passed adverse remarks in  the  manner  in  which the Commissioner State Excise had dealt with the appellants’ case, particularly the manner in which ex­parte interim orders were passed, and oral directions issued to the subordinate officers. The High Court even issued directions to the Commissioner State Excise to act properly, and in accordance with law in future, and refrain from acting  with  high  handedness, and exercise restraint in the exercise of her judicial and  administrative powers/authority. 

The High Court further issued a direction in anticipation that  if  the Commissioner State Excise eventually passes adverse orders against the appellants with respect to the subject matter of the appeal, then such order should not be given effect to by the State Authorities for a  period  of  four weeks from the date of its communication to the appellants.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with the question as to what should  be the role of the higher judiciary in making adverse remarks and passing  strictures against the judicial/ administrative authorities, whose order/ action is  under  challenge has been the subject matter of several  decisions of this Court. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court pointed out that in these decisions it has been held that the higher judiciary   must   avoid   as   far   as possible  from making any  disparaging  harsh remarks and strictures   against   any  judicial/administrative officer while examining  their action /order impugned in the judicial proceedings.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court expunged all the adverse and disparaging remarks made and strictures passed by the High Court against the Commissioner State Excise.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the High Court had issued the direction that in the event the Commissioner State Excise passes any orders adverse to the petitioners, then such orders not to take effect for a period of four weeks from the date it is communicated to the petitioners.  

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that High Court ought not to have issued directions of this nature. It was legally not permissible to do so.  Indeed, the High Court   by   issuing   such   directions which are essentially  passed  in anticipation of the order being passed by an appellate authority, interfered with the judicial independence of an appellate authority in deciding the appeals in accordance  with law.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that it is the sole  discretion  of  the appellate authority under the Act to decide  the  appeal based on the facts involved in the appeal, and legal  provisions  which eventually result in passing a judicial order . No higher court can pass such directions merely on anticipation of an order being passed by an appellate authority. It  is only after the order is passed, that the aggrieved person has   a legal right to take recourse to a legal  remedy  available  in law against such order by approaching to a higher forum and pray   for   grant   of   appropriate  relief against such order.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that when the stage in the case was yet to arrive. The High Court should not have, therefore, pre­empted the passing of any order of the appellate authority, while deciding the  Writ Petition. It is a settled law that the Court can stay or quash  only  those orders, which are impugned in the lis before it. A  fortiori, the Court cannot stay or/and quash the orders  in  anticipation, before  they  are passed. 

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