1. The appellant who was the plaintiff in the Court below has a grievance against the order passed bv the Joint Civil Judge, Senior Division, Akola, on August 9, dismissing his suit as being barred by limitation.
2. The suit in question was based on a pro-note dated September 11, 1957. The pro-note in question was said to have been executed bv the first defendant for himself and as manager of the joint family consisting of himself and defendant No. 2, in plaintiff's favour for a sum of Rs. 12,500/-. The amount claimed in the suit on the strength of this pro-note from both the defendants was Rs. 14,750/-. The period of limitation available for a suit to enforce the payment of pro-note being three years, the plaint in question was required to be filed in the Court on September 11, 1960. But since that happened to be a Sunday, the plaint was actually presented on the following day when the Court re-opened after the week-end i.e., on September 12. 1960. It was not, however, presented during Court hours or on the court premises. What happened was that the plaintiff presented the same to the Clerk of the Court at his residence at 10.15 p.m. The plaint was entertained by the Judge presiding the Court and further orders were passed in the suit. But when the defendants were served, they contended that the suit was barred by limitation, because, although it was presented on September 12, 1960, it was not presented to the Clerk of the Court during Court hours on the Court premises but at his residence after Court hours at about 10.15 p.m. That presentation, it was contended, was clearly invalid and the plaint could not consequently be deemed to have been properly presented on September 12, 1960; and if it was not, it was clearly liable to be dismissed on the ground of limitation.
3. This contention of the defendants haying found favour with the learned trial Judge, the plaintiff's claim was dismissed as being barred by limitation on the short ground that the plaint initiating the proceedings was presented after Court hours at the residence of the clerk of the Court and the Clerk of the Court on his part had no power to receive the same. Since the plaint was being dismissed on a technical ground, the learned Judge thought it fit to leave the parties to bear their own costs. Thus defeated in the Court below, the plaintiff has come up to this Court in appeal.
4. The submission of Mr. kulkarni appearing on behalf of the plaintiff was that the learned trial Judge was in error in taking the view that the plaint was not validly presented on September 12, 1960, and in holding that the suit was consequently barred by time. He pointed out that there was nothing in Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure to show that in order that the presentation should be valid, the plaint must always be presented during Court hours and that the Clerk of the Court would have no power to receive the same at his residence after Court hours. He fairly conceded that the Civil Manual (Vol. I), 1960 Edition, issued by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay contains a provision in paragraph 7 in Chapter II that a plaint may be presented at any time during the Court hours to the Clerk of the Court of to such officer as the Court appoints in this behalf under Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or in the absence of that officer, to the Judge himself. But his argument was that the provisions of this paragraph merely amount to instructions which do not have the force of law and such instructions could not consequently override the provisions of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Clerk of the Court could not consequently be precluded from receiving plaint at his residence after Court hours. It was further pointed out that there is a note under paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual, which says that if a plaint is presented beyond Court hours, it will be in the discretion of the Judge to accept it or not. The submission therefore was that in cases where a plaint was presented beyond court hours, it was open to the Presiding Judge of the Court to accept it or not, and in the present case he must be deemed to have exercised his discretion in plaintiff's favour by ratifying its acceptance by issuing further orders in the suit. Mr. Kulkarni concluded his submission by relying on a decision of this Court in Ratan Jayakisan v. Bapu Hiraji 38 Bom LR 1196 - AIR 1937 Bom 25.
5. Mr. Shankar Anand appearing on behalf of the respondents, on the other hand, urged that although Order 4. Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure did not contain anything to show that the presentation of a plaint made at the residence of the Clerk of the Court after Court hours would be invalid, the provisions of paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual had the force of law. and the same being binding, presentation made in contravention of that provision was rightly recorded as invalid by the learned trial Judge. According to Mr. Shankar Anand, the High Court had the right to frame rules both under Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure and also under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, and the rule in question framed by the High Court cannot consequently be allowed to be violated as being nothing beyond instructions to courts in the mofussil. Mr. Shankar Anand, on his part, tried to support the judgment of the learned trial Judge by placing reliance on two decisions of this Court in Hanmant V. Annaji Hanmant ILR (1913) Bom 610 and Gangabai v. Gaurishankar : AIR1966Bom34 and one decision of the Madras High Court in C. M. Appava Pillai v. Amir Sahib AIR 1914 Mad 376.
6. Now, if we turn to the provisions of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, all that Sub-rule (1) says is that every suit shall be instituted by presenting a plaint to the Court or such officer as it appoints in this behalf, and sub-rule (2) provides that every plaint shall comply with the rules contained in Orders 6 and 7 so far as they are applicable. There is, therefore, nothing in Sub-rule (1) to indicate that a plaint must be presented on the Court premises or during Court hours. All that is required is that it should be presented to the Court or such officer as it appoints in this behalf. The plaint in this case could, therefore, have been presented to the Presiding Judge or such officer as was appointed in this behalf, and the officer in this behalf under Section 40 of the Bombay Civil Courts Act, 1869, was clearly the Clerk of the Court. The plaint could consequently be properly presented to the Clerk of the Court, and there is nothing in Sub-rule (1) to indicate that it could not have been presented to him at his residence after Court hours.
7. The trouble in this case arose because of a certain provision appearing in the Civil Manual, (Volume I), 1960 Edition. Chapter II of that Civil Manual relates to institution of suits and certain instructions have in that Chapter been issued regarding the presentation, examination and registration etc., of plaints. Paragraph 7 in that Chapter provides that a plaint may be presented at any time during the Court hours to the Clerk of the Court or to such officer as the Court appoints in this behalf under Order 4, Rule 1, Civil Procedure Code, or in the absence of such officer, to the Judge himself. Therefore, even under this paragraph what is contemplated is presentation of the plaint to such officer as the Court appoints under Order 4, Rule 1. Since the officer appointed under this provision was admittedly the Clerk of the Court, presentation of the plaint to the Clerk of the Court was clearly permissible under this paragraph. The difficulty arises because the paragraph says that the plaint may be presented at any time during the Court hours. The question is whether the instruction regarding the plaint being presented during the Court hours ought to be so strictly construed so as to render any violation of that provision fatal to the valid presentation of the plaint. It seems to us that on a true construction of the provisions of paragraph 7 all that is intended in that paragraph is that ordinarily a plaint shall be presented at any time during the Court hours. The provision is permissive and not prohibitive. The paragraph does not say that no plaint shall be presented to the Clerk of the Court outside the Court hours, and it is, therefore, necessary to construe the existing provision in the paragraph so as to be in harmony with the provisions of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure. If the construction which we propose to adopt is accepted, such harmony would clearly be achieved.
8. It must further be remembered that the Civil Manual merely embodies the rules and instructions for the guidance of the Civil Courts and officers subordinate to it and the same were issued in order to ensure uniformity in the rules and practice in all parts of the State. The argument of Mr. Shankar Anand that all the instructions contained in the Civil Manual must be deemed to be rules framed by the High Court under Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not, in our view, valid. Under Section 122, High Courts not being the Court of a Judicial Commissioner may, from time to time after previous publication, make rules regulating their own procedure and the procedure of the Civil Courts subject to their superintendence, and may by such rules annul, alter or add to all or any of the rules in the First Schedule. But every instruction contained in the Civil Manual cannot obviously be regarded as rules framed under this provision. There is a separate printed booklet of rules made by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay under Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Those rules came into effect on November 1, 1966, and one of those rules contains an amendment to the provisions of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, with which we are not concerned in this appeal. We have only referred to those rules to point out that they are clearly distinct and separate from the instructions contained in the Civil Manual and the instructions contained in paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual cannot, in our view, be regarded as a rule having the force of law.
9. Under Article 227(1) of the Constitution of India, every High Court has superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, and Article 227(2)(b) provides that without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, the High Court is competent to make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts. But this power is subject to the proviso which says:
'Provided that any rules made, forms prescribed or tables settled under clause (2) or clause (3) shall not be inconsistent with the provision of any law for the time being in force, and shall require the previous approval of the Governor.'
Nothing has been shown to us to indicate that the instructions contained in paragraph 7 in Chapter II are rules framed by the High Court under Article 227(2) of the Constitution of India after obtaining the requisite approval of the Governor.
10. Mr. Shankar Anand invited our attention to the fact that so far as the provisions contained in sub-paragraph (25) of paragraph 504 of Chapter XXVI at page 219 of the Civil Manual. 1960, (Volume I) are concerned, a certain amendment was made by the High Court in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 227 of the Constitution of India, and with the previous approval of the Governor of Bombay, but those are provisions concerning the surcharge to be levied on all copying, comparing and translation fees etc. Merely because that provision was made by way of a rule framed under Article 227 of the Constitution, it does not necessarily follow that the provision in paragraph 7 with which we are concerned was also a provision standing on the same footing.
11. The two Bombay cases reported in ILR (1913) Bom 610 and : AIR1966Bom34 cannot also be of any assistance to Mr. Shankar Anand for the simple reason that the rule which was considered by this Court in these cases was regarded as a rule under the provisions of the High Courts Act and that rule contained in Civil Circular 51 of 1890 clearly required the Lower Court of appeal to write a judgment while dismissing an appeal under Order 41, Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, although there was nothing to that effect in Order 41, Rule 11 itself. In the present case, the instructions contained in paragraph 7 in Chapter II do not amount to a rule issued by the High Court either under Section 122 of the Code of Civil Procedure or under Article 227(2)(b) of the Constitution of India. In AIR 1914 Mad 376 on which Mr. Shankar Anand wanted to rely, it has been held that the presentation out of office hours of a plaint to an officer of Court authorised to receive plaints within office hours only is not a presentation unless ratified by the Court on that very day. The judgment consists of only two small paragraphs and the rule examined by the High Court is nowhere to be seen therein. But from the view taken by the High Court, it appears that under that rule an officer of the Court was authorised to receive plaints within office hours only. In the way we read paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual, no such limitation is placed on the powers of the Clerk of the Court in this State.
12. In 38 Bom LR 1196 = AIR 1937 Bom 25 the plaintiff was suing on a bond and the last day for filing a suit so as to bring it within the period of limitation was February 28, 1933. At 11 p. m. on that day Ratan presented his plaint to the Clerk of the Subordinate Judge's Court in which the plaint was to be filed, at the clerk's private house. Both the Courts below held that the Clerk of the Court had no power to accept it after Court hours and the matter consequently came up before the High Court in revision under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Beaumont, C. J. then examined the provisions of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure and ruled that the Clerk of the Court, who is authorised to accept plaints under Section 40 of the Bombay Civil Courts Act, 1869, may accept a plaint outside office hours and outside the Court buildings, though he is not bound to do so, as there is nothing in Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure to suggest that a plaint must be presented during Court hours or within the precincts of the Court. The learned trial Judge found difficulty in accepting this ruling because of the provisions of paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual, 1960 Edition. If we read the provisions of that paragraph in the way we have done, there may be no conflict between the provisions of that paragraph and the statutory requirements of Order 4, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
13. In the view we have taken the learned Judge was in error in taking the view that a plaint presented to the Clerk of the Court at his residence outside Court hours could not be regarded as having been validly presented. Any way, Note 1 appearing below paragraph 7 in Chapter II of the Civil Manual says that if a plaint is presented beyond Court hours, it will be in the discretion of the Judge to accept it or not. If the Presiding Judge of the Court at Akola was of the view that the Clerk of the Court ought not to have received the plaint at his residence on the night of September 12, 1960, he would have clearly rejected the plaint on the following day on the ground of its being barred by limitation under Order 7, Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. But far from doing anything of that kind, what he seems to have done was to sign the Roznama to entertain the proceedings and to pass further orders on an application made by the plaintiff. The learned Judge must in the circumstances be deemed to have ratified the presentation of the plaint on the previous night. On this ground also the difficulty of limitation would not come in the way of the plaintiff.
14. In the view we have taken, the appeal is allowed, the trial Court's order dismissing the suit is set aside and the suit is remanded to the trial Court for being proceeded with and disposed of according to law. There shall be no order about the costs of this appeal.
15. Appeal allowed.