(1.)These are five companion appeals form the judgement of the High Court at Orissa, delivered on five petitions filed by the respondent in each of the appeals, to obtain from the Court a writ of mandamus and / or directions under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India.
(2.)Each of the respondents alleged that between 1941 and 1947 he had agreed to take from the ruler of Keonjhar a mining lease and had entered into possession of the area. Some of the petitioners alleged that they had spent money on the development of the mines and installed machinery to work the same. It is however common ground that there was no registered lease in favour of any of the respondents before 1947. On 14th December 1947, the ruler of Keonjhar entered into a merger agreement with the Dominion of India and as from 1st January 1948 the State was merged in the Dominion of India. After singing the merger agreement , the Ruler gave registered leases on 27th December 1947 to the respondents in these appeals. In pursuance of the exercise of the powers conferred on the Government of Orissa by S. 4, Extra Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1949, read with Notification No. 172/1B dated 23rd March 1948 of the Government of India, the Government of Orissa issued a notification dated 8th June 1949 declaring inter alia, the said leases to be void and not binding on it. This annulment was made expressly on the ground that these commitments were not reasonable and bona fide. Thereafter, the respondents, along with others approached the Orissa Government to give them leases and the State Government gave them temporary permits to work the mines in November 1949. On 3rd July 1951 however they passed an order cancelling the temporary permits and directed the respondents to remove their assets appertaining to the respective mines within a fortnight. The respondents thereupon filed the petitions before the Orissa High Court praying for writs or directions in the nature of mandamus against the State of Orissa directing them to withdraw the notices dated 8th June and 3rd July 1951 and the forbear from acting upon or giving effect to the same.
(3.)The Court, after noticing the rival contentions of the parties and rejecting the contention that the State of Orissa had cancelled the permits and were attempting to take possession as an act of State, posed the question,
"whether the law of annulment relied upon by the State was applicable to the mining leases granted to the petitioners, or in the alternative, whether the State had any right in law to cancel the leases before the period mentioned therein."
Referring to the contention of the State founded on the acceptance by the respondents of the temporary permits and the estoppel arising therefrom, Ray C. J. in his judgement stated as follows :
"In determining the validity of this contention (relating to the temporary permit and estoppel arising therefrom) the circumstances under which these applications were made and the legal implications of such applications and the permissions granted under them will have to be considered. It is remote from our intention to express any opinion in this summary proceeding as to the respective merits of the rival contentions. I am however satisfied that in the context of events and in the logle of circumstances attending thereto, there is a case to be tried."
He next considered the scope of the writ of mandamus and came to the conclusion that "at the moment" the respondents had no alternative legal remedy, equally convenient, beneficial and effectual because the respondents could not file a suit till after the expiry of the period of sixty days required for the purpose under S. 80, Civil P. C., and he thought that unless protected by the Court in the meanwhile the respondents would undergo irreparable and irremediable loss of possession of the mining leases involving a huge waste of labout, machinery and other resources of equipments of immense value hardly capable of being remedied by payments of money as compensation. The Bench therefore passed an order dated 2nd August 1951 as follows :
"We direct that till three months today or one week after the institution of their (respondents) contemplated suit, whichever is earlier, the Government of the State of Orissa should refrain from disturbing the petitioner's possession over the mining areas in question and that thereafter this order will cease to have effect."
They gave further directions as to how the mines were to be worked during the aforesaid period. Towards the end of the judgement, it was stated :
"In the result, the petitions are allowed in part to the limited extent indicated above." Narasimham J. agreed with the order set out in the judgement of the Chief Justice although his judgement shows the concurrence to be very halting. He stated that although he was reluctant to exercise the powers under Art. 226 because the present respondents could file a suit but as in view of S. 80, Civil P. C., there would be an unavoidable delay resulting in irreparable loss to the respondents he agreed that the order should be passed as mentioned in the judgement of the Chief Justice. Towards the end of his judgement he stated as follows:
"It should however be clearly emphasized that the observations contained in this judgement should not be taken as pre-judging any question which may arise for the consideration of the Civil Court in the event of the petitioners filing a regular suit and seeking interim relief from that Court by way of temporary injunction, appointment of Receiver or otherwise. If such an application is made, the questions as to whether the petitioners have a prima facie case for trial or whether such a suit is maintainable or whether the balance of convenience requires that they should be permitted to remain in possession of the leasehold property till the termination of the suit and other allied matters should all be dealt by the Court concerned without being influenced in any way by the observations contained in this judgement. Those observations have been made for the limited purpose of granting temporary relief under Art. 226 and are not intended to embarrass either party or the Court in future litigation."