Judges Cannot Act Like Mughals of Bygone Era : Karnataka HC

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No writ can be issued in derogation of law. Writ Courts in the guise of doing justice cannot transcend the barriers of law,” the court remarked while overturning the order passed by a single judge bench

In a recent ruling, the Karnataka High Court has declared that judges cannot act like Mughals or assume the extraordinary powers vested exclusively in the Apex Court of India under Article 142 of the Constitution.

The division bench, comprising Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice Ramachandra D. Huddar, made the observation while overturning an order by a single judge bench. The single judge had directed the City Municipal Council of Channapatna to extend the lease of a shop allocated to the disabled individual from the stipulated 12 years to 20 years. The division bench, however, emphasised that the single judge had overstepped by extending the lease period, stating, "No writ can be issued in derogation of law. Writ Courts in the guise of doing justice cannot transcend the barriers of law."

The court further said “The learned Single Judge could not have lightly construed such an instrument of law to the prejudice of public interest and conversely to the advantage of a private citizen…Obviously, they cannot arrogate to themselves the extraordinary power vested in the Apex Court of the country under Article 142 of the Constitution. After all, we are Judges and therefore, cannot act like mughals of bygone era. More is not necessary to specify.”

The case originated when the Council issued a notification in September 2009 for the lease of certain shopping premises via auction. Siddaramu, who had an 80% locomotor disability, was allocated a shop under the erstwhile Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, read with the Karnataka Rules, 2003, later re-enacted as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The lease was for 12 years, with a forfeiture clause for non-compliance. Siddaramu's challenge to this lease period was initially upheld, extending the lease to 20 years. However, Siddaramu passed away during the appeal process, and his widow continued to oppose the appellate proceedings.

The bench clarified that the shop allotment was not a public auction but a statutory order due to Siddaramu’s disability. It held that such allotments are not inheritable, stating, “Allotment of the kind comes to an end either by efflux of time or by death of the allottee, whichever is earlier.”

The court also highlighted that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules 2017 do not protect the dependents of a deceased disabled person. It rejected the contention that the allottee was equivalent to auctioneers with 20-year leases, noting the clear differences in the modes of allotment.

However, acknowledging the hardship that immediate eviction would cause, the court granted a temporary reprieve to Siddaramu’s widow, allowing her to stay in the shop until December 31, 2024, to facilitate relocation. The court said “Some reasonable period to vacate the shop premises needs to be granted so that business can be shifted to some other place,” while directing the Municipality to consider her request for a license with leniency to aid this transition.

Moreover, the court held “A lease being a matter of contract, Courts cannot rewrite the same, in the absence of statutory enablement, kind of which avail in Labour Legislations. That being the position, impugned order of the learned Single Judge directing extension of the lease tenure suffers from legal infirmity and therefore, is liable to be voided.”

Consequently, the single bench order was set aside, and the widow was allowed to occupy the shop until the end of 2024, subject to the usual conditions.


Cause Title: City Municipal Council, Channapatna, Ramanagar District v Siddaramu @ Ramu [WA NO.1983 OF 2016 (LA-RES)]