1. This is a first appeal from order by the State of Uttar Pradesh.
2. It appears that a suit was filed against the Uttar Pradesh Government by one Shib Saran Agarwal. That suit was decreed ex parte. An application for setting aside the ex parte decree and for restoring the suit was made by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The application was made beyond 90 days of the date of the decree, which is the period of limitation for making an application to set aside an ex parte decree. But the applicant made an allegation of fraud against himself by the opposite party and thus tried to save limitation under Section 18 of the Limitation Act. The learned court below went into the question of fraud and gave a finding that no fraud had been proved. It, therefore, held that the restoration application was barred by limitation and had to be dismissed.
3. Learned counsel for the State of Uttar Pradesh tried to argue before us, without much conviction, that fraud had been established. But, for the reasons given by the learned Judge, we are convinced that fraud was not established in this case. We have ourselves perused the evidence and we feel that the finding of the learned Judge is wholly justified. Since learned counsel was not able to establish fraud upon the evidence and get over the difficulty of limitation, he contended that the court below could have set aside the ex parte decree in any case, under its inherent powers and he asked that the ex parte decree should be set aside under the Court's inherent powers.
4. The first question, therefore, which we have to examine is whether independently of the provisions of Order 9, Rule 13, C.P.C., under which provision an application for setting aside an ex parte decree has to be made, the court is entitled to set aside, an ex parte decree under its inherent powers. We may first point out that this question should be approached, keeping in view the observations made by their Lordships of the Supreme Court, in the case of Manilal Mohanlal Shah v. Sardar Sayed Ahmed : 1SCR108 , in dealing with a case under Order 21, Rule 85, C.P.C., that the inherent powers of the court should not be invoked to circumvent the mandatory provisions of the Code, and in that case to relieve the auction-purchasers of their obligations to make the deposit of purchase money under Order 21, Rule 85, C.P.C. The general aspect of the observation would seem also to apply in the instant case.
5. But we have been pressed in this case with a ruling of our own Court in the case of Lalta Prasad v. Ram Karan, ILR 34 All 426, which was given in the year 1912 by a Bench consisting of Mr. Justice Karamat Husain and Mr. Justice Tudball. There a suit had been dismissed under Order 9, Rule 8, C.P.C. and the plaintiff had applied for restoration, filing an affidavit that he was lying, on the day of hearing, in the chamber of his pleader Babu Munna Lal with a bad leg, waiting to be informed of his case having come up and Babu Munna Lal had also filed ah affidavit to the effect that ho had conceived the Judge to have fixed two O'clock for this case and so had started another case in the court of the Additional Subordinate Judge.
The trial court, where the restoration application was made, held that the plaintiff had another pleader besides Babu Munna Lal and he could have informed by any of his pleader's clerks within the twenty minutes that the court was waiting. Accordingly the application for restoration was rejected. The plaintiff came up in appeal to this Court and it was urged by his counsel, as will appear from the report of arguments, that the case was one of mis-apprehension, and that the plaintiff's negligence was due to the common and natural reluctance of parties to appear unrepresented in a court. It was submitted' that the affidavit filed disclosed a sufficient cause for setting aside the order under Order 9, Rule 8 and in any case under the Court's inherent powers. It was in this connection that an observation was made to the following effect :
'Order 9, Rule 9 makes it compulsory on a court to set aside a dismissal under Order 9, Rule 8, where the plaintiff satisfies the court that there was sufficient cause for non-appearance. It, however, cannot take away the court's power to restore the case for any other valid reason.'
This Bench was pressed to accept the view that the affidavit made out a sufficient cause, but the Bench thought that it was difficult to hold that a sufficient cause had been made out. But the Bench took the view that the case before it was one of those in which the Court may exercise its inherent powers of passing orders necessary for the ends of justice.
6. A contrary view has, however, been taken by this Court in the case of Ram Sarup v. Gaya Prasad : AIR1925All610 , which was a case decided in 1925 by Sulaiman and Daniels JJ. In that case also the lower appellate Court had itself found that there was no sufficient cause for the defendant for not appearing when the suit was called on for hearing and that his absence was intentional, It was held that the case did not fall under Order 9, Rule 13, C. P. Code but it was urged that apart from Order 9, Rule 13, the court had inherent jurisdiction to set aside an ex parte decree. That Bench was of opinion that there was no jurisdiction outside the provision of that rule to set aside an ex parte decree and it referred to a Bench decision of this Court in Sheikh Kallu v. Nadir Bux, 19 All LJ 907: (AIR 1922 All 441 (2)), and to a Full Bench case of the Madras High Court in Neelaveni v. Narayana Reddi, ILR 43 Mad 94; (AIR 1920 Mad 640).
7. In the year 1937, in the case of A.H. Ghaznavi v. Gurcharan Singh : AIR1937All691 , a Bench of this Court consisting of Collister and Bajpai JJ. have held that a court has no power outside Order 9, Rule 13, C.P.C. to set a side an ex parte decree passed by itself and they approved of the decision given in 19 All LJ 907: (AIR 1922 All 441 (2)), and have also referred to the case of Radha Mohan Datt v. Abbas Ali Biswas : AIR1931All294 .
8. It would, therefore, appear that there areat least more than two Division Bench cases of thisCourt which have taken a view contrary to the Division Bench view, which was expressed in the caseof Lalta Prasad, ILR 34 All 426, by Karamat Husainand Tudball JJ.
9. Some cases of other Courts were placed before us. The case of Mst. Balmati Kuari v. Jagbandhan Nath Tewari : AIR1950Pat497 , was a case in which the court had passed an ex parte final decree based on a Commissioner's report in respect of mesne profits for six years. The absent party applied for the setting aside of the ex parte decree, which was set aside presumably upon the ground that there had been an abuse of the process of the court, inasmuch as the decree had been passed on a Commissioner's report which had been drawn up directly in contravention of a consent order passed by the High Court.
Now the facts of the case are very special and the exercise of inherent powers might be justified on the ground that, in passing the final decree on the basis of a Commissioner's report, which was in direct contravention of the High Court's order, the court passing the decree itself was in error in not scrutinising the Commissioner's report in order to see that it was in accordance with the directions of the High Court, the Commissioner being in a sense an officer of the Court and the mistake of the Commissioner being something in the nature of a mistake by the court itself.
10. The case of Asrob Ali Laskar v. Manuhar Ali Majumdar, AIR 1954 Assam 168, is again a case where inherent power was exercised in order to set aside an ex parte decree. But that was a case where the court itself was in error for, without notice to the defendant and without taking note of the fact that there was a prior order of stay of proceeding, the court proceeded to pass an ex parte decree. Every court is expected to be aware of its own order-sheet and, if in disregard of an order of stay, it proceeds to pass an ex parte decree, it is not a case where the party has got to explain, because there was no blame on it, the blame being on the court itself. In such a case obviously ex debito justitiae it is the duty of the court to rectify its own mistake,
11. The other case is Tikaram Namaji v. Tarachand Gujoba, AIR 1954 Nag 135, where the court had passed an ex parte final decree on a date not fixed for hearing and without notice to the minor. The guardian ad litem had applied for setting aside the ex parte decree under Section 151, C.P.C. and it had been set aside. Obviously the court proceeded to pass an ex parte decree on a date not fixed for final hearing. The parties were not to blame. If they are not to blame, it is the mistake of the court, which had got to be rectified. Section 151, C.P.C. is obviously correctly resorted to in such a case.
Moreover, it is not to be overlooked that a minor was involved in the case. The guardian of a minor is approved by the court and/or is appointed by it, and in a sense the court is answerable for the appointment of a bad guardian who does not look after the case. In such circumstances, the court may under Section 151, C. P. C. rectify the mistake and set aside the, ex parte decree. It is well established that minors are entitled to special protection of the court, and the case of a minor may and does fall under a different category.
12. The case of Bai Dahi v. Shankerbhai Deojibhai : AIR1954Bom214 , was a case of a minor and although the observations of Chagla C. J. are of a somewhat wide character in regard to the powers under Section 151, C.P.C. and he seems to suggest that the Courts have very wide powers to restore suits under Section 151, C.P.C., independently of Order 9, Rule 9, but we prefer to consider this case as an authority confined to its peculiar facts and, as we have already pointed out, a minor was involved in this case.
13. It is well established that fraud on the Court itself and mistake of the Court and the protection of minors are categories of cases in which the powers given to the court under Section 151 of the Code may be exercised in suitable cases.
14. We do not think that, in all these circumstances, it has been made out before us that there is any justification for our ignoring the decisions of the later Division Benches of this Court and prefer ring the decision of an earlier Division Bench. We do not also consider that it is necessary to refer this matter to a larger Bench, either. There is something to be said on the principle of stare decisis, although we admit that cases which have been decided and brought to our notice in favour of the view that we are taking, so far as our Court is concerned, are not numerous.
15. In the circumstances we are of the view that there was no inherent power to set aside the ex parte decree in this instant case. We have already said that so far as fraud was concerned, it was not proved and so limitation for the restoration application was not saved. Learned counsel intimated that ft was not necessary for us to discuss the evidence in detail. We have, therefore, not discussed the evidence in detail relating to fraud, though we have examined the same with the assistance of counsel and are satisfied that the conclusion of the court below that there was no fraud established was correct.
16. This appeal accordingly fails and is dismissed with costs.