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AN ORDER EVEN IF VOID NEEDS TO BE CHALLENGED BEFORE APPROPRIATE FORUM

In a case before The Supreme Court Of India, Krishnadevi Malchand Kamathia & ... vs Bombay Enviornmental Action ... Decided on 31 January, 2011 By bench consisting of Justice P Sathasivam, and Justice Dr B.S. Chauhan, It is settled legal proposition that even if an order is void, it requires to be so declared by a competent forum and it is not permissible for any person to ignore the same merely because in his opinion the order is void. In State of Kerala v. M.K. Kunhikannan Nambiar Manjeri Manikoth Naduvil (dead) & Ors., AIR 1996 SC 906; Tayabbhai M. Bagasarwalla & Anr. v. Hind Rubber Industries Pvt. Ltd. etc, AIR 1997 SC 1240; M. Meenakshi & Ors. v. Metadin Agarwal (dead) by L.Rs. & Ors. (2006) 7 SCC 470; and Sneh Gupta v. Devi Sarup & Ors., (2009) 6 SCC 194, this Court held that whether an order is valid or void, cannot be determined by the parties. For setting aside such an order, even if void, the party has to approach the appropriate forum. In State of Punjab & Ors. v. Gurdev Singh, Ashok Kumar, AIR 1991 SC 2219, this Court held that a party aggrieved by the invalidity of an order has to approach the court for relief of declaration that the order against him is inoperative and therefore, not binding upon him. While deciding the said case, this Court placed reliance upon the judgment in Smith v. East Ellore Rural District Council, [1956] 1 All ER 855 wherein Lord Radcliffe observed:- "An order, even if not made in good faith is still an act capable of legal consequences. It bears no brand of invalidity on its forehead. Unless the necessary proceedings are taken at law to establish the cause of invalidity and to get it quashed or otherwise upset, it will remain as effective for its ostensible purpose as the most impeccable of orders." In Sultan Sadik v. Sanjay Raj Subba & Ors., AIR 2004 SC 1377, this Court took a similar view observing that once an order is declared non-est by the Court only then the judgment of nullity would operate erga omnes i.e. for and against everyone concerned. Such a declaration is permissible if the court comes to the conclusion that the author of the order lacks inherent jurisdiction/competence and therefore, it comes to the conclusion that the order suffers from patent and latent invalidity. Thus, from the above it emerges that even if the order/notification is void/voidable, the party aggrieved by the same cannot decide that the said order/notification is not binding upon it. It has to approach the court for seeking such declaration. The order may be hypothetically a nullity and even if its invalidity is challenged before the court in a given circumstance, the court may refuse to quash the same on various grounds including the standing of the petitioner or on the ground of delay or on the doctrine of waiver or any other legal reason. The order may be void for one purpose or for one person, it may not be so for another purpose or another person.

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