C.S. Dharmadhikari, J.
1. The respondent Shri Shashikant Anikhindi, who carried on business in the name and style of M/s. Crown and King Company at Adhyaru Industrial Estate, Sun Mills Compound, Lower Parel, Bombay, filed and application under section 75 of the Employees State Insurance Act, before the Employees Insurance Court. It appears from the record that on 14th of March, 1978 neither the applicant nor his Advocate remained present in Court, therefore, the Employees Insurance Court dismissed his application. The applicant Shashikant Anikhindi then filed an application for setting aside the order of dismissal and for restoration of his application on 28th April, 1978 which was beyond the period of limitation as prescribed by Rule 26 of the Bombay Employees' Insurance Court Rules, 1959. This application was dismissed by the industrial Court vide order dated 29th of June, 1978. Being aggrieved by the said order the applicant Shashikant filed a First Appeal before this Court bearing First Appeal No. 80 of 1979 which was heard and decided by S.K. Desai, J., vide judgment dated 10th of July, 1978. Desai, J., held that the trial Court was wrong in coming to the conclusion that it had no power to condone the delay of 14 days in filing the application for restoration. He also held that the applicant has shown sufficient cause for such delay and also for remaining absent on the date of hearing. Therefore, exercising the powers of the Appellate Court Desai, J., set aside the impugned order dated 29th June, 1978 and restored the application to file. It is this order in the First Appeal No. 80 of 1979 dated 10th July, 1979 which is challenged in this letters patent appeal by the appellants.
2. Shri Jayakar the learned Counsel appearing for the appellants Corporation contended before us that the Employees Insurance Court is a domestic Tribunal and is not a Court in the strict sense of the term, and therefore, the provisions of Limitation Act are not applicable to the applications filed under Rule 26 of the Rules. In substance he contended that the Employees Insurance Court is not a Court within the meaning of section 5 or section 29(2) of the Limitation Act, and therefore, the learned Single Judge wrongly applied the provisions of section 5 of the Limitation Act to the said proceedings. In support of this contention he has relied upon the decision of this Court in M/s. Popular Process Studio and another v. Employees State Insurance Corporation through Regional Director, : AIR1970Bom413 , wherein it was held that the Employees Insurance Court is not a Court for the purposes of Limitation Act.
3. It is not possible for us to accept this contention of Shri Jayakar. In M/s. Popular Process Studio's case Bal, J., was mainly concerned with the question as to whether, Article 137 of the Limitation Act was applicable to the applications filed before the Employees Insurance Court under section 75(2) of the Act and for deciding that limited controversy Bal, J, came to the conclusion that the Employees Insurance Court is not a Court in a strict sense of the term. In the said case applications were filed under section 72 of the Act for a period prior to 1964. Before the amending Act of 1966, no limitation was prescribed for such applications. Now by section 77(1-A) a period of 3 years from the date on which the cause of action arose is proscribed for filing such applications. Further much water has flown after the decision in M/s. Popular Process Studio's case. It also appears that attention of the Court was not drawn towards the decision of the Supreme Court in : 1967CriLJ1380a Thakur Jugal Kishore Sinha v. The Sitamarhi Central Co-operative Bank Ltd. and another. Further the law on the subject is now authoritatively laid down by the Full Bench of this Court in A.I.R. 1976 Bom 143 Bapusaheb Patil and others v. The State of Maharashtra and others, and, therefore, it will have to be held that the law laid down in M/s. Popular Process Studio's case is no more good law. Further in this case we are not concerned with the question as to whether provisions of the Limitation Act will apply to the substantive applications filed under section 75 of the Act. In this appeal we are mainly concerned with the question as to whether section 5 of the Limitation Act will apply to application filed under Rule 26 of the said Rules for restoration of the application and we propose to confine our judgment to this limited area and do not propose to decide any wider question.
4. As to when a particular Tribunal could be held to be a Court is by now well settled. In Thakur Jugal Kishore's case, the Supreme Court held that the Assistant Registrar Functioning under the Bihar Orissa Co-operative Societies Act is a Court subordinate to the High Court for the purpose of section 3 of the Contempt of Court Act. The said decision of the Supreme Court was followed by the Full Bench of this Court in Bapusaheb Balasaheb Patil's case wherein it is observed that mainly two criteria have been laid down by the decided cases in order to constitute the Tribunal a Court. In the first place the Tribunal or an Authority would be a Court if it is given a power to give a definitive judgment or a decision which has finality and authoritativeness that would bind the appearing before it so far as the rights litigated before it are concerned and secondly the appointment of the Tribunal or an authority as well as the source of its power must be judicial power of the State coming to it by the statute itself. The Full Bench further observed that the power of review and the inherent power enjoyed by a Civil Court cannot be regarded as sine qua non for holding any Tribunal to be a Court. The said decision of the Full Bench was reaffirmed by another Full Bench in a later decision reported in : AIR1977Bom384 Shrimant Shripatrao Dajisaheb Ghatge v. The State of Maharashtra, Therefore, for deciding the question as to whether the Employees State Insurance Court constituted under the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 is a Court or not, the provisions of the said Act will have to be scrutinised in the context of these well-established criteria.
5. For deciding the dispute enumerated in section 75 of the Act, the State Government has been given a power under section 74 of the Act, to constitute Employees Insurance Court for such an area as may be specified in the notification. The Court is to consist of such number of judges as the State Government may think fit. Any person who is or has been a Judicial Officer or is a legal practitioner of 5 years standing is qualified to be a Judge of the Employees Insurance Court. Section 74 enumerates the matters which could be decided by the Employees Insurance Court. Section 76 of he Act deals with the institution of the proceedings. Section 77 lays down the procedure for the commencement of proceedings and lays down the period of limitation. The comes section 78 which deals with the powers of Employees Insurance Court. The said section reads as under :
'78(1) The Employees Insurance Court shall have all the powers of a Civil Court for the purposes of summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses, compelling the discovery and production of documents and material objects, administering oath and recording evidence and such Court shall be deemed to be a Civil Court within the meaning of section 195 and Chapter XXXV of the Court of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
(2) The Employees' Insurance Court shall follow such procedure as may be prescribed by Rules made by the State Government.
(3) All costs incidental to any proceeding before an Employees' Insurance Court shall, subject to such Rules as may be made in this behalf by the State Government, be in the discretion of the Court.
(4) An order of the Employees' Insurance Court shall be enforceable as if it were a decree passed in a suit by a Civil Court.'
Section 79 provides for the appearance of legal practitioners before the said Court. By section 81 the Employees Insurance Court is given a power to submit any question of law for decision to the High Court and by section 82 an appeal is provided to the High Court against the order of the Employees Insurance Court. Thus the Insurance Court upon which power to perform judicial functions has been conferred is recipient of that power form the State, that is to say the statute itself and secondly while performing the judicial functions that are entrusted to it by law, it had been given power to give definitive decisions having finality or authoritativeness which would be binding on the parties appearing before it. The State Government has framed the Rules known as Bombay Employees Insurance Court Rules, 1959 in exercise of the power conferred on it by section 96 of the Act. In this context it is pertinent to note that section 78(2) and section 96(1)(b) practically cover the same area and field i .e. procedure which the Employees Insurance Court is expected to follow. The relevant rule with which we are concerned in this appeal is Rule 26 which reads as follow :
'26. Appearance of parties and consequences of non-appearance :---
(1) On the day fixed in the summons for the opposite party to appear and answer, the parties shall be in attendance at the Court in person or by their respective legal practitioners or any other person authorised under section 79 and the application shall then be heard unless the hearing is adjourned by the Court.
(2) When neither party appears when the application is called on for hearing , the Court may make, an order that the application be dismissed.
(3) Where the opposite party appears and the applicant does not appear when the application is called on for hearing the Court shall make an order that the application be dismissed unless the opposite party admits the claim or part thereof in which case the Court shall make an order against the opposite upon such admission and where part only of the claim has been admitted, it shall dismiss the case so far as it relates to the remainder.
(4) Where the applicant appears and the opposite party after receiving the summons fails to appear when the application is called on for hearing, the Court may proceed ex parte .
(5) where the application is wholly or partly dismissed under sub-rule (2) or (3) , the applicant may within thirty days, of such dismissal apply in Form 6 for an order to set the dismissal aside and the Court shall, if it is satisfied that he was prevented from appearing when the proceeding was called on for hearing due to any sufficient causes make an order setting aside the dismissal upon such terms as to costs or otherwise as it thinks fit and may proceed with the case or appoint a day for proceeding with the same;Providing that no order this sub-rule shall be made in respect of an application which is dismissed under sub-rule (3) unless notice the application has been served in Form 7 on the opposite party.
(6) In any application in which an ex parte order has been passed against the opposite party, he may within thirty days from the date of such order apply in Form 6 to the Court which passed the order, to set it aside and if the Court is satisfied that he was prevented from appearing when the proceeding was called on for hearing due to any sufficient cause, it shall after serving notice thereof to the applicant in Form 7 make an order setting aside the order upon such terms as to costs or otherwise as it thinks fit and may proceed with hearing of the case or appoint a day for proceeding with the same'.
The other Rules of the Rules deal with the constitution of courts, procedure and execution of order , method of filing applications, summoning the witnesses, statement and production of evidence, method of recording evidence, pronouncement of order including order to be passed on compromise of suit and by Rule 38 a finality is given to the orders passed by the Court, save as provided in section 82 of the Act. Then comes Rule 47 which reads as follows :
'47. Provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of 1908), etc. to apply.---In respect of matters relating to procedure or admission of evidence for which no specific provision is made in these Rules, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of 1908), including the Rules made thereunder, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), shall, so far as may be apply to proceedings under the Act.'
By section 75(3) the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to decide or deal with any question or dispute which by or under the Act is to be decided by Medical Board or Medical Appellate Tribunal or by the Employee Insurance Court is ousted. By section 96(2) of the Act, it is declared that the rules made under the said section will have effect as if they are enacted in the Act. As already observed the Employee Insurance Court is conferred with the powers a Civil Court for the purpose of summoning, and enforcing the attendance of witnesses, compelling the discovery and production of document and material objects, administering oath and recording evidence. It is also deemed to be a Civil Court within the meaning of section 195 and Chapter XV of the Criminal Procedure Code. The order of the Court is made enforceable as if it was a decree passed in a suit by Civil Court. Thus as observed by the Supreme Court in Thakur Jugal Kishore Sinha's case the jurisdiction of the ordinary Civil Courts of the land, is ousted under section 75(3) of the Act in the case of disputes which are exclusively triable by the Employee Insurance Court. To that extent it will have to be held that the Employee Insurance Court discharges the duties which would otherwise have fallen on the ordinary Civil Courts of the land. The Employees Insurance Court has not merely the trappings of a Court but in many respects it is given the same powers as are given to the ordinary Civil Courts, by the Code of Civil Procedure. The orders passed by the Employees Insurance Court are given a finality and are binding upon the parties save as provided under section 82, which provides for an appeal to the High Court. In this view the matter in our opinion the Employees Insurance Court satisfies the criteria laid down by the Full Bench of this Court in Bapusaheb Balasaheb Patil's case. It performs judicial functions and has been empowered to render definitive decisions, which have finality and authoritativeness so as to bind the parties appearing before it qua their rights. Judges to this Court are appointed by the State Government, in exercise of the powers conferred upon it by the Act. Thus it derives its authority to dispose of the disputes judicially from the State directly under the statute. Thus it satisfies all the criteria that have been accepted by the Supreme Court and the Full Bench of this Court and, therefore, is a 'Court' for all practical purpose, including for the purpose of section 5 of Limitation Act.
6. By Rule 25(5) of the Rules a period of 30 days is prescribed for filing an application for setting aside the order of dismissal. Under Article 122 of the Limitation Act precisely the same period of limitation is prescribed for restoration of application which is dismissed for default of appearance or for want of prosecution. Therefore, this is a case where it could safely be said that the limitation prescribed is the same as prescribed by the Limitation Act. If this is so then Part II of the Limitation Act, including section 5 must apply to such applications. In its turn section 3 of the Limitation Act is made subject to the provisions of sections 4 to 24, which includes section 5 of the said Act. Therefore, the provisions of section 5 must apply to an application filed under Rule 26(5) of the Rules. Even if it is held that the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 read with Rule 26(5) is a special law which prescribes a period of limitation different from the period prescribed the schedule to the Limitation Act, then also by virtue of section 29(2) of the Limitation Act, provisions of section 5 of the said Act shall apply to such applications. It is not disputed nor it could be disputed that there is no express exclusion by the Employees State Insurance Act so far as the provisions contained in section 5 of the Limitation Act is concerned. Therefore, taking any view of the matter, provisions of section 5 of the Limitation Act must apply to an application filed under Rule 26(5) of the Bombay Employees Insurance Rules, 1959.
7. Shri Oka the learned Counsel appearing for the respondents had also drawn our attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in Commissioner, Sales Tax, U.P v. M/s. Madanlal Das & Sons, Bareilly, : 1SCR683 and particularly to the observation of he Supreme Court in para 4 of the said judgment. He has also drawn our attention to the decision of the Madras High Court in : AIR1983Mad45 Rethinasamy v. Komalvalli and another, and particularly towards the following observations in para 30 :
'Here again, we are inclined to hold that the principle of liberal and benevolent construction of the statute is also attracted. The Indian Limitation Act is not applicable to specified courts or Tribunals alone. Moreover, the new Indian Limitation Act was alive to the changed circumstances and causes due to developed litigation and advancement in the litigious field of life. That is evident from the change in the preamble to the new Limitation Act, 1963, which refers to not only suits, but also other proceedings, whereas the old Act contained the words 'for other purposes'. The term 'other proceedings' will, in our opinion, include and embrace proceedings under the special and the local laws. If the intention of the parliament was to restrict the Limitation Act only to the Civil Courts, it would have certainly defined the 'Court' in the Limitation Act. The Parliament has brought out changes in the preamble and also to sections 5, 12, 14, 29 etc.'
He has also laced reliance upon the decision of the Supreme Court in : (1981)ILLJ327SC Grindlays Bank Ltd. v. Central Government Industrial Tribunal and others. However in the view which we have taken it is not necessary to deal with this aspect of the matter any further.
8. Once it is held that section 5 of the Limitation Act applies to the application filed under section 26(5) of the Rules, then it cannot be disputed that the learned Single Judge was quite justified in allowing the appeal and setting aside the order of the dismissal of the application and restoring the same to file.
In the result, therefore, the appeal fails and is dismissed. However, in the circumstances of the case there will be no order as to costs.