HDFC BANK LTD. & ORS. VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS.

HDFC BANK LTD. & ORS. VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS.

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL/ APPELLATE JURISDICTION 
I.A. No.68597 of 2021 AND I.A. No. 51632 of 2022 
IN &
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.1159 OF 2019
HDFC BANK LTD. & ORS.      ...PETITIONER (S)
VERSUS
UNION OF INDIA & ORS.  ...RESPONDENT (S)
WITH 
I.A. No.54521 of 2022
IN &
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.683 OF 2021
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 1469 OF 2019
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.690 OF 2021
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.709 OF 2021
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.768 OF 2021
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.765 OF 2021
SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.14343 OF 2022
O R D E R
1
B.R. GAVAI, J.
1. For the reasons stated in I.A. No.68597 of 2021 in Writ
Petition (Civil) No.1159 of 2019 for Impleadment, the same is
allowed. 
2. This   batch   of   writ   petitions   has   been   filed   by   various
Banks   including   private   banks,   inter   alia,   challenging   the
action   of   the   respondent­Reserve   Bank   of   India   (hereinafter
referred to as “RBI”) in directing disclosure of confidential and
sensitive information pertaining to their affairs, their employees
and their customers under the Right to Information Act, 2005
(hereinafter   referred   to   as   “the   RTI   Act”),   which,   in   their
submission, is otherwise exempt under Section 8 thereof.   
3. We are treating Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1159 of 2019 as
the lead matter. 
4. Interlocutory Applications being I.A. No. 51632 of 2022 in
Writ Petition (Civil) No.1159 of 2019 and I.A. No.54521 of 2022
in Writ Petition (Civil) No.683 of 2021 have been filed by the
2
applicant­Girish   Mittal,   thereby   seeking   dismissal   of   the
present writ petitions. 
5. It is the contention of the applicant that the present writ
petitions, in effect, are challenging the final judgment and order
dated 16th December 2015, passed by this Court in the case of
Reserve Bank of India vs. Jayantilal N. Mistry1
 and hence
the same is not maintainable and is liable to be dismissed.  
6. We have heard Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel
appearing   on   behalf   of   the   applicant­Girish   Mittal   and   Mr.
Rakesh Dwivedi, Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Mr. Dushyant Dave, Mr.
Jaideep   Gupta,   and   Mr.   K.V.   Viswanathan,   learned   Senior
Counsels and Mr. Divyanshu Sahay, learned counsel appearing
on behalf of the writ petitioners/Banks. 
7. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel, submitted that
the issue which is sought to  be raised in  the present writ
petitions has already been put to rest by a judgment of this
court in the case of Jayantilal N. Mistry (supra).  It is further
1 (2016) 3 SCC 525
3
submitted that this Court, in the case of  Girish  Mittal   vs.
Parvati  V.  Sundaram  and  another2
, while holding that the
RBI   has   committed   contempt   of   this   Court   by   exempting
disclosure of material that was directed to be given by this
Court, has also held that the RBI was duty bound to furnish all
information relating to inspection reports and other materials.  
8. Mr. Prashant Bhushan relies on the judgment of a NineJudge Bench of this Court in the case of  Naresh  Shridhar
Mirajkar and others vs. State of Maharashtra and Anr.3
 in
support of his proposition that a judicial decision cannot be
corrected by this Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under
Article 32 of the Constitution of India.   He also relied on the
judgment of a Seven­Judge Bench of this Court in the case of
A.R.  Antulay  vs.  R.S.  Nayak  and  another4
  to contend that
the judicial proceedings in this Court are not subject to the writ
jurisdiction thereof.
2 (2019) 20 SCC 747 = Contempt Petition (C) No. 928 of 2016 in Transfer Case (C) No.
95 of 2015, decided on 26th April 2019
3 (1966) 3 SCR 744
4 (1988) 2 SCC 602
4
9. Mr. Prashant Bhushan further submitted that this Court
in the case of Anil Kumar Barat vs. Secretary, Indian Tea
Association and others5 has also held that the validity of an
order passed by this Court itself cannot be subject to writ
jurisdiction of this Court.  
10. Mr. Bhushan also relied on the judgments of a ThreeJudge Bench of this Court in the cases of Khoday Distilleries
Ltd. and another vs. Registrar General, Supreme Court of
India6
,  Mohd.   Aslam   vs.   Union   of   India  and   others7 and
Union   of   India   and   others   vs.   Major   S.P.   Sharma   and
others8
 and the judgment of a Five­Judge Bench of this Court
in   the   case   of  Rupa   Ashok   Hurra   vs.   Ashok   Hurra   and
another9
 to buttress his submissions.
11. Mr.   Bhushan   further   submitted   that   in   the   case   of
Jayantilal   N.   Mistry (supra),   several   Miscellaneous
5 (2001) 5 SCC 42
6 (1996) 3 SCC 114
7 (1996) 2 SCC 749
8 (2014) 6 SCC 351
9 (2002) 4 SCC 388
5
Applications were filed on behalf of the Banks for impleadment.
As such, the judgment delivered in the case of Jayantilal N.
Mistry (supra)  is   after   consideration   of   rival   submissions,
which now cannot be reopened.  He further submitted that this
Court by order dated 28th April 2021, passed in M.A. No.2342 of
2019   in   Transferred   Case   (Civil)   No.91   of   2015   and   other
connected matters has specifically rejected the prayer filed by
the Banks (writ petitioners herein) for recall of the judgment
dated 16th December 2015 passed by this Court in the case of
Jayantilal  N.  Mistry (supra), and as such, the present writ
petitions are liable to be dismissed.  
12. Per   contra,   the   learned   Senior   Counsels   appearing   on
behalf of the writ petitioners/Banks submit that though  M.A.
No.2342 of 2019 in Transferred Case (Civil) No.91 of 2015 and
other connected matters were rejected by this Court by order
dated 28th April 2021, this Court clarified that the dismissal of
those   applications   shall   not   prevent   the   applicant­Banks
therein to pursue other remedies available to them in law. It is
6
thus submitted that the said order would not come in the way
of the present petitioners in filing the present petitions. 
13. It is submitted that Section 11 of the RTI Act provides that
when any information relating to third party has been sought, a
written notice is required to be given to such third party of the
request,   by   the   Central   Public   Information   Officer   or   State
Public   Information   Officer,   as   the   case   may   be,   and   the
submissions by such third party are required to be taken into
consideration while taking a decision about the disclosure of
the information. Reliance in this respect has been placed on the
judgment   of   this   Court   in   the   case   of  Chief   Information
Commissioner vs. High Court of Gujarat and another10
.   It
is   submitted   that   this   Court   in   the   case   of  Jayantilal   N.
Mistry (supra) has not taken into consideration this aspect of
the matter.  
14. It   is   further   submitted   on   behalf   of   the   writ
petitioners/Banks that the right to privacy has been said to be
10 (2020) 4 SCC 702
7
as   implicit   fundamental   right   by   a   Five­Judge   Constitution
Bench of this Court in the case of Supreme Court Advocateson­Record Association and another vs. Union of India11
. It
is submitted that the said view is also reiterated by a NineJudge Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of  K.S.
Puttaswamy  and  another  vs  Union  of   India  and  others12
,
which has explicitly and categorically recognised the right to
privacy as a fundamental right.   
15. Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, learned Senior Counsel, relied on the
judgment of this Court in the case of A.R. Antulay  (supra)  in
support of the proposition that no man should suffer because
of the mistake of the Court.     He submits that the rules of
procedure are the handmaidens of justice and not the mistress
of justice.   He relies on the maxim “ex debito justitiae”.   He
further relies on the judgment of this Court in the case of
Sanjay   Singh   and   another   vs.   U.P.   Public   Service
11 (2016) 5 SCC 1
12 (2017) 10 SCC 1
8
Commission,   Allahabad   and   another13 in   support   of   the
submission that the petition would be tenable.  
16. Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, learned Senior Counsel, submitted
that the petitioners herein are private banks and not a public
authority   as   defined   under   the   RTI   Act.     He   relies   on   the
judgment of this Court in the case of  Thalappalam  Service
Cooperative Bank Limited and others vs. State of Kerala
and   others14 in   that   regard.     He   submitted   that   RBI’s
Inspection   Reports   in   respect   of   the inspection   carried   out
under Section 35 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 are so
confidential that they cannot even be provided to the Directors
individually.  He relies on the communication issued by the RBI
to all the Banks dated 14th March 1998 in this regard.  
17. Mr. Rohatgi further submitted that an earlier policy as
notified by the RBI on  30th  June 1992  was in tune with the
provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act, the provisions of the
Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (hereinafter referred to as “the
13 (2007) 3 SCC 720
14 (2013) 16 SCC 82
9
RBI Act”) and the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. However, in
view of the judgment of this Court in the case of Girish Mittal
(supra), the RBI has modified the policy into a one­line policy,
providing therein that the disclosure of information was to be in
accordance   with   the   judgment   and   order   of   this   Court   in
Girish  Mittal  (supra).     Mr. Rohatgi, learned Senior Counsel
relied on the  judgment  of  this Court  in the  case of  Bihar
Public Service Commission vs. Saiyed Hussain Abbas Rizwi
and another15 in support of his submission that the Court will
have to strike a balance between public interest and private
interest.   He also relies on the judgment of this Court in the
case   of  Girish   Ramchandra   Deshpande   vs.   Central
Information   Commissioner   and   others16 to   contend   that
personal information cannot be directed to be disclosed unless
outweighing public interest demands it to be done.  
18. Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, learned Senior Counsel submits
that HDFC Bank, Kotak Bank and Bandhan Bank were not
15 (2012) 13 SCC 61
16 (2013) 1 SCC 212
10
parties   in   the   case   of  Jayantilal   N.   Mistry (supra).     He
submits   that   sub­Section   (5)   of   Section   35   of   the   Banking
Regulation Act, 1949 provides a specific procedure as to in
what manner the inspection report would be published.   He
submits that when a special Act provides a particular manner
for disclosure of an information, it will have an overriding effect
over the RTI Act. The learned Senior Counsel submits that the
said provisions were not noticed in the case of Jayantilal N.
Mistry (supra).
19. Mr. Jaideep Gupta, learned Senior Counsel submitted that
this Court in the case of Jayantilal N. Mistry (supra) has not
taken   into   consideration   the   provisions   of   the   Credit
Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005.  
20. Mr. Dushyant Dave, learned Senior Counsel, submitted
that   Section   45NB   of   the   RBI   Act   emphasizes   on   the
confidentiality   of   certain   information   with   regard   to   nonbanking companies.  He submits that sub­section (4) of Section
45NB of the RBI Act, which is a non­obstante clause, provides
11
that, notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the
time being in force, no court or tribunal or other authority shall
compel   the   Bank   to   produce   or   to   give   inspection   of   any
statement or other material obtained by the Bank under any
provisions of this Chapter. He submits that this provision has
not been noticed in the case of Jayantilal N. Mistry (supra).
21. It is submitted on behalf of all the writ petitioners/Banks
that what is under challenge is the action of the RBI compelling
the petitioners to disclose certain information which itself is
exempted under the provisions of the RBI Act.  It is submitted
that various other special enactments specifically prohibit such
information to be disclosed.  It is submitted that since the RBI’s
directions are issued in pursuance to the judgments of this
Court in the cases of Jayantilal N. Mistry (supra) and Girish
Mittal (supra), the petitioners cannot approach the High Court
and the only remedy that is available to the petitioners is by
way of the present writ petitions.   It is submitted by learned
Senior   Counsels   appearing   on   behalf   of   the   writ
12
petitioners/Banks   that   this   Court   in  Jayantilal   N.   Mistry
(supra) does not notice the judgment of this Court in the case
of  Supreme   Court   Advocates­on­Record   Association   and
another  (supra).    The judgment of this Court in the case of
Supreme   Court   Advocates­on­Record   Association   and
another (supra)  was rendered on 16th October 2015, whereas
the judgment of this Court in the case of Jayantilal N. Mistry
(supra)  was rendered on 16th  December 2015.   It is further
submitted that, in view of the judgment of the Constitution
Bench consisting of Nine Hon’ble Judges in the case of  K.S.
Puttaswamy and another (supra) clearly recognizing the right
to privacy as a fundamental right, the law laid down by this
Court   in   the   case   of  Jayantilal   N.   Mistry (supra)  to   the
contrary   is   no   more   a   good   law   and,   therefore,   requires
reconsideration by a larger Bench.
22. In the case of  Naresh   Shridhar  Mirajkar  and   others
(supra),  a Nine­Judge Constitution Bench of this Court was
considering as to whether an order passed by the High Court
13
on original side in the proceedings before it could be challenged
under   Article   32   of   the   Constitution   for   enforcement   of
fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), (d) and
(g) of the Constitution of India.  It will be relevant to refer to the
following observations of this Court in the said case:
“The basis of Mr Setalvad's argument is that
the impugned order is not an order interpartes, as it affects the fundamental rights of
the strangers to the litigation, and that the
said order is without jurisdiction.  We  have
already   held   that   the   impugned   order
cannot be said to affect the fundamental
rights of the petitioners and that though
it is not inter­partes in the sense that it
affects   strangers   to   the   proceedings,   it
has   been   passed   by   the   High   Court   in
relation to a matter pending before it for
its  adjudication  and  as  such,   like  other
judicial orders passed by the High Court
in   proceedings   pending   before   it,   the
correctness of the impugned order can be
challenged   only   by   appeal   and   not   by
writ   proceedings.  We have also held that
the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to
pass such an order.
But apart from this aspect of the matter,
we think it would be inappropriate to allow
the petitioners to raise the question about
the jurisdiction of the High Court to pass the
impugned order in proceedings under Article
14
32   which   seek   for   the   issue   of   a   writ   of
certiorari   to   correct   the   said   order.   If
questions about the jurisdiction of superior
courts of plenary jurisdiction to pass orders
like the impugned order are allowed to be
canvassed in writ proceedings under Article
32, logically, it would be difficult to make a
valid distinction between the orders passed
by the High Courts inter­partes, and those
which are not inter­partes in the sense that
they   bind   strangers   to   the   proceedings.
Therefore, in our opinion, having regard to
the fact that the impugned order has been
passed by a superior court of record in the
exercise of its inherent powers, the question
about the existence of the said jurisdiction as
well as the validity or propriety of the order
cannot be raised in writ proceedings taken
out by the petitioners for the issue of a writ
of certiorari under Article 32.”
[emphasis supplied]
23. It could thus be seen that the Nine­Judge Bench of this
Court,  speaking   through   P.B.   Gajendragadkar,   CJ.,
categorically held that the impugned orders could not affect the
fundamental rights of the petitioners.  It has further been held
that since the order was passed in the proceedings pending
before the High Court, the correctness of the impugned order
could   be   challenged   only   by   appeal   and   not   by   writ
proceedings.  It has been further held that, having regard to the
15
fact that the order had been passed by a superior court of
record in the exercise of its inherent powers, the question about
the existence of the said jurisdiction as well as the validity or
propriety of the order could not be raised in writ proceedings
taken out by the petitioners for the issue of a writ of certiorari
under Article 32.  This Court further observed thus:
“We are, therefore, satisfied that so far as
the jurisdiction of this Court to issue writs
of certiorari is concerned, it is impossible to
accept the argument of the petitioners that
judicial orders passed by High Courts in or
in   relation   to   proceedings   pending   before
them,   are   amenable   to   be   corrected   by
exercise of the said jurisdiction.  We   have
no doubt that it would be unreasonable
to attempt to rationalise the assumption
of   jurisdiction   by   this   Court   under
Article 32 to correct such judicial orders
on   the   fanciful   hypothesis   that   High
Courts  may  pass  extravagant  orders   in
or in relation to matters pending before
them   and   that   a   remedy   by   way   of   a
writ   of   certiorari   should,   therefore,   be
sought for and be deemed to be included
within the scope of Article 32. The words
used in Article 32 are no doubt wide; but
having regard to the considerations which
we   have   set   out   in   the   course   of   this
judgment,   we   are   satisfied   that   the
impugned order cannot be brought within
16
the   scope   of   this   Court's   jurisdiction   to
issue a writ of certiorari under Article 32; to
hold otherwise would be repugnant to the
well­recognised limitations within which the
jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari can
be   exercised   and   inconsistent   with   the
uniform trend of this Court's decisions in
relation to the said point.”
[emphasis supplied]
24. It could thus be seen that this Court held that it would be
unreasonable to hold that this Court, under Article 32, could
correct the judicial orders on the fanciful hypothesis that High
Courts may pass extravagant orders in or in relation to matters
pending before them and therefore this Court can correct the
same by issuance of a writ of certiorari under Article 32.  This
Court held that though the words used in Article 32 are wide,
the order impugned before it could not be brought within the
scope of this Court’s jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari
under Article 32. 
25.    Insofar as the judgment of this Court in the case of
Khoday Distilleries Ltd. and another  (supra), on which Mr.
Prashant Bhushan placed reliance, is concerned, this Court in
17
the   said   case   was   considering   therein   a   challenge   to   the
correctness of the decision on merits after the appeal as well as
review petition were dismissed.  
26. In the case of Mohd. Aslam (supra),  this Court held that
Article 32 of the Constitution was not available to assail the
correctness of a decision on merits or to claim reconsideration.
It, however, considered the contention raised on behalf of the
petitioners that the judgment in the case of Manohar Joshi vs.
Nitin Bhaurao  Patil  and another17 was in conflict with the
Constitution Bench judgement of this Court in the case of S.R.
Bommai and others vs. Union of India and others18
.   This
Court after considering the submissions found that the opinion
so expressed was misplaced. 
27. Insofar as the judgment of this Court in the case of Major
S.P.   Sharma   and   others   (supra)  is concerned, in the said
case, the first round of litigation arising out of termination of
respondent­employee   had   reached   finality   upto   this   Court.
17 (1996) 1 SCC 169
18 (1994) 3 SCC 1
18
However, the same was sought to be reopened by filing another
writ petition before the High Court.   In this background, this
Court observed thus:
“90. Violation   of   fundamental   rights
guaranteed under the Constitution have to be
protected, but at the same time, it is the duty
of   the   court   to   ensure   that   the   decisions
rendered   by   the   court   are   not   overturned
frequently,   that   too,   when   challenged
collaterally as that was directly affecting the
basic   structure   of   the   Constitution
incorporating the power of judicial review of
this Court. There is no doubt that this Court
has an extensive power to correct an error or
to review its decision but that cannot be done
at the cost of doctrine of finality. An issue of
law can be overruled later on, but a question
of fact or, as in the present case, the dispute
with   regard   to   the   termination   of   services
cannot be reopened once it has been finally
sealed in proceedings inter se between the
parties up to this Court way back in 1980.”
28. It could thus be seen that this court has held that when a
question   of   fact   has   reached   finality   inter   se   between   the
parties,   it   cannot   be   reopened   in   a   collateral   proceeding.
However, it has been observed that an issue of law can be
overruled later on. 
19
29. Mr. Prashant Bhushan strongly relied on the judgment of
this Court in the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra (supra).  It will be
relevant to refer to the following observations of this Court in
the judgment of Quadri, J. 
“41. At one time adherence to the principle
of stare decisis was so rigidly followed in the
courts   governed   by   the   English
jurisprudence that departing from an earlier
precedent was considered heresy. With the
declaration of the practice statement by the
House of Lords, the highest court in England
was   enabled   to   depart   from   a   previous
decision   when   it   appeared   right  to   do   so.
The   next   step   forward   by   the   highest
court   to   do   justice   was   to   review   its
judgment inter   partes to   correct
injustice.   So   far   as   this   Court   is
concerned,  we  have  already  pointed  out
above   that   it   has   been   conferred   the
power to review its own judgments under
Article 137 of the Constitution. The role
of  the   judiciary  to  merely   interpret  and
declare   the   law   was   the   concept   of   a
bygone age. It is no more open to debate
as it is fairly settled that the courts can
so   mould   and   lay   down   the   law
formulating principles and guidelines as
to   adapt   and   adjust   to   the   changing
conditions   of   the   society,   the   ultimate
objective being to dispense justice. In the
recent  years  there   is  a  discernible  shift
20
in   the   approach   of   the   final   courts   in
favour  of   rendering   justice  on   the   facts
presented   before   them,   without
abrogating but bypassing the principle of
finality   of   the   judgment.  In Union   of
India v. Raghubir  Singh [(1989) 2 SCC 754]
Pathak, C.J. speaking for the Constitution
Bench aptly observed: (SCC pp. 766­67, para
10)
“10. But like all principles evolved by
man for the regulation of the social
order,   the   doctrine   of   binding
precedent   is   circumscribed   in   its
governance by perceptible limitations,
limitations arising by reference to the
need for readjustment in a changing
society,   a   readjustment   of   legal
norms demanded by a changed social
context. This need for adapting the
law   to   new   urges   in   society   brings
home   the   truth   of   the   Holmesian
aphorism that ‘the life of the law has
not been logic it has been experience’
(Oliver   Wendell   Holmes   : The
Common Law, p. 5), and again when
he declared in another study (Oliver
Wendell   Holmes   : Common   Carriers
and the Common Law, (1943) 9 Curr
LT 387, 388) that ‘the law is forever
adopting new principles from life at
one end’, and ‘sloughing off’ old ones
at   the   other.   Explaining   the
conceptual   import   of   what   Holmes
had   said,   Julius   Stone   elaborated
that it is by the introduction of new
extra­legal   propositions   emerging
21
from experience to serve as premises,
or   by   experience­guided   choice
between competing legal propositions,
rather than by the operation of logic
upon existing legal propositions, that
the   growth   of   law   tends   to   be
determined   (Julius   Stone   : Legal
Systems   &   Lawyers   Reasoning,   pp.
58­59).”
42.  The   concern   of   this   Court   for
rendering justice in a cause is not less
important than the principle of finality
of   its   judgment.   We   are   faced   with
competing   principles   —   ensuring
certainty and finality of a judgment of
the Court of last resort and dispensing
justice   on   reconsideration   of   a
judgment   on   the   ground   that   it   is
vitiated   being   in   violation   of   the
principles   of  natural   justice   or  giving
scope for apprehension of bias due to a
Judge who participated in the decisionmaking process not disclosing his links
with a party to the case, or on account
of   abuse   of   the   process   of   the   court.
Such   a   judgment,   far   from   ensuring
finality,   will   always   remain   under   the
cloud of uncertainty. Almighty alone is the
dispenser of absolute justice — a concept
which is not disputed but by a few.  We
are of the view that though Judges of
the highest court do their best, subject
of   course   to   the   limitation   of   human
fallibility, yet situations may arise, in
the   rarest   of   the   rare   cases,   which
22
would   require   reconsideration   of   a
final judgment to set right miscarriage
of   justice  complained  of.   In  such  case
it   would   not   only   be   proper   but   also
obligatory  both  legally  and  morally  to
rectify the error. After giving our anxious
consideration   to   the   question,   we   are
persuaded   to   hold   that   the   duty   to   do
justice in these rarest of rare cases shall
have to prevail over the policy of certainty
of judgment as though it is essentially in
the public interest that a final judgment of
the final court in the country should not
be   open   to   challenge,   yet   there   may   be
circumstances,   as   mentioned   above,
wherein   declining   to   reconsider   the
judgment would be oppressive to judicial
conscience and would cause perpetuation
of irremediable injustice.
xxx xxx xxx
49.  The upshot of the discussion in our
view is that this Court, to prevent abuse of
its process and to cure a gross miscarriage
of justice, may reconsider its judgments in
exercise of its inherent power.”
[emphasis supplied]
30. This Court in the aforesaid case held that the concern of
this Court for rendering justice in a cause is not less important
than the principle of finality of its judgment. The Court has to
balance ensuring certainty and finality of a judgment of the
23
Court of last resort on one hand and dispensing justice on
reconsideration of  a  judgment on  the valid  grounds  on  the
other hand.   This Court has observed that though Judges of
the highest court do their best, yet situations may arise, in the
rarest of the rare cases, which would require reconsideration of
a final judgment to set right miscarriage of justice complained
of.   It has been held that in such a case it would not only be
proper but also obligatory both legally and morally to rectify the
error.   This Court further held that to prevent abuse of its
process and to cure a gross miscarriage of justice, the Court
may reconsider its judgments in exercise of its inherent power.
31. This Court in the case of A.R. Antulay  (supra), speaking
through Sabyasachi Mukharji, J. observed thus:
“82. Lord   Cairns   in Rodger v. Comptoir
D'escompte De Paris [(1869­71) LR 3 PC 465,
475 : 17 ER 120] observed thus:
“Now,   Their   Lordships   are   of
opinion, that one of the first and
highest   duties   of   all   courts   is   to
take care that the act of the court
does no injury to any of the suitors,
and when the expression ‘the act of
24
the court’ is used, it does not mean
merely the act of the primary court,
or   of   any   intermediate   court   of
appeal, but the act of the court as a
whole, from the lowest court which
entertains   jurisdiction   over   the
matter   up   to   the   highest   court
which finally disposes of the case.
It is the duty of the aggregate of
those Tribunals, if I may use the
expression, to take care that no act
of the court in the course of the
whole of the proceedings does an
injury to the suitors in the court. 
83. This passage was quoted in the Gujarat
High Court by D.A. Desai, J., speaking for
the Gujarat High Court in Soni Vrajlal v. Soni
Jadavji [AIR 1972 Guj 148 : (1972) 13 Guj
LR 555] as mentioned before. It appears that
in giving directions on 16­2­1984, this Court
acted per incuriam inasmuch it did not bear
in mind consciously the consequences and
the  provisions  of Sections  6 and 7 of the
1952   Act   and   the   binding   nature   of   the
larger Bench  decision  in Anwar   Ali   Sarkar
case [AIR 1952 SC 75 : 1952 SCR 284 : 1952
Cri LJ 510] which was not adverted to by
this Court. The basic fundamentals of the
administration of justice are simple. No man
should suffer because of the mistake of the
court.   No   man   should   suffer   a   wrong   by
technical procedure of irregularities. Rules or
procedures are the handmaids of justice and
not   the   mistress   of   the   justice. Ex   debito
justitiae, we must do justice to him. If a man
has been wronged so long as it lies within
the human machinery of administration of
25
justice that wrong must be remedied. This is
a peculiar fact of this case which requires
emphasis.”
32. It   could   thus   be   seen   that   the   principle   of  ex   debito
justitiae  has been emphasized.   This Court held that no man
should suffer because of the mistake of the court. No man
should suffer a wrong by technical procedure of irregularities. It
has been held that the rules of procedure are the handmaidens
of justice and not the mistress of justice.  It has further been
held that if a man has been wronged, so long as the wrong lies
within the human machinery of administration of justice, that
wrong must be remedied. 
33. Ranganath Misra, J., in his concurrent opinion, observed
thus:
“102. This   being   the   apex   court,   no
litigant has any opportunity of approaching
any higher forum to question its decisions.
Lord Buckmaster in Montreal Street Railway
Co. v. Normadin [1917 AC 170] (sic) stated:
All   rules   of   court   are   nothing   but
provisions   intended   to   secure   proper
administration   of   justice.   It   is,
26
therefore, essential that they should be
made to serve and be subordinate to
that purpose.
This   Court   in State   of
Gujarat v. Ramprakash P. Puri [(1969) 3 SCC
156 : 1970 SCC (Cri) 29 : (1970) 2 SCR 875]
reiterated the position by saying [SCC p. 159
: SCC (Cri) p. 31, para 8]
Procedure has been described to be a
handmaid and not a mistress of law,
intended to subserve and facilitate the
cause of justice and not to govern or
obstruct it. Like all rules of procedure,
this rule demands a construction which
would promote this cause
Once judicial satisfaction is reached that the
direction was not open to be made and it is
accepted as a mistake of the court, it is not
only   appropriate   but   also   the   duty   of   the
court   to   rectify   the   mistake   by   exercising
inherent   powers.   Judicial   opinion   heavily
leans in favour of this view that a mistake of
the court can be corrected by the court itself
without any fetters. This is on the principle
as   indicated   in   (Alexander) Rodger
case [(1969­71) LR 3 PC 465 : 17 ER 120] . I
am of the view that in the present situation,
the court's inherent powers can be exercised
to   remedy   the   mistake.   Mahajan.,   J.
speaking   for   a   Four   Judge   Bench
27
in Keshardeo   Chamria v. Radha   Kissen
Chamria [1953 SCR 136 : AIR 1953 SC 23]
at Page 153 stated:
The judge had jurisdiction to correct his
own   error   without   entering   into   a
discussion of the grounds taken by the
decree­holder or the objections raised
by the judgment­debtors.
103. The   Privy   Council   in Debi   Bakhsh
Singh v. Habib Shah [ILR (1913) 35 All 331]
pointed out that an abuse of the process of
the court may be committed by the court or
by   a   party.   Where   a   court   employed   a
procedure in doing something which it never
intended to do and there is an abuse of the
process of the court it can be corrected. Lord
Shaw spoke for the Law Lords thus: 
Quite apart from Section 151, any court
might have rightly considered itself to
possess an inherent power to rectify the
mistake which had been inadvertently
made.
It   was   pointed   out   by   the   Privy   Council
in The Bolivar [AIR 1916 PC 85] that:
Where   substantial   injustice   would
otherwise   result,   the   Court   has,   in
Their   Lordships'   opinion,   an   inherent
power to set aside its own judgments of
condemnation so as to let in bona fide
claims by parties...
Indian   authorities   are   in   abundance   to
support the view that injustice done should
be corrected by applying the principle actus
28
curia neminem gravabit — an act of the court
should prejudice no one. 
104. To   err   is   human,   is   the   oft­quoted
saying. Courts including the apex one are no
exception.   To   own   up   the   mistake   when
judicial   satisfaction   is   reached   does   not
militatte   against   its   status   or   authority.
Perhaps it would enhance both.”
34. It has been held that this being the apex court, no litigant
has   any   opportunity   of   approaching   any   higher   forum   to
question its decisions.   It has further been held that once a
judicial satisfaction is reached that the direction was not open
to be made and it is accepted as a mistake of the court, it is not
only appropriate but also the duty of the court to rectify the
mistake by exercising its inherent powers. It has been held
that, to err is human, and the Courts including the Apex Court
are no exception.  
35. This Court in the case of  Sanjay   Singh  and  another
(supra) has observed thus:
“10. The contention of the Commission also
overlooks the fundamental difference between
challenge to the final order forming part of the
judgment and challenge to the ratio decidendi
of   the   judgment.   Broadly   speaking,   every
29
judgment   of   superior   courts   has   three
segments, namely, (i) the facts and the point at
issue; (ii) the reasons for the decision; and (iii)
the   final   order   containing   the   decision.   The
reasons for the decision or the ratio decidendi
is not the final order containing the decision.
In fact, in a judgment of this Court, though the
ratio decidendi may point to a particular result,
the decision (final order relating to relief) may
be different and not a natural consequence of
the ratio decidendi of the judgment. This may
happen either on account of any subsequent
event or the need to mould the relief to do
complete justice in the matter. It is the ratio
decidendi of a judgment and not the final order
in the judgment, which forms a precedent. The
term   “judgment”   and   “decision”   are   used,
rather loosely, to refer to the entire judgment
or the final order or the ratio decidendi of a
judgment. Rupa   Ashok   Hurra [(2002)   4   SCC
388]   is   of   course,   an   authority   for   the
proposition   that   a   petition   under   Article   32
would not be maintainable to challenge or set
aside or quash the final order contained in a
judgment of this Court. It does not lay down
a   proposition   that   the   ratio   decidendi   of
any earlier decision cannot be examined or
differed in another case. Where violation of
a fundamental right of a citizen is alleged
in a petition under Article 32, it cannot be
dismissed,   as   not   maintainable,   merely
because   it   seeks   to   distinguish   or
challenge the ratio decidendi of an earlier
judgment,   except  where   it   is   between   the
same   parties   and   in   respect   of   the   same
cause of action. Where a legal issue raised in
a   petition   under   Article   32   is   covered   by   a
30
decision of this Court, the Court may dismiss
the petition following the ratio decidendi of the
earlier decision. Such dismissal is not on the
ground of “maintainability” but on the ground
that the issue raised is not tenable, in view of
the law laid down in the earlier decision. But if
the Court is satisfied that the issue raised
in the later petition requires consideration
and   in   that   context   the   earlier   decision
requires   re­examination,   the   Court   can
certainly proceed to examine the matter (or
refer  the  matter  to  a   larger  Bench,   if  the
earlier decision is not of a smaller Bench).
When the issue is re­examined and a view is
taken different from the one taken earlier, a
new   ratio   is   laid   down.   When   the   ratio
decidendi   of   the   earlier   decision   undergoes
such   change,   the   final   order   of   the   earlier
decision   as   applicable   to   the   parties   to   the
earlier   decision,   is   in   no   way   altered   or
disturbed. Therefore, the contention that a writ
petition   under   Article   32   is   barred   or   not
maintainable with reference to an issue which
is the subject­matter of an earlier decision, is
rejected.”
[emphasis supplied]
36. After referring to the judgment of this Court in the case of
Rupa Ashok Hurra (supra),  this Court has held that it does
not lay down a proposition that the ratio decidendi of an earlier
decision cannot be examined or differed with in another case.
31
It has been held that if the Court is satisfied that the issue
raised in the later petition requires consideration and in that
context, the earlier decision requires re­examination, the Court
can certainly proceed to examine the matter or refer the matter
to a larger Bench, if the earlier decision is not of a smaller
Bench.     This   Court,   therefore,   specifically   rejected   the
contention   that   a   writ   petition   under   Article   32   of   the
Constitution was barred or not maintainable with reference to
an issue which was the subject matter of an earlier decision. 
37. In   the   present   case,   admittedly,   the   writ
petitioners/Banks were not parties in the case of Jayantilal N.
Mistry (supra). Though the Miscellaneous Applications filed by
HDFC Bank and others for recall of the judgment and order in
the case of Jayantilal N. Mistry (supra) were rejected by this
Court vide order dated 28th April 2021, this Court in the said
order specifically observed thus:
“The dismissal of these applications shall not
prevent   the   applicants   to   pursue   other
remedies available to them in law.”
32
38. It is thus clear that this Court did not foreclose the right
of the petitioners/Banks to pursue other remedies available to
them in law. 
39. In   view   of   the   judgment of   this   Court   in   the   case   of
Jayantilal   N.   Mistry (supra),   the   RBI  is   entitled   to   issue
directions to the petitioners/Banks to disclose information even
with regard to the individual customers of the Bank.  In effect,
it may adversely affect the individuals’ fundamental right to
privacy.  
40. A Nine­Judge Constitution Bench of this Court in the case
of  K.S.  Puttaswamy  and  another  (supra) has held that the
right to privacy is a fundamental right. No doubt that the right
to information is also a fundamental right.  In case of such a
conflict, the Court is required to achieve a sense of balance.  
41. A   perusal   of   the   judgments   of   this   Court   cited   supra
would reveal that it has been held that though the concept of
finality of judgment has to be preserved, at the same time, the
33
principle of ex debito justitiae cannot be given a go­bye.  If the
Court finds that the earlier judgment  does not lay down  a
correct position of law, it is always permissible for this Court to
reconsider the same and if necessary, to refer it to a larger
Bench.  
42. Without expressing any final opinion, prima facie, we find
that the judgment of this Court in the case of  Jayantilal N.
Mistry (supra)  did not take into consideration the aspect of
balancing the right to information and the right to privacy.  The
petitioners have challenged the action of the respondent­RBI,
vide which the RBI issued directions to the petitioners/Banks
to   disclose   certain   information,   which   according   to   the
petitioners is not only contrary to the provisions as contained
in the RTI Act, the RBI Act and the Banking Regulation Act,
1949, but also adversely affects the right to privacy of such
Banks   and   their   consumers.     The   RBI   has   issued   such
directions in view of the decision of this Court in the case of
Jayantilal N.  Mistry (supra)  and  Girish Mittal  (supra).   As
34
such,   the   petitioners   would   have   no   other   remedy   than   to
approach this Court.  As observed by Ranganath Misra, J. in
the case of  A.R.   Antulay  (supra)  that, this being the Apex
Court,   no   litigant   has   any   opportunity   of   approaching   any
higher   forum   to   question   its   decision.     The   only   remedy
available to the petitioners would be to approach this Court by
way of writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India
for protection of the fundamental rights of their customers, who
are citizens of India.   
43. We,   therefore,   hold   that   the   preliminary   objection   as
raised is not sustainable.   The same is rejected.  I.A. No.51632
of   2022   in   Writ   Petition   (Civil)   No.1159   of   2019   and   I.A.
No.54521 of 2022 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.683 of 2021 are
accordingly dismissed. 
…….........................J.       
[B.R. GAVAI]
…….........................J.       
[C.T. RAVIKUMAR]
NEW DELHI;
SEPTEMBER 30, 2022.
35

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