Article 227 of the Indian Constitution is a supervisory provision that allows the High Court to exercise revisional powers over subordinate courts, among other powers, and subject to such restrictions as discussed hereunder.
The section to be discussed is as reproduced hereunder:
Power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court –
(I) Every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories concerning which it exercises jurisdiction.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the preceding provision, the High Court may-
(a) call for returns from such courts;
(b) make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts, and
(c) prescribe forms in which the officers of any such courts shall keep books entries and accounts.
(3) The High Court may also settle tables of fees to be allowed to the sheriff and all clerks and officers of such courts and to attorneys, advocates and pleaders practising therein:
Provided that any rules made, forms prescribed or tables settled under clause (2) or clause (3) shall not be inconsistent with the provision of any law for the time being in force and shall require the previous approval of the Governor.
(4) Nothing in this article shall be deemed to confer on a High Court powers of superintendence over any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.
- Important things to note in Article 227(1) is that every High Court shall exercise control over subordinate courts and tribunals in the territory it has jurisdiction over.
- Article 227(2) & Article 227(3) extends the supervisory role of the High Court without affecting the power conferred under Article 227(1). Both sub-sections state that High court may call for returns, make and issue rules and specify forms for regulating the way the courts conduct their proceedings and practice, it may also prescribe how the book entries and accounts will be kept by the officers of any of these subordinate courts. In addition to this, the High Court under Article 227 may also decide upon the fees payable to such personnel such as sheriffs, clerks, and officers of the court, along with attorneys and pleaders practising at the court.
- The exception to the provisions set out in the three sub-sections of the Article is laid down under the sub-section (4) of Article 227. It states that no matter how wide the scope of supervision conferred by the provision on the High Courts, it shall not extend to the supervision of courts or tribunals set up under a law relating to the armed forces.
- A proviso- clause has also been laid down under sub-section (3) of Article 227 which states that any forms or rules prescribed or table of fees settled by the High Court will be subject to the prior approval of the Governor. This assumes a rather peculiar state of affairs from the viewpoint of the separation of powers theory. The proviso clause also states that the power so conferred under sub-section (2) and (3) of Article 227 shall be subject to any laws on the matter already in force, i.e., such powers should not be inconsistent with the common laws.
- The exciting bit about the section is that is initiated suo moto. It can also be initiated by any person having sufficient locus standi. In the case of invoking revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227, the person can be anyone likely to be affected by the impugned order. Even if there is no present interest in the property or the subject matter locus standi can be satisfied (Sarada v. Shakuntala, AIR 1991 AP 20). In the case of a public injury, even a neighbour is allowed to invoke the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution.
- Most importantly, with regards to the provisions, however, is the cases wherein it can be invoked. The provision doesn’t grant unlimited power; on the contrary, it is limited in scope by precedents. The ground of invoking the provision has been specified to be: lack of jurisdiction, perverse findings, and gross violations of natural justice and so on.
- In Umaji v. Radlikabai (AIR 1988 SC 1272) the West Bengal Act no. 25 of 1988 inserted a clause that the District Court shall exercise revisional jurisdiction in the Code of Civil of Procedure, 1908. It went onto append that further revision “by the High Court or any other court” is barred. This is prima facie beyond the scope of legality. The Supreme Court bench also shared this view that that is void because no provision can do away with the constitutional provision of superintendence conferred on the High Court.
- In the above case, it was also further elaborated the instances where the High Court can intervene under Article 227. It stated that the High Court doesn’t have unlimited powers to correct all species of hardship or wrong decisions made within its jurisdiction. It need only intervene where there is an error apparent on the face of the record; where findings are perverse, or not based on any material whatsoever; or where a conclusion arrived at is such that no reasonable tribunal possibly could have come to, or findings have manifested in injustice.
Article 227 of the Indian Constitution confers supervisory powers on the High Court over all the inferior courts. The supervisory power manifests itself in the form of being able to revise decisions of courts or tribunals in its jurisdiction. Such powers of revision are subject to such restrictions as laid down in the law and evolved through judicial decisions as hereinbefore mentioned.