1. The facts of this litigation are few and simple. Vachha and Co., the 1st respondents in this proposed appeal, were engaged as Attorneys by one lady Bai Hamida Begum alias Kishori Sheikh Alladatta, a Pakistani national, at present residing at Karachi in Pakistan. The present appellant Jag-dish Krishna Kapur was the power of attorney holder of this lady. The lady had filed two writ petitions on the Original Side of the High Court for which Vachha & Co. were engaged as Advocates and Solicitors. All the instructions were given from time to time by the present appellant Jagdish. In a contract made with the Solicitors' firm Bai Hamida Bagum was undoubtedly liable to pay all the costs and charges of the firm. In addition, the appellant also agreed personally to pay all the costs and charges of the firm.
2. After the litigation ended, the Taxing Master was approached by the respondents for preparation of their bill of costs. Throughout the proceedings, the present appellant was kept informed, but he never participated. As a result, the Taxing Master prepared the bill. Two heardes were issued. When the question of recovery arose, the appellant whowas still contacted by the respondents advised the respondents to approach the Custodian of Enemy Property. He wrote to the respondents that the Custodian held considerable amount of money he-longing to the lady and the recovery be tried at that end. It appears that Vachha and Co. either failed to recover anything or did not bother to recover from the Custodian.
3. The respondents then took out a chamber summons addressed to the appellant himself. This chamber summons was served upon the appellant as early as April 1978. It appears that on an earlier occasion he got some time, but ultimately on the 16th of June 1978 when the chamber summons was called out for hearing, the appellant was personally present. He says that he asked for time. But the minutes of the order recorded do not indicate that any such prayer was made. From the minutes it appears that in due course, after hearing the parties, the learned single Judge made the chamber summons absolute in terms of prayer (a). On the basis of this order, recovery of the bill of costs is being made against the appellant personally. Hence, he has filed this appeal.
4. We have not permitted the learned Counsel for the appellant to argue the merits of the matter. There was an office note that the appeal was barred by time. Both the parties are heard only with respect to the question of limitation. The brief facts for finding out the limitation are these: The order making the chamber summons absolute is dated 16-6-1978. The appellant applied for certified copies of the judgment and the order on 21-7-1978. He has filed a petition for leave to appeal on August 16, 1978. When that was done, the office raised an objection that the appeal is barred by limitation. Hence, the matter has been placed before the Court after notice to either side for considering the question of limitation. A Notice of Motion for condoning delay, if any, has also been taken out by the appellant. The Motion is opposed.
5. Two points really arise for our consideration. One is whether there is delay at all and the second is whether the delay is explained if there is delay. Dealing with the second point first, it would appear that no sufficient cause is being shown at all by the appellant why he could not act in time. Though the order was passed on 16th June 1978 in his presence in the court, he feigns ignorance asto what order was passed by the Court. However, it appears that there was prior correspondence between the parties. The appellant informs the respondents by letter dated the 8th of June 1978 that the appellant was merely a constituted attorney, they should press their claim with the Custodian who is holding large amount on behalf of Hamida Begum. He also tells them that since the respondents were unsuccessful in effecting recoveries from the Custodian, they seem to have filed the present proceedings against the appellant. With the full knowledge of the chamber summons, it is impossible to believe that he could not understand the order that was passed against him. Then, again the affidavit of the appellant does not give any reasonable explanation as to why he could not apply for the copies within 30 days. He was served with a draft order on the 8th of July. He claims to have gone to an Advocate and remained content to receive his advice till the 20th of July. The Advocate merely told him to go to a Solicitor whom he approaches in the evening of the 20th of July and on the advice of the Solicitor, an application for certified copies is filed in Court on the 21st of July 1978. This explanation will clearly show that he was fully apprised of an executable order against him well within 30 days of the date of the passing of the order and still he failed to apply for certified copies. We have, therefore, no hesitation in holding that the delay in applying for certified copies has not been explained at all. On the contrary, he has failed and neglected to take any steps to obtain copies in time. Hence we refuse to condone the delay. The only thing that now remains to be seen is whether otherwise in law he is not late at all in filing this appeal.
12th September 1978
6. The main judgment which requires to be considered in this behalf is the decision of the Supreme Court in Udayan Chinubhai v. R. C. Bali, AIR 1977 SC 2319. A little background may be considered before what the Supreme Court has laid down as the law on the subject is examined. The present Limitation Act came into force on the 1st of January 1964. Under the earlier Limitation Act, a Full Bench of this Court had taken the view that under Section 12 the time that was available for a person who wanted to appeal was the entire time taken by the Court in preparing and signing the decree as also the time which is actually required forobtaining the copy viz. the time between the date of application for certified copy of the decree and the day when the certified copy was ready. This position was not much to the liking of the Law Commission which expressed the view in one of its reports that the double time so allowed ought not to be allowed. If a party wants to appeal against a judgment with which he is dissatisfied, he must promptly act within the period of limitation prescribed for filing the appeal by way of application for copies. The time taken by the Court in preparing and signing the decree ought not to be included in the time required or 'requisite' for obtaining the copies. It is on the basis of this report which was accepted by Parliament that the present Section 12 of the Limitation Act was drafted with the addition of an explanation. A detailed statement is now incorporated in the substantive part of the section where the various periods of time which are to be excluded for the purpose of computing the period of limitation have been expressly and specifically indicated. Against that express language, the explanation says that in computing the time requisite for obtaining the copy of decree or an order, any tune taken by the Court to prepare the decree or order before an application for copy thereof is made shall not be excluded. The negative manner in which the explanation has been drafted has led to some differing views. When this section was considered by a learned single Judge of this Court Chandrachud J. (as he then was) in Sitaram Dada v. Rama Dada, : AIR1968Bom204 , he clearly traced this history and held that the time taken by the Court for the preparation and signing of the decree is not now permissible to be deducted at all from the time requisite for obtaining copies. He pointed out that the earlier decision of the Full Bench of this Court in Jayashankar Mulshankar Mehta v. Mayabhai Lalbhai Shah, : AIR1952Bom122 is no longer good law. However a Full Bench of this Court subsequently took a contrary view in Subhash v. Maroti, : AIR1975Bom244 . It is against this background of the conflicting views expressed before and after the present Limitation Act came into force that one has to read the judgment of the Supreme Court in Udayan Chinubhai's case. This judgment deals in detail with this history of Section 12 of the Limitation Act and points out that the very addition of the explanation is with a viewto indicate what period of time is not to be excluded in computing the period of limitation as against those periods which are to be excluded in computing the period of limitation. Those that are excluded are indicated in the body of the sub-sections and the period which is not to be excluded is described in the explanation. The Supreme Court, therefore, observes in paragraph 26 of the report as follows:--
'Computation of limitation is predominantly the governing factor in Section 12. In order to achieve an easy computation of the period of limitation without hardship to litigants and to avoid vicissitudes of time consuming litigious exercises which the old section had been subjected to, the Explanation has been introduced. In order to enable correct computation of the period of limitation under Section 12(2)with certitude, when it is provided therein, that certain time has to be excluded, it is then clearly provided, at the same time, in the Explanation that a particular period of time shall not be excluded. As if the section and the Explanation say: You are permitted to exclude the time requisite for obtaining a copy but in computing that time, which is requisite and which is allowed for exclusion under Section 12(2), you shall not exclude, while computing the period of limitation, the time that had elapsed from the date of judgment to the date of your application for a copy. The object seems clearly to be not to give premium to unmerited idleness and indifference of litigants in making application for copy.'
7. While dealing with the facts of the particular case before it, the Supreme Court found that the judgment which was delivered in the presence of the parties required the plaintiff to do something more before which a decree could not be drawn. There was deficit court-fee to be recovered and the plaintiff was directed to make good the deficit court-fee within one month from the date of the pronouncement of the judgment. The plaintiff did not do so, but took a little longer time and made good the court-fee on May 6, 1976. In terms of the judgment it was only after the payment of the deficit court-fee that a decree could be drawn. In the special circumstances of that case, the Supreme Court observes that the normal rule that the date of the decree is the date of the judgment must prevail in all cases except where special circumstances appear. Though technically evenin the case before it the date of the decree would still be the date of the judgment when it was first pronounced, for the purpose of computing the period of limitation under Section 12, it indicates that it was a special case where the decree could not be immediately drawn up. In other words, it makes a distinction between a case where there is no obstruction in the way of preparing a decree after the pronouncement of the judgment and a case where there is some obstruction or come step to be taken before the decree could be drawn up. In that particular case, it treats the date of payment of the deficit court-fee as the day whereafter there is no obstruction in the preparation of the decree. It computes the period of limitation from that day in the special facts and circumstances of that case. This is the discussion in para. 36.
8. The judgment read as a whole, therefore, clearly indicates that the drawing of the decree being the Court's business the aggrieved party who wants to file an appeal is not entitled to wait until the Court draws up the decree. The entire time taken by the party in making an application for copies from the date of the pronouncement of the judgment is not to be excluded even if that is an overlapping period which is also taken by the Court in drawing up the decree. We have, therefore, no doubt that the legal position from the 1st of January 1964 clearly is that a party must apply for a copy of the judgment and decree within the period of limitation prescribed for the appeal and if he does not do so but waits beyond the prescribed period of limitation on the spacious excuse that the Court is still drawing up the decree, his application being beyond limitation, the appeal that will be filed subsequently can never be in time.
9. Counsel Kapadia for the appellant, however, strongly relies upon one stray sentence in para. 32 of the report of the Supreme Court. We would better quote the whole paragraph so that the argument raised before us may be properly understood.
'The correct legal position, therefore, is that under Section 12(2) read with the Explanation a person cannot get exclusion of the period that elapsed between pronouncement of the judgment and the signing of the decree if he made the application for a copy only after preparation of the decree. We endorse the views on the line of the Bombay High Court inSitaram Dada Sawant : AIR1968Bom204 (supra). With respect the Full Bench decision in Subhash Ganpatrao Buty : AIR1975Bom244 (supra) cannot be approved.'
Mr. Kapadia relies upon the first sentence which says that a person cannot get exclusion of the period that elapsed between pronouncement of the judgment and the signing of the decree if he made the application for a copy only after preparation of the decree. Reading this sentence out of context, Mr. Kapadia argues that the reverse proposition is available to him viz., that if he applies before the decree is prepared he is entitled to the entire period of time taken by the Court in preparing the decree. We do not think that the Supreme Court has laid down that as the law. On the contrary, the reasoning canvassed by Mr. Kapadia is similar to the reasoning of the Full Bench of this Court in Subhash Ganpatrao Buty's case which has been expressly overruled by the Supreme Court as the last sentence in the above quoted passage shows. On the contrary, the Supreme Court approves and endorses the view on the line of the Bombay High Court judgment in Sitaram Dada Sawant viz., : AIR1968Bom204 . We might just take an example and explain what the Supreme Court precisely means by its observations in paragraph 32 of the report. Let us assume that the period of limitation for filing an appeal is 30 days from the date of judgment. A party applies on the tenth day after the pronouncement of the judgment for certified copies of the judgment and the decree. The Court takes about two months to prepare the decree and sign it. It is obvious that a certified copy of the decree will be delivered some time after two months when the Court has prepared and signed it. For such an applicant, the entire period from the tenth day when he applied up to the date of the preparation of the certified copy would be available. During this period falls certain portion of the period taken by the Court in preparing and signing the decree. That period is from the tenth day after the judgment is pronounced till the Court actually signs the decree. This period is not at all available as a second period or a double period for the applicant, but the only period he gets is the time taken in delivering him a copy by the office viz., the date of application until the certified copy is ready. In other words, one hasto totally forget the time taken by the Court for preparing its own decree. The Supreme Court, therefore, what properly points out is that the period that has elapsed between the pronouncement of the judgment and the signing of the decree cannot be excluded at all. If, however, he applies before the decree is actually signed and that point of time happens to be within the period of limitation for filing an appeal, the period thereafter is available not as a period or time taken by the Court in preparing the decree but as a time requisite for him to obtain the copies. This is precisely what is meant by the first sentence as the Supreme Court hastens to point out in the very next sentence that it approves of the logic in the judgment in Sitaram Dada's case and overrules the decision of the Full Bench in, Subhash Ganpatrao Buty's case. We are unable to accept Mr. Kapadia's argument that the Supreme Court decision in Udayan Chinubhai's case AIR 1977 SC 2319 supports him in any manner whatsoever. Since the present appellant applied for certified copies for the first time five days after the period of limitation for filing the appeal was over, even if he were to file the appeal on the day he were to get the certified copies, his appeal would always be beyond time by five days. We have already indicated that for making the said belated application no reasonable cause has been shown and, therefore, there is no question of condoning the delay in this case. It is precisely to discourage the negligence on the part of the party in prosecuting the remedies that the section has been amended on the consideration of the report of the Law Commission. We are, therefore, of the view that not only the meaning of Section 12 is clear on a plain reading of that section but it has also been now clearly explained by the Supreme Court in Udayan Chinubhai's case.
10. The appeal is thus barred by limitation and is rejected as a time barred appeal. The Notice of Motion, therefore, is dismissed, as it does not survive. There shall be no order as to costs.
11. At this stage, Mr. Kapadia orally applies for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court which is refused. Mr. Kapadia applies for stay of operation of the order. The operation of the order is stayed for three weeks.
12. Appeal dismissed.