The powers of the first appellate Court, while deciding the first appeal under Section 96 read with Order XLI Rule 31 of the Code, are indeed well defined by various judicial pronouncements of Supreme Court and are, therefore, no more res integra.
Scope & Powers of the First Appellate Court
Apex Court in a number of cases while affirming and then reiterating the aforesaid principle has laid down the scope and powers of the first appellate Court under Section 96 of the Code.
1. Shasidhar & Others Vs. Smt. Ashwini Uma Mathad & Anr. dated 13.01.2015
Being the first appellate Court, it was, therefore, the duty of the High Court to decide the first appeal keeping in view the scope and powers conferred on it under Section 96 read with Order XLI Rule 31 of the Code. It was unfortunately not done, thereby, causing prejudice to the appellants whose valuable right to prosecute the first appeal on facts and law was adversely affected which, in turn, deprived them of a hearing in the appeal in accordance with law.
2. Kurian Chacko vs. Varkey Ouseph, AIR 1969 Kerala 316
As far back in 1969, the learned Judge – V.R. Krishna Iyer, J (as His Lordship then was the judge of Kerala High Court) while deciding the first appeal under Section 96 of the CPC reminded the first appellate Court of its duty as to how the first appeal under Section 96 should be decided. In his distinctive style of writing and subtle power of expression, the learned judge held as under:
An appellate court is the final Court of fact ordinarily and therefore a litigant is entitled to a full and fair and independent consideration of the evidence at the appellate stage. Anything less than this is unjust to him.
3. Santosh Hazari vs. Purushottam Tiwari (Deceased) by L.Rs. (2001) 3 SCC 179
The appellate court has jurisdiction to reverse or affirm the findings of the trial court. First appeal is a valuable right of the parties and unless restricted by law, the whole case is therein open for rehearing both on questions of fact and law. The judgment of the appellate court must, therefore, reflect its conscious application of mind and record findings supported by reasons, on all the issues arising along with the contentions put forth, and pressed by the parties for decision of the appellate court. While reversing a finding of fact the appellate court must come into close quarters with the reasoning assigned by the trial court and then assign its own reasons for arriving at a different finding. This would satisfy the court hearing a further appeal that the first appellate court had discharged the duty expected of it.
4. Madhukar & Ors. v. Sangram & Ors.,(2001) 4 SCC 756
Sitting as a court of first appeal, it is the duty of the High Court to deal with all the issues and the evidence led by the parties before recording its findings.
5. H.K.N. Swami v. Irshad Basith, (2005)10 SCC 243
The first appeal has to be decided on facts as well as on law. In the first appeal parties have the right to be heard both on questions of law as also on facts and the first appellate court is required to address itself to all issues and decide the case by giving reasons. Unfortunately, the High Court, in the present case has not recorded any finding either on facts or on law.
6. Jagannath v. Arulappa & Anr., (2005) 12 SCC 303
A court of first appeal can reappreciate the entire evidence and come to a different conclusion.
7. B.V Nagesh & Anr. vs. H.V. Sreenivasa Murthy, (2010) 13 SCC 530
Order 41 CPC deals with appeals from original decrees. Among the various rules, Rule 31 mandates that the judgment of the appellate court shall state: (a) the points for determination; (b) the decision thereon; (c) the reasons for the decision; and (d) where the decree appealed from is reversed or varied, the relief to which the appellant is entitled.
The aforementioned cases were relied upon by Apex Court while reiterating the same principle in State Bank of India & Anr. vs. Emmsons International Ltd. & Anr., (2011) 12 SCC 174. Apex Court has recently taken the same view on similar facts arising in Vinod Kumar vs. Gangadhar, 2014 (12) Scale 171.