Constitution  of India - Article 226 - Scope of jurisdiction - Questions of fact of complex nature - Claim for refund of money - When the petition raises questions of fact of complex nature, which may for their determination require oral and documentary evidence to be produced and proved by the concerned party and also because the relief sought is merely for ordering a refund of money, the High Court should be loath in entertaining such writ petition and instead must relegate the parties to remedy of a civil suit -  Had it been a case where material facts referred to in the writ petition are admitted facts or indisputable facts, the High Court may be justified in examining the claim of the writ petitioner on its own merits in accordance with law. #2020 SCeJ 663 [Para 17]

 

Facts: AS had filed a writ petition before the High Court praying for direction to Punjab National Bank to pay his lawful admitted claims in terms of agreement and also to deposit the income-tax papers with immediate effect. The bank contested the petition raising the issue of maintainability of the writ petition on the assertion that the case involved complex factual matters which cannot be adjudicated in exercise of writ jurisdiction. It also filed affidavit disputing the transactions and documents in question. However, the writ petition was allowed by the High Court.The Single Judge observed that the petitioner had produced plethora of documents and came to a conclusion that the bank wanted to 'wriggle out of the ticklish situation by raising technical objection of maintainability of the writ application'. Disapproving this approach, the Apex Court held said that the High Court should have been loath to entertain the writ petition and should have relegated the party to appropriate remedy for adjudication of all contentious issues between the parties. 

 

Case law :

Resort that jurisdiction is not intended as an alternative remedy for relief which may be obtained in a suit or other mode prescribed by statute. Ordinarily the Court will not entertain a petition for a writ under Article 226, where the petitioner has an alternative remedy, which without being unduly onerous, provides an equally efficacious remedy. Again the High Court does not generally enter upon a determination of questions which demand an elaborate examination of evidence to establish the right to enforce which the writ is claimed. Thansingh Nathmal , Thansingh Nathmal v. Superintendent of Taxes, Dhubri AIR 1964 SC 1419

 

We do not find any good reason to extend this principle and therefore hold that no petition for the issue of a writ of mandamus will be normally entertained for the purpose of merely ordering a refund of money to the return of which the petitioner claims a right.... The aggrieved party has the right of going to the civil court for claiming the amount and it is open to the State to raise all possible defences to the claim, defences which cannot, in most cases, be appropriately raised and considered in the exercise of writ jurisdiction. Suganmal v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1965 SC 1740

 

When the petition raises questions of fact of a complex nature, which may for their determination require oral evidence to be taken, and on that account the High Court is of the view that the dispute may not appropriately be tried in a writ petition, the High Court may decline to try a petition. Smt. Gunwant Kaur v. Municipal Committee, Bhatinda(1969) 3 SCC 769.

This decision has noticed Smt. Gunwant Kaur (supra), which had unmistakably held that when the petition raises complex questions of facts, the High Court may decline to try a petition. It is further observed that if on consideration of the nature of the controversy, the High Court decides to go into the disputed questions of fact, it would be free to do so on sound judicial principles. Despite the factual matrix in the present case, the High Court not only ventured to entertain the writ petition, but dealt with the same in a casual manner without adjudicating the disputed questions of fact by taking into account all aspects of the matter. The manner in which the Court disposed of the writ petition, by no stretch of imagination, can qualify the test of discretion having been exercised on sound judicial principles.

When the petition raises complex questions of fact, which may for their determination require oral evidence to be taken, and on that account the High Court is of the view that the dispute should not appropriately be tried in a writ petition, the High Court may decline to try a petition (see Gunwant Kaur v. Bhatinda Municipality [(1969) 3 SCC 769, Babubhai Muljibhai Patel v. Nandlal Khodidas Barot  (1974) 2 SCC 706.

 

The High Court having regard to the facts of the case, has a discretion to entertain or not to entertain a writ petition.  ABL International Ltd. v. Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd. (2004) 3 SCC 553.