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Satnam Singh and anr. Vs. Mohinder Singh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 22 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1975Delhi104
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Order 22, Rule 4; Limitation Act, 1963 - Sections 5
AppellantSatnam Singh and anr.
RespondentMohinder Singh and ors.
Appellant Advocate Anoop Singh, Adv
Respondent Advocate Man Mohan Singh, Adv.
Cases ReferredIn Union of India v. Ram Charan
Excerpt:
.....to custody of a minor child. - 456 to 458 of 1973. in these applications, it was stated that shri amar nath bad died on 21st june, 1972 and the fact that be had died was not known to the appellants at the time the appeal was heard. it was also stated that the appellants had only discovered that shri amar nath bad died when they had gone to take steps to execute the sale-deed in their favor. later they bad learnt big address from sardar pritarn singh krishna nagar, delhi-51, and subsequently on 26th january, 1973, bad learnt from shrimati sodhi that her husband, shri amar nath bad died on 21st june, 1972. the legal representatives of the deceased, shri amar nath were mentioned in paragraph 8 of this application. 2. these three applications were placed before me for consideration and..........others, which was decided by me on 15th november, 1972. one of the respondents in that case was shri amar nath son of shri nihal chand. at the hearing of the appeal, the appellants were represented by mr. anoop singh, advocate, and the respondents by mr. n. d. bali, advocate. the appeal was decided on the, assumption that all the parties were alive and no mention was made that shri amar nath, respondent no. 3, was dead. in fact, his advocate did not bring this fact, to the notice of the court. the judgment, as i have mentioned above, was delivered on 15th november, 1972, and the appeal was accepted. on 80th january, 1973, three separate applications on behalf of the appellants were filed in this court. they were civil miscellaneous nos. 456 to 458 of 1973. in these applications, it.....
Judgment:

1. There are a number of applications before me which will be decided by this judgment. There was a second appeal, R. S. A. No. 22 of 1966, instituted by Satnamsingh and another versus Mohinder Singh and others, which was decided by me on 15th November, 1972. One of the respondents in that case was Shri Amar Nath son of Shri Nihal Chand. At the hearing of the appeal, the appellants were represented by Mr. Anoop Singh, Advocate, and the respondents by Mr. N. D. Bali, Advocate. The appeal was decided on the, assumption that all the parties were alive and no mention was made that Shri Amar Nath, respondent No. 3, was dead. In fact, his Advocate did not bring this fact, to the notice of the Court. The judgment, as I have mentioned above, was delivered on 15th November, 1972, and the appeal was accepted. On 80th January, 1973, three separate applications on behalf of the appellants were filed in this Court. They were Civil Miscellaneous Nos. 456 to 458 of 1973. In these applications, it was stated that Shri Amar Nath bad died on 21st June, 1972 and the fact that be had died was not known to the appellants at the time the appeal was heard. It was also stated that the appellants had only discovered that Shri Amar Nath bad died when they had gone to take steps to execute the sale-deed in their favor. I may mention that the suit out of which the aforementioned appeal arose, was a suit for specific performance of a particular property situated in the Sabzi Mandi Area in Delhi. Thus, the case of the successful appellants before this Court, was that they discovered the death of respondent No. 3, on 26th January, 1973. It was explained in C. M. No. 456 of 1973, that the appellants had gone on 14th January, 1973, to the Lal Bagh Locality where Shri Amar Nath originally resided and learnt that be had shifted from there to a trans-Jamuna colony. Later they bad learnt big address from Sardar Pritarn Singh Krishna Nagar, Delhi-51, and subsequently on 26th January, 1973, bad learnt from Shrimati Sodhi that her husband, Shri Amar Nath bad died on 21st June, 1972. The legal representatives of The deceased, Shri Amar Nath were mentioned in paragraph 8 of this application. In the end, it was prayed that the abatement should be set aside and the other application for condoning the delay should also be considered. Along with this application, C. M. 457/73 was under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, stating that on account of the reasons stated. in the application first mentioned, There was sufficient cause for condoning the, delay. The, third application, C. M. No. 458 of 1973, was under Order 32, Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure praying that Shri Kul Bhushan son of Slui Amar Nath should be appointed as a Guardian-ad-litem of his minor sister Kumari Usha.

2. These three applications were placed before me for consideration and I was very doubtful as to the procedure that was to be adopted in a case like the present in view of the fact that the appeal had already been decided.

3. Subsequently, the appellant again filed two more applications, which have been numbered as Civil Miscellaneous Nos. 1422 and 1423 of 1973. The former application is also under Order 22, Rules 2 and 4 and Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure praying that the proceedings so far in the appeal should be set aside and the call and the appeal should be re-beard after impleading the legal representatives of the deceased respondent No. 3. The other application was concerned with the appointment of Shri Kul Bhushan as Guardian-ad-litem of the minor Kumari Usha. This application was, more or less, the same as C. M. No. 458 of 1973.

4. Notice was given to the legal representatives of respondent No. 3 and then these, applications were heard.

5. The case before me is quite an unprecedented one, because the various applications mentioned above have been placed before the Court after the appeal had already been decided by me, and I was of the view at first, that once the appeal has been decided, this Court ceases to have any jurisdiction in the matter. I find that this view is not altogether correct. A number of cases have been placed before me for considering the exact procedure to be adopted in situation like the present.

6. In Tota Ram v. Kundan, AIr 1928 Lah 784, the point that arose before the Bench was that a decree had been passed after the death of a party in ignorance of his death. The Court was of the view that the proper procedure to be adopted was to treat the proceedings as being not altogether null and void, but to re-open the proceedings. The facts of the case are clarified by the following passage from the judgment:-

'It appears, that another vendec, Chuni Lal by Dame, died on 8th July, 1921 during the pendency of the suit in the trial Court; and that his legal representative was not brought on the record. The learned counsel for the, appellant urges that the failure of the plaintiffs to implead the, legal representative resulted in the abatement of suit, it is, however clear that the decrees granting preemption war made by the trial judge on 4th January, 1922, before the expiry of six months (which was the period applicable at that time to an application to implead the legal representative of deceased defendant) from the date of the death of Chuni Lal and it cannot be said that the suit bad abated as against the deceased, The decree was, no doubt passed against the defendants one of consideration is whether it should be treated as a nullity.

I do not think that the decree can be treated as a nullity in the sense that it can be ignored altogether. As pointed out in Goda Coopooramier v. Soondarammal, (1910) 33 Mad 167, a decree passed after the death of a party to the suit or appeal is not an absolute nullity. Such a decree is not void nor is it open to collateral attack but it is erroneous and liable to be set aside.'

This passage indicates that the Court had taken the view that the proceedings should be set aside and all the parties should be placed in the same position as if the legal representatives had been brought on the record at the proper time. Strangely enough, this judgment has been differently interpreted by counsel on both sides. Learned counsel for the appellants- applicants states that this case is on all fours with the situation in this case and I should merely set aside the proceedings and order the re-hearing of the appeal. On the other hand, counsel for the legal representatives of the third respondent contends that the period of limitation bad already expired at the time the judgment was delivered and hence a valuable right bad arisen in favor of the legal representatives, which could not be rectified by bringing them on record and rehearing the appeal It is submitted that the judgment should be allowed to stand as it is and the appellants should suffer the consequences of not having imp leaded the legal representatives. In answer to this, counsel for the appellants contends that if the appeal is not re-heard, it cannot be executed and it means that virtually all advantage flowing to the appellants from the judgment is lost.

7. On a careful consideration of the circumstances of this case, I am of the view that the first point that requires consideration is, whether the decision in the Second Appeal can be treated as a nullity and, thereforee, of no legal effect. In order to decide this point it is necessary to note that the provisions of Order 22 of the Code. Which provide for abatement of proceedings, do not require any formal order, If a party to a suit dies, then the abatement is automatic. Thus, the real and true legal effect of the death of respondent No. 3. was that the appeal abated when the legal representatives of the deceased respondent No. 3 were not brought on record within the requisite period. The law envisages two stages in this connection. There is a period during which the appellants could have imp leaded the legal representatives, and there was a further period during which they could have applied to set aside the abatement. The total period allowed by law is 150 days. After the period of 150 days has expired, then, the appellants could apply to set aside the abatement only after getting the delay condoned under Section 5 of the Limitation Act. These points are well settled. Turning now to the facts of this case and the dates, the position would be as follows. Firstly, the third respondent died on 21st June, 1972. The statutory period for impleading his legal representatives ex1pired after 90 days. That would be some time in September 1972. In actual fact, the appeal was decided by me on 15th November, 1972, by an oral judgment. On that date, the period of 90 days having expired, the appeal had abated as the legal representatives were not on record. The abatement was automatic and did not require any order of the Court. The only reason that the appeal was heard and determined by me was because no one was aware of the fact that respondent No. 3 had died. Even his advocate Mr. N. D. Bali was unaware of his death. The decision in the appeal does not at all affect the question of abatement. I thereforee, bold that the appeal bad abated, in spite of the fact that I decided the same by a 1judgment dated 15th November, 1972. As indicated in the above quoted judgment, the proper procedure is to set aside the proceedings after the appeal bad abated and thus to consider the case as if no judgment had been delivered. On the facts I thus have to treat the judgment of 15th November, 1972 as being non-existent. I may mention that the difference between this case and the case decided by the Lahore High Court was the fact that in that case the decree of the trial Court was passed before the period for impleading the legal representatives had expired and thus, the case had not abated before the date of the judgment.

8. Now, having treated this case as one that bad abated by reason of the legal representatives not having been imp leaded, I have to decide whether the period for setting aside the abatement can be extended in view of the application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act.

9. It is well-settled that a mere lack of knowledge concerning the death of the respondent is not a sufficient ground for extending the period under Section 5 of the Limitation Act. It is observed in Firm Dittu Ram Eyedan v. Ompress Co.; Ltd. Fazilka , which is a decision by a Full Bench, that ignorance of the death is not per se sufficient cause for extending the period of limitation by recourse to Section 5 of the Limitation Act. However, on the facts of that case, the Court was able to trail it at there was sufficient cause to extend the period of limitation.

10. In Union of India v. Ram Charan : [1964]3SCR467 , it was held by the Supreme Court that mere allegation that the death of the opposite party was not known was insufficient for the purpose of Section 5 of the limitation Act. It was stated:-

'This means that the applicant bad to allege and establish facts which, in the view of the Court, be a sufficient reason for his not making the application for bringing on record the legal representatives of the deceased within time. If no such facts are alleged none can be established and, in that case Court cannot set aside the abatement of the suit unless the very circumstances of the case make it so obvious that the Court be in a position to bold that there was sufficient cause for the applicant's not continuing the suit by taking necessary steps within the period of limitation. Such would be a very rare case.

There is another passage in the judgment, which is of some help in view of the extraordinary circumstances that arise in the present case. That passage reads:_ 'The legislature might have expected that ordinarily the interval between two successive hearings of a suit will be much within three months and the absence of any defendant within that period at a certain hearing may be accounted by his counsel or some relation to be due to his death or may make the plaintiff inquisitive about the reasons for the other party's absence.'

Turning again to the facts of this case, it is to be recalled that the third respondent died on 21st June, 1972, and the appeal was beard on 15th November, 1972. There was just time on the date of hearing for the appellants to make an application for setting aside the abatement within the prescribe period of 150 days. This they could have done if a statement had been made by counsel for respondent No. 3 that his client had died. It is noteworthy that no such statement was made. In fact, not only the appellants, but even the counsel of respondent No. 3, and naturally the Court proceeded on the basis that respondent No. 3 was still alive. This would mean that the appellants certainly could not suspect on 15th November, 1972, that the third respondent was dead and they bad to move an application to set aside the abatement. The judgment cited above, shows that the mere absence of knowledge of death is not sufficient cause, but if at the hear in the counsel of a deceased party appears and does not point out that his client is dead, then the opposite party can naturally say that he had no reason to suspect that the appeal had abated, or that it was necessary to implead the legal representatives.

11. This brings me to the period after 15th November, 1972. It is stated in the application, C. M. No. 456/73, which is supported by the affidavit of the first appellant that the appellants discovered the death of Shri Amar Nath on 26th January, 1973. The circumstances appearing in that application can now be set out in a little more detail, as the question we have to see in how far the appellants bad sufficient cause for delaying at the application for setting aside the abatement.

12. The application states that the certified copy of the judgment delivered by myself on 15th November, 1972, was applied for on 16th November, 1972, and issued on 18th December, 1972. Thereafter, the appellants had to take steps to execute the decree for specific performance in their favor. They went to enquire the residence of respondent No. 3, and found that he had shifted his residence. This discovery was made on 14th January, 1973. On 21st January, 1973, they discovered that the third respondent had shifted to House No. 82, Ram agar, Krishna Nagar, Delhi 51. On 26th January, 1973, they learnt that Shri Amar kath , respondent No. 3 had died on 21st June, 1972. The application itself is dated 27th January, 1973, and was filed in this Court on 30th January, 1973. The affidavit which accompanies this application was sworn on 27th January, 1973. This is then the Explanationn for the delay after 15th November, 1972. To my mind, it is legitimate to expect the appellants to take some time before they could have discovered the death of Shri Amar Nath respondent No. 3 in the special circumstances of this case.

13. Now a reply has been filed along with an affidavit of Shri Kul Bhushan, son of the deceased respondent No. 3. It is stated that the facts set out in the application are incorrect as far as the information about the death of Shri Amar Nath is concerned. It is stated that the application is incorrect, because in fact Shrimati Sodhi was not in Delhi on the said date. No one from the appellants visited the house of the deceased and never met Mrs. Sodhi'.

14. No doubt the reply filed on behalf of the legal representatives raises a contested question of fact. It suggests that the appellants did not discover on 26-1-1973 from Shrimati Sodhi that Shri Amar Nath, her husband, bad died on 21st June, 1972. The date of death is, however, not disputed. Now, the learned counsel for the legal representatives suggests that this question should be tried on oral evidence. I do not think this is necessary, because even if the reply is correct, it does not show bow the appellants discovered the death of Shri Amar Nath. If Shrimati Sodhi did not tell them that her late husband had died on 21st June, 1972, then it would mean that the appellants bad learnt this fact from some other source, which is quite un-known.

15. Now, the time interval between 15th November, 1972 and 26th January, 1973 is only just over two months. Admittedly, nobody stated before the Court on 15th November, 1972, that Shri Amar Nath had died; this means that the fact of Shri Amar Math's death could only be discovered by the appellants at some subsequent time. The appellants bad explained that they took some time to get the copies of the judgment and decree of this Court and, thereafter tried to find out where Shri Amar Nath lived. They found that he had changed his residence and then discovered that he had died. It is quite possible that they might have made the discovery from some one else whom they took to be Mrs. Sodhi. It is quite possible that they might have discovered the death, through some neighbor or from some other source. I do not think it in quite necessary to ascertain with certainty as to whom the discovery, was made from, I think it is sufficient to notice that on 15th November 1972, they had no reason to suspect that Shri Amar Nath had died and they moved the Court on 30th January 1973, to set aside the abatement I think, they had sufficient cause for the delay in making the application in the peculiar circumstances of this case. I feel, I am, fortified in my view by the impression that as there were three respondents imp leaded in the appeal before the Court, who were, all represented by one and the same counsel, there was no reason why the other respondents could not have informed the Court that the third respondent was dead. As they did not do so, the only inference to be drawn is that on 15th November, 1972, none of the appellants, nor the surviving respondents knew of the death of respondent No. 8. Similarly, even the counsel for respondent No. 3 was unaware of his death. The subsequent period up to 30th January, 1973, is a natural period, in view, which must have elapsed before the appellants could have discovered the fact that Shri Amar Nath had died. Furthermore, as all the legal representatives of Shri Amar Nath are mentioned in the application, dated 27th January, 1973, I must hold that the appellants must have made enquiries ascertain this from some one closely connected with the family of the late Shri Amar Nath. This leads to the conclusion that the appellants have shown sufficient cause for condoning the delay in filing the application to implead the legal representatives within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. I thus condone the delay and allow C. M. No. 457/73, which is the application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963.

16. The application numbered as C. M. 1422/73 is an application under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, praying that the appeal be heard de novo after setting aside the judgment dated 15th November 1972. I have already concluded in the above discussion that the appeal bad abated before 15th November, 1972, and thus the judgment delivered on that day had to be disregarded. I now hold that the said judgment is of no legal effect and the appeal has to proceed as if the judgment bad not been delivered. C. M. No. 1422/73 is allowed to this extent.

17. The application numbered as C. M. 456/73, is an application to set aside the abatement of R. S. A. No. 22 of 1966. In view of my conclusions stated above and discussed in detail earlier, I have come to the conclusion that the appeal did abate. As I have already condoned the delay in applying for setting aside the abatement, while deciding C. M. No. 457 of 1973, I can now proceed to decide this application. I, thereforee set aside the abatement of the, appeal and Proceed to pass an order to implead the legal representatives of the deceased, Shri Amar Nath. The names of the legal representatives are set out in paragraph 8 of the application: they are the widow, three sons and, four daughters of the deceased. In the reply to this application., the legal representatives have stated that two of these, persons are not the legal representatives of the deceased. The persons objected to are Brij Busban and Kumari Usha. I accept this reply and direct that of that 8 persons mentioned in para. 8 of the application Shrimati Sodhi, Shri Kul Bbusaa, Shri Bharat Bhusan, Shrimati Sharda, Shrimati Snehlata and Shriinati Mohini may be joined as parties and Shri Brij Bhushan and Kurnari Usha, the two legal representatives objected to need not be joined. The array of parties may be suitably amended to bring on record the newly imp leaded legal representatives of respondent No. 3, Shri Amar Nath, deceased.

18. Turning now to C, M. No. 458 of 1973, T find that this is an application to appoint Shri Kul Bhushan as the guardian-ad-litem of his minor sister Kumari Usha. As observed already, the legal, representatives I have stated that there is no such person. In the reply, the statement made by the legal representatives, which is supported by what counsel has stated in Court, I reject C. M. No. 458 of 1973, on the ground that there is no legal representatives named Kumari Usha, C. M. No. 1423 of 1973 is virtually for the same relief and is also disallowed.

19. The result of these orders is that the appeal has now to be reheard after the, necessary amendments have been made in the memorandum of parties as directed above. Notice of the re-bearing of the appeal will issue to the respondents including the newly imp leaded legal representatives. Although the main prayer of the appellants has been allowed, in view of the fact that these applications involved a decision concerning an unusual and almost unprecedented procedural questions, I leave the parties to bear their own costs as far as the bearing of these applications is concerned.

20. Order accordingly.


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