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Charanjit Lal Malhtora Vs. Raj Kumari Sud and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCommercial
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Miscellaneous No. 2344D of 1966 and First Appeal No. 120D of 1965
Judge
Reported in4(1968)DLT639
ActsLimitation Act, 1963 - Sections 5; Punjab High Court Rules; Punjab High Court Orders
AppellantCharanjit Lal Malhtora
RespondentRaj Kumari Sud and ors.
Advocates: G.R. Chopra,; C.M. Kohli and; M.S. Vohra, Advs
Excerpt:
.....performance of agreement to sell property in controversy - delay by plaintiff in filing certified copy of decree-sheet - plaintiff under impression that it was sufficient to furnish copy of judgment - copy of decree nto furnished under impression - reasonable for plaintiff to form impression being inspired by normal anxiety to diligently prosecute his appeal - delay condoned under section 5. - - if he failed to do so, the suit of the plaintiff will be deemed to have been dismissed. ' it clearly shows that on 28th may, 1st 6, some mistakes, which had apparently cropped in the judgment due to inadvertence, were rectified but obviously no amendment of the decree as directed by miss santosh mehta, commercial subordinate judge. (ii) in making such calculations the following points must..........question of dispensing with the production, along with the memorandum of appeal, of a copy of the decree appealed from. the decree was made on 27th february, 1965 and the application for its copy was presented on 8th july, 1965. the copy was ready on 15th july, 1965, taken delivery of on 16th july, 1965 and filed in this court on 17th july, 1965. prima facie, the appeal would be barred by time, and in fact the appellant's learned counsel does nto dispute it. the only question to be decided is if sufficient cause is made out for attracting section 5, limitation act. the principal ground on which this section is invoked is that the appellant had been misled by the operative portion of the judgment, he being under the impression that the decree sheet would be drawn up only when the.....
Judgment:

I.D. Dua, C.J. and T.V.R. Tatachari, J.

(1) In a suit for specific performance of an agreement to sell the property in controv- ersy and for damages instituted by Shri Charanjit Lal Malhtora against Dr. Prithi Singh, the learned Commercial Subordinate Judge, Delhi, on 27th February, 1965 made a decree in favor of the plaintiff for specific performance of the agreement to sell in the following terms :-

'I,therefore, pass a decree for specific performance of the agreement to sell in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant of the property in dispute The plaintiff will deposit Rs 7,550.00 within one month from today. If he failed to do so, the suit of the plaintiff will be deemed to have been dismissed. The defendant will give an application for permission to transfer the property in question to the plaintiff to the appropriate authority within one month of the ntoice of the deposit of the money served on the defendant. Within one month of the date of the grant of the permission, the defendant would execute the sale-deed in favor of the plaintiff. In case the permission is refused, the decree for specific performance would become infructuous and in that case the plaintiff would he entitled to a decree for Rs. 5.000.00 only with proportionate costs. In case the permission is granted to the defendant for transfer of the property, the plaintiff will be entitled to full costs of the suit. The plaintiff would also be entitled to the possession of the flat in question in case a decree for specific performance stands. If the defendant fails to perform any of the acts mentioned above, the same will be done by the Stenographer of this Court on behalf of the defendant '

(2) The plaintiff presented in this Court. Regular First Appeal No. 120 of 1965 on 12th July, 1965. The Office returned this appeal with the remark that certified copy of the decree-sheet duly stamped should be filed. The appeal was refiled on 17th july, 1965 with the certified copy of the decree and it was ntoed by the counsel for the appellant that the copy was ready on 15th Julv, 1965 and was taken delivery of on 17th July, 1965. An application for condensation of the delay under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, it was pointed our, had already been filed. An application dated 10th July, 1965, but filed in Court on 13th July, 1965 under section 5 of the Limitation Act read with Section 151, Civil P.C. contains reasons for condoning the delay in paragraphs 3 to 6. It is averred therein that the appellant had been misled by the operative portion of the judgment and thought that the decree for specific performance was conditional on the permission being available from the appropriate authority and it the permission was refused, then the appellant was only entitled to Rs. 5.000.00 with proportionate costs. On this view, the appellant remained under the impression that the decree sheet would be drawn up only when the permission of the appropriate authority was granted or refused. As a result of this impression, the appellant only applied for a certified copy of the judgment on 16th April, 11565, without applying for a copy of the decree. The appellant deposited the requisite amount in Court in accordance with its directions. In the meantime, however, Dr. Prithi Singh judgment debtor died andthe appellant became uncertain as to who was to specifically perform the agreement. Faced with this situation the appellant filed an application under Order XXll, Rule 4, Civil P. C., for impleading the heirs to the judgment-debtor, which application is still pending in the trial Court, though it is conceded in the application that after the conclusion of the suit, it is unnecessary to file an application for impleading the heirs and successors of the judgment debtor. On. Dr. Prithi Singh's death, it drawned upon the appellant that in case the decree for specific performance be nto capable of being implemented, he would still be entitled to damages which had nto been awarded by the trial Court. He, thereforee, considered it necessary to appeal from the decree In the meantime, however, the civil Courts were closed and the petitioner was prevented from applying for the certified copy of the decree. The petitioner approached the acting District Judge, Delhi, during the vacation for being supplied with the necessary certified copy, but the Clerk of the Court of the Commercial Subordinate Judge, In whose custody the file of the case was, was also on leave due to the summer vacation. The petitioner than averred that on the re-opening of the civil Courts on 14th July, 1965. he would be able to obtain a certified copy and file the same in this Court. The appeal, it may be pointed out, was accordingly presented only with a certified copy of the judgment and without that of the decree.

(3) Dulat, J, of the Punjab High Court, sitting on Circuit, on 9th August 1965, issued ntoice to the opposite party of the application under section 6 of the Limitation Act (C. Misc. 2344-D of '1935). From the record, I find that a certified copy of the decree dated 27th February, 1965 was applied for on 8th July, 1905 and was reads on 35th July, 1965. C.Misc. 2344-D of 1965 was set down for hearing before S. B. Capoor and Khanna JJ. on 27th July, 1966, but was adjourned on request by Miss C. M. Kohli, Advocate, to the effect that Shri G. R. Chopra, counsel for the appellant, had gone out of India. Shri G R. Chopra appeared before the same Bench on 9th August, 1966 and offered to file certified copies of the amended Judgment and decree vide order of Miss S. Mehta, Commercial Subordinate Judge, dated 28th May, 1966 and prayed that the disposal of the miscellaneous application under section 5, Limitation Act, be in the circumstances held over. In October, 1965, the appellant filed an application under Order V Rule 20, Civil P. C., for serving the unserved respondents by substituted service (C. Misc 3759-D of 1965). It appears that this petition was allowed by a learned Single Judge of the Punjab High Court Thereafter it seems that bymeans of an application under Order 1, Rule 10, and section 151, Civil P. C. Ic, Misc (05-D/65) the appellant prayed that Smt. Santosh Devi and Miss Shanta Sud be also imp leaded as respondents and served through substituted service in the manner directed by Bedi, J. in C. Misc. 3759-D of 1965. According to the appellant, S K. Kapar, J allowed this application and the ntoice was published in the Daily Tej' in April, 1966. On 16th January, 1968, the three miscellaneous petitions were set down for hearing before one of us when the records were sent for and ntoice of C. Misc. No 2344-D of 1965 was also directed to go to the respondent , After several adjounrments, the matter has finally been argued before us and now we are required to pronounce on the question whether the regular first appeal is within limitation, and if nto, whether there is sufficient ground for condoning the delay.

(4) It has been argued before us that the judgment and decree dated 27th February, 1965 were later amended by Miss Santosh Mehta, Commercial Subordinate Judge and it is the date of the amendment which should be considered to be the terminus a quo for the purpose of the appeal and merely because the present appeal was presented prior to the amendment and as such may be premature, it can, without prejudice, to the opposite party, be treated as an appeal from the amended decree and judgment.

(5) On the present record of the appeal, however, we find only a copy of the older dated 28th May, 1968 made by Miss Santosh Mehta, Commercial Subordinate Judge, when the case was adjourned to 31st July, 1966 for report on the steps to he taken by the Stenographer in what appears to us to be more in the nature of execution than a final judgment in the suit. This copy appears to have been produced in this Court in August, 1966. On 27th March, 1967, the appellant also appears to have produced in this Court a certified copy of the decree dated 27th February. 1965 as amended as per order of the Commercial Subordinate Judge dated 310 March, 1962. This copy had apparently been applied for on 4th March, 1967 and secured on 21st March, 1967. No copy of the order dated 3rd March, 1967 seems to have been produced in this Court. From the original record of the lower Court, however, we find that in the order dated 23rd August, 1967, the Commercial Subordinate Judge, in proceedings following her order dated 28th May, 1966, observed as follows :-

'Ibe applicant has also moved for amendment of the decree in pursuance of the Older dated 28th May, 1966. I have perused that order necessitates the amendment of the decree as all the matters, including the death of the judgment debtor, have taken place after the passing of the decree and these matters would be allowed in execution application, it any taken by the applicant. The application be filed.'

It clearly shows that on 28th May, 1st 6, some mistakes, which had apparently cropped in the judgment due to inadvertence, were rectified but obviously no amendment of the decree as directed by Miss Santosh Mehta, Commercial Subordinate Judge. On 7th September, 1966, it is ntoeworthy that the same learned Commercial Subordinate Judge, after receiving the report observed that the sale-deed had been executed and with this observation, consigned the file to the record room, though no party was present.

(6) From the foregoing discusion, it is obvious that there is no question of any amendment of the decree, which would have the effect of superseding the earlier decree dated 27th February, 1965 and conferring a fresh right of appeal from the amended decree. Indeed no appeal from the amended decree even purports to have been filed in this Court.

(7) Turning now to the question of limitation, it is in contenstible that the appeal in the case in hand lay only from a decree and there is no question of dispensing with the production, along with the memorandum of appeal, of a copy of the decree appealed from. The decree was made on 27th February, 1965 and the application for its copy was presented on 8th July, 1965. The copy was ready on 15th July, 1965, taken delivery of on 16th july, 1965 and filed in this Court on 17th July, 1965. Prima facie, the appeal would be barred by time, and in fact the appellant's learned counsel does nto dispute it. The only question to be decided is if sufficient cause is made out for attracting section 5, Limitation Act. The principal ground on which this section is invoked is that the appellant had been misled by the operative portion of the Judgment, he being under the impression that the decree sheet would be drawn up only when the permission of the appropriate authority is either granted or refused. On this impression, the appellant had initially applied only for a certified copy of the judgment and nto of the decree. Inability to apply for a copy during the summer vacation in the subordinate civil Courts has also been pleaded as an additional ground for condoning the delay, it being added that when the appellant approached the acting District Judge for a copy during the vacation, the Clerk of Court of the Commercial Subordinate Judge, having the custody of the record, was on leave with the result that the copy could nto be prepared during the vacation Limitation is stated by the appellent to have expired on 1st July, 1965.

(8) At this stage, we consider it proper to draw the attention of the officer of this Court, whose duty it is to examine the memorandum of appeal, to the provisions contained in Chapter 11-D, Vol 1 of the High Court Rules & Orders, particularly to paragraph 2 of that Part which reads as under :-

'2.(i) If the memorandum of appeal appears to be presented after time, or there appears to be ground for doubting whether it is within time, such officer shall record upon or annex to the memorandum of appeal a ntoe of his calculation , showing: (1) the date when the period expired, without any allowances ; (2) the allowances to which appellant seems entitled ; (3} the date when the period expired, after all the allowances, to be made under head (2) have been made.

(ii) In making such calculations the following points must be borne in mind :- (a) The date when the time expired under bead (1} is to be calculated irrespective of such date failing upon a day when the Court is closed for a holiday (including Sunday) or for vacation, any allowance on this account being ntoed under head (2) of the calculation (b) The entries endorsed of judgments and the like will be assumed to be correct. (e) The date on which the application for copy is made and also the day on which the copy is given will each be reckoned separately as one day unless btoh events occur on the same day. (d) The date on which a copy is ready for delivery will be deemed, for the purpose of such calculation, to be the day on which it is given * * * We have considered it necessary to lay emphasis on these directions because due compliance with them would facilitate proper determination of the question of limitation by the Courts of appeal and these directions are nto always fully complied with. At least the case in hand is one such instance. The attention of such officers in the lower Appellate Courts is also drown to these directions. In the present case, we have to check up from the certified copy of the judgment attacked with the memorandum of appeal, the time spent in securing it. The application for the copy was apparently made on 16th April 1965 and the copy was attested on 20th May, 1965. Taking into account these days, the limitation apparently seems to have expired on 1st July, 1965 when the High Court was closed doe to summer vacation. In these circumstances, the appeal, if validly presented, complete in ali particulars, on the re-opening of the High Court, would have been within limitation. But the appeal admittedly was nto so presented on the re-opening of the Court. A copy of the decree-sheet was applied for on 8th July, 1935 when the period of limitation had expired even after excluding the time requisite for obtaining the copy of the Judgment. The appeal could be held within time only by virtue of the provisions of section 4, Limitation Act. The question would thus arise if the time spent in obtaining the copy of decree after the re-opening of the High Court after the vacation can be considered as time requisite so as to justify its exclusion in comouting the period of limitation in accordance with section 12, Limitation Act. No arguments on this precise aspects have been addressed at the bar and we express no considered opinion on the question whether the appellant is entitled as of right to exclude this period under section 12. Indeed the appellant's counsel has all along proceeded on the assumption that the appeal would be barrad by time unless section 5, Limitation Act, is appeled.

(9) There is antoher aspect to which we may advert at this stage. According to paragraph 1 of Chapter 14-B(a) of Vol. I of the High Court Rules and Orders, whenever an application is made for a copy of a civil Judgment for the purpose of appeal the applicant is to be informed that a copy of the decree would also be required and he should be supplied with such copy, unless he declines to pay the necessary fees, in which a case certificate under the signatures of the officer-in-charge of the Copying Department, should be endorsed on the copy of the judgment supplied to the applicant to the effect that 113 was duty informed that a copy of the decree was requisite, and, after being so informed declined to pay fees for the same. Now, the appellant has nto cared to make any point founded on that failure of the Copying Department to attempt to supply him a copy of the decree, and indeed we do nto even know if the appellant had made an application for a copy of the judgment for the purpose of appeal. Had tie done so, it could reasonably have been taken into account for applying section 5, Limitation Act.

(10) Considering now the question of sufficient cause under section 5, on the facts established, it may be pointed out that the appellant's failure to account for his non-diligence daring the whole of the period of limitation prescribed for the appeal does nto necessarily by ifself disqlalify him from praying for relief under this section. The appellant claiming relief has to show sufficient cause for nto preferring the appeal within the prescribed period and when he has successfully done so, the Court is then required to consider, in its discretion, the question of condoning the delay If is at this stage that the Court has to take into account all the relevant factors. It is proper in this connection to bear in mind that after the expiry of limitation, a valuable right accrues to the successful respondent and also that the right of appeal on the merits should nto be too readily denied to the aggrieved party. Section 5 has, thereforee. to be construed and applied in a practical way, judiciously strikingh a proper balabce between these two conflicting claims, the applicability of section 3 has accordingly to be reasonably liberal so as nto to unduly penalise the appellants who have taken reasonable steps nacessary for prosecuting their appeals, nor should it unduly deprive the sucessful party of the benefit of the expiry of limitation.

(11) In the case in hand, the appeal as filed was incomplete because the copy of the decree applied for had nto been supplied to him by that time. As observed earlier, the copy of the decree was applied for on 3th July, 1965 when the High Court was closed. Now, according to Rule 24 of the Rules framed by the Punjab High Court under Article 227 of the Constitution, as published in Chapter 17 of the High Court Rules & Orders, Vol. Iv, a copy his ordinarily to be ready, by the third working day of the receipt of application and the applicant for a copy is entitled to have his copy furnished to him as far as possible on the day appointed for its delivery, It for any reason, it is nto possible to prepare the copy asked for by the appointed day, the officer -in charge, is required to send an intimation by best to the applicant fixing antoher day for its delivery so that he does nto it unnecessarily visit the agency It is true that these rules were framed by the Punjab High Court with the previous approval of the State Government for regulating the preparation and supply of copies of records of Civil and Criminal Courts by the Copy ing Agencies under the control of the District & Sessions Judges and the Judge, Small Cause Court, Amritsar, and it may nto in terms be applicable to Delhi. But these rules do illustrate the importance attached to the speedy supply of copies to the litigants. Turning now to the directions contained in Chapter 5-B of the High Court Rules & Orders, vol. V, according to paragraph 9 thereof, urgent copies have ordinarily to be delivered to the applicant nto later than three days of the receipt of the records in the Copy Branch and ordinary copies, as far as practicable, in the order in which the fees required under the rules are deposit ed. If the Copy Branch experiences difficulty in securing the records, the Deputy Commissioner is required, on the matter being reported to him, to take steps to secure them for the Copy Branch. Now these, sets of rules and directions in unambiguous terms bring out the importance of supply of copies to the applicants with the reasonable due dispatch and the anxiety of their authors to see that copies are supplied with the requisite promptitude. In the case in hand. we do nto know it the application for the decree was made urgent, but even toherwise, the delay in supplying the copy of the decree cannto be considered as a wholly irrelevant factor, and if the delay beyond the period within which the copies are expected to be supplied is unexplained, than it may legimately be taken into account, within proper limits, in considering the question of sufficient cause under section 6. Limitation Act We regret to observe in this connection that the unsatisfactory working of the Copy Branch in Delhi is ntoorious and it is a matter of common knowledge that the supply of copies herein, as a general rule, inordinately delayed. This delay nto infrequently prejudictes the litigants and tends to some extent to cause avoidable multiplicity of procedings , It farther tends to create alluring conditions for corruption in the Copy Agency which, in our view, is a highly distrubing factor. But be that as it may, we are inclined in these circumstances tp exercise our discretion in favor of the appellant and hold that the delay in producing a certified copy of the decree deserves to bs condoned. We should like to make it clear that in so far as the impression stated to have been formed by the appellant about the effect of the impugned judgment os cpmcermed we are far from satisfied that such an impression was reasonable or could have been formed by any person, inspired by normal anxiety to diligently prosecute his appeal, taking, to that end, legal advice from some professional lawyer of reasonable status and standing. This plea, on the circumstances of this case, gives to us an impression as if it is an afterthought it is certainly difficult to accept.

(12) As a result of the foregoing discussion, we allow the application under section 5, Limitation Act, and hold that the appeal is within time, but on the circumstances of the case, the appellant must pay costs of these proceedings which we fix at Rs. 50.


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