The relief being sought is the litmus test for determining the nature of a writ petition

Supreme Court: In the ‘money for change of land use’ scam involving Ram Kishan Fauji where it was alleged that no appeal lies against the order passed by the Single Judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in exercise of criminal jurisdiction, the 3-Judge Bench of Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ held that  the Letters Patent Appeal was not maintainable before the Division Bench and, consequently, the order passed therein is wholly unsustainable and, accordingly, it is set aside. The Bench, however, granted liberty to the State to assail the order of the learned Single Judge in accordance with law, as the State had been diligently agitating its grievance in a legal forum which it thought had jurisdiction.

The question for determination before the Court was that whether the learned Single Judge, in the obtaining factual matrix has exercised criminal jurisdiction or not. The Court, hence, noticed that the writ petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution for quashing of the recommendation of the Lokayukta. The said recommendation would have led to launching of criminal prosecution, and, as the factual matrix reveals, FIR was registered and criminal investigation was initiated. The learned Single Judge analysed the report and the ultimate recommendation of the statutory authority and thought it seemly to quash the same and after quashing the same, as he found that FIR had been registered, he annulled it treating the same as a natural consequence. Thus, the effort of the writ petitioner was to avoid a criminal investigation and the final order of the writ court is quashment of the registration of FIR and the subsequent investigation.

Stating that the nomenclature of a writ petition is not the governing factor but what is relevant is what is eventually being sought to be enforced, the Court held that in such a situation, to hold that the learned Single Judge, in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, has passed an order in a civil proceeding as the order that was challenged was that of the quasi-judicial authority, that is, the Lokayukta, would be conceptually fallacious.

As per the facts of the case, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Haryana in exercise of power under Section 8(1) of the Haryana Lokayukta Act, 2002 (for brevity, “the Act”) made a reference to the Lokayukta, Haryana to enquire into the allegation of bribery levelled in the alleged Compact Disc (CD) of the sting operation against the appellant are correct and whether Change of Land Use (CLU)/Licence was granted in pursuance of these allegations. The Lokayukta, hence, recommended for registration of FIR for offences punishable under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The appellant, hence, filed a Civil Writ Petition before the High Court, seeking issue of writ in the nature of certiorari for quashing of the said order. [Ram Kishan Fauji v. State of Haryana, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 259, decided on 21.03.2017]

 

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