Appellate Officer under Section 9 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 is not a persona designate but a pre-existing judicial authority

Supreme Court: Deciding the question as to whether the order passed by the City Civil Court in exercise of power under Section 9 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971, as an Appellate Officer, is in the capacity of a Civil Court or persona designate, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, JJ held:

“the Appellate Officer while exercising power under Section 9 of the 1971 Act, does not act as a persona designata but in his capacity as a pre-existing judicial authority in the district (being a District Judge or judicial officer possessing essential qualification designated by the District Judge).”

It was said that being part of the district judiciary, the judge acts as a Court and the order passed by him will be an order of the Subordinate Court against which remedy under Article 227 of the Constitution of India can be availed on the matters delineated for exercise of such jurisdiction.

Explaining the provision under Section 9 f the Act, the Court said:

“when the Appellate Officer is either the District Judge of the district or any another judicial officer in that district possessing necessary qualification, who could be designated by the District Judge, the question of such investiture of power of an appellate authority in the District Judge or Designated Judge would, by no standards, acquire the colour or for that matter trappings of persona designate.

Explaining further, the Court said that the District Judge or Principal Judge exercises judicial power of the State and is an authority having its own hierarchy of superior and inferior Courts, the law of procedure according to which it would dispose of matters coming before it depending on its nature and jurisdiction exercised by it, acting in judicial manner. Hence, the District Judge/Principal Judge of the City Civil Court and other judicial officers of these Courts possessing necessary qualifications constitute a class and cannot be considered as persona designata. The Appellate Officer, therefore, has to function as a Court and his decision is final in terms of Section 10 of 1971 Act. The Bench said:

“The legislative intent behind providing an appeal under Section 9 before the Appellate Officer to be the District Judge of the concerned District  Court in which the public premises are situated or such other judicial officer in that district possessing necessary qualification to be designated by the District Judge for that purpose, is indicative of the fact that the power to be exercised by the Appellate Officer is not in his capacity as persona designata but as a judicial officer of the pre-existing Court.”

[Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Nandini J. Shah, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 142, decided on 20.02.2018]

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