The importance of pleading in a legal proceeding, particularly in a writ petition, cannot be overstated. It is true that if facts on which a party wants to rely are not properly articulated, it has the effect of taking the other side by surprise. But law also recognizes an exception to this rule in respect of an issue relating to a point of law. The reason for making a departure for such issues based on pure questions of law is not very far to seek. When a party to a proceeding makes a factual statement that has either to be controverted or admitted or otherwise dealt with by the opposite side. In either case facts involved in a case do not emerge on their own nor can they be taken cognizance of unless specially pleaded.
But a point of law emerges from the facts pleaded. A court can also take into cognizance legal issues arising out of the factual conspectus of the case without necessarily requiring the parties to plead the same separately. The consistent judicial pronouncements on the issue make it clear that even without a formal pleading, a point of law can be taken into cognizance and adjudicated upon by a court if no denial on fact is necessary. A party is not entitled to rely on a point of law, he can also take it even before the highest court for the first time. A pure question of law can be urged at any point of time before any forum provided it does not require any further adjudication of any disputed fact.
Hon’ble Apex Court in State of Madras v. K.M. Rajagopalan, AIR 1955 SC 817, had recognized this principle decades ago. Since then there has not been any deviation from this axiomatic principle. In Ariane Orgachem Private Ltd. v. Wyeth Employees Union, 2015 (145) FLR 985, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that a pure question of law for which no enquiry or proof is required can be raised at any stage. In fact, in that case the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed a plea based on a point of law to be taken for the first time before the Supreme Court itself. Kolkata Municipal Corporation v. Union of India, 2018 (158) FLR 535.