Whether a writ under Article 226 of the Constitution may be dismissed on the ground of alternative remedy?

[Alternative Remedy -when not bar]

In the matter of S.R. Cold Storage vs. Union of India and Others (Allahabad High Court) in writ tax no. 723 of 2022 (judgment dated 11.08.2022), the issue of maintainability of writ petition was discussed when against the impugned reassessment order, appeal lie under section 246A of the Income Tax Act, 1961. The counsel for the respondents submitted that against the impugned reassessment order, appeal lie under section 246A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and therefore, writ petition may be dismissed on the ground of alternative remedy.

The said issue was discussed in the aforesaid writ and Hon’ble Court observed that objections raised by the respondents regarding maintainability of the writ petition on the ground of alternative remedy, is not tenable on the facts of the present case. In the present set of facts, in the absence of any valid information for invoking jurisdiction under section 147/148 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, the entire proceedings are without jurisdiction.

Alternative Remedy -when not bar:-

Article 226 of the Constitution of India confers very vide powers on High Courts to issue writs but this power is discretionary and the High Court may refuse to exercise the discretion if it is satisfied that the aggrieved person has adequate or suitable remedy elsewhere. It is a rule of discretion and not rule of compulsion or the rule of law. Even though there may be an alternative remedy, yet the High Court may entertain a writ petition depending upon the facts of each case. It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down inflexible rule to be applied rigidly for entertaining a writ petition. Some exceptions to the rule of alternative remedy as settled by Hon’ble Supreme Court are as under:- 

“(i) Where there is complete lack of jurisdiction in the officer or authority to take the action or to pass the order impugned.

(ii) Where vires of an Act, Rules, Notification or any of its provisions has been challenged.

(iii) Where an order prejudicial to the writ petitioner has been passed in violation of principles of natural justice.

(iv) Where enforcement of any fundamental right is sought by the petitioner.

(v) Where procedure required for decision has not been adopted.

(vi) Where Tax is levied without authority of law.

(vii) Where decision is an abuse of process of law.

(viii) Where palpable injustice shall be caused to the petitioner, if he is forced to adopt remedies under the statute for enforcement of any fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

(ix) Where a decision or policy decision has already been taken by the Government rendering the remedy of appeal to be an empty formality or futile attempt.

(x) Where there is no factual dispute but merely a pure question of law or interpretation is involved.”

The above principles are supported by law laid down by Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Himmatlal Harilal Mehta v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 403, Collector of Customs v. Ramchand Sobhraj Wadhwani, AIR 1961 SC 1506, Collector Of Customs & Excise ,Cochin & Ors. vs A. S. Bava, AIR 1968 SC 13, Dr. Smt. Kuntesh Gupta vs Management Of Hindu Kanya Mahavidyalaya, L.K. Verma v. HMT Ltd. and anr., (2006) 2 SCC 269, Paras 13 and 20, M.P. State Agro Industries Development Corpn. Ltd. & Anr. vs. Jahan Khan (2007) 10 SCC 88 para 12, Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd. v. State of U.P. and others (2007) 8 SCC 338, BCPP Mazdoor Sangh Vs. NTPC (2007) 14 SCC 234 (para 19), Rajasthan State Electricity Board v. Union of India, (2008) 5SCC 632 (para 3), Mumtaz Post Graduate Degree College Vs. University of Lucknow, (2009) 2 SCC 630 (para 22 and 23), Godrej Sara Lee Limited v. Assistant Commissioner (AA), (2009) 14 SCC 338. 14, Union of India v. Mangal Textile Mills (I) (P) Ltd., (2010) 14 SCC 553 (paras 6,7,10 and 12), Union of India v. Tantia Construction (P) Ltd., (2011) 5 SCC 697, Southern Electricity Supply Co. of Orissa Ltd. v. Sri Seetaram Rice Mill, (2012) 2 SCC 108 (paras 79,80,81,82,86,87 and 88), State of M.P. Vs. Sanjay Nagaich (2013) 7 SCC 25 (para 34,35,38,39), State of H.P. vs. Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd., (2005) 6 SCC 499 (para 11 to 19), Star Paper Mills Ltd. Vs. State of U.P. and others, JT (2006) 12 SC 92, State of Tripura vs. Manoranjan Chakraborty, (2001) 10 SCC 740 para 4; Paradip Port Trust vs Sales Tax Officer and Ors. (1998) 4 SCC 90, Feldohf Auto & Gas Industries Ltd. Vs. Union of India (1998) 9 SCC 710; Isha Beebi Vs. Tax Recovery Officer (1976) 1 SCC 70 (para 5); Whirlpool Corporation Vs. Registrar of Trademarks (1998) 8 SCC 1; Guruvayur Devasworn Managing Committee Vs C.K. Rajan (2003) 7 SCC 546 (para 67,68) .

In the case of State of Tripura vs. Manoranjan Chakraborty, (2001) 10 SCC 740, Hon’ble Supreme Court held as under:

“4. For the reasons contained in the said decisions, we hold that the impugned provisions are valid. It is, of course, clear that if gross injustice is done and it can be shown that for good reason the court should interfere, then notwithstanding the alternative remedy which may be available by way of an appeal under Section 20 or revision under Section 21, a writ court can in an appropriate case exercise its jurisdiction to do substantive justice. Normally of course the provisions of the Act would have to be complied with, but the availability of the writ jurisdiction should dispel any doubt which a citizen has against a high-handed or palpable illegal order which may be passed by the assessing authority.”

*****

Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this document is to be construed as a legal opinion or view of either of the author whatsoever and the content is to be used strictly for informational and educational purposes. While due care has been taken in preparing this article, certain mistakes and omissions may creep in. the author does not accept any liability for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of any inaccurate or incomplete information in this document nor for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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