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Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Veena Mehta and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContract
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revision Appeal No. 479 of 1973
Judge
Reported inILR1977Delhi364; 1977RLR126
ActsLimitation Act, 1963 - Sections 5; Indian Contract Act, 1872 - Sections 229
AppellantMunicipal Corporation of Delhi
RespondentVeena Mehta and ors.
Advocates: S. Balakrishnan and; K.R. Gupta, Advs
Cases ReferredKrishna v. Chatthappan
Excerpt:
.....both these applicants were contested and it was averred that the petitioner corporation had acquired knowledge on 10th february, 1972 in the court of mr. j. d. jain by the statement of mr. c. l. joseph, which had been made in the presence of the counsel for the petitioner corporation. the court below found that there was no satisfactory explanationn for the delay and dismissed the petition :; (in revision), that the rule of law, as embodied in section 229 of the contract act, attributes the knowlege of the agent if acquired in the course of the business transacted by him to the principal.; thereforee, that the corporation had acquired the knowledge through their agent, mr. r.s. bakshi, in the course of the business transacted by him for the principal. accordingly, the knowledge of..........both these applications were contested and it was averred that the petitioner corporation had acquired knowledge on 10th february, 1972 in the court of mr. j- d. jain by the statement of mr. c. l. joseph, which had been made in the presence of the counsel for the petitioner corporation. the court below found that there was no satisfactory explanationn for the delay and dismissed the petition. (3) feeling aggrieved, the petitioner has filed this revision. the counsel for the petitioner has contended that the knowledge acquired by the agent of the petitioner in another proceeding could not be attributed to the petitioner in the instant proceedings and the reasoning and conclusion of the court below is erroneous. (4) the facts disclosed on the record are that mr. r. s.bakshi was the.....
Judgment:

C. Misra, J.

(1) This revision petition has been- filed by the defendant, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, under section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, against the order of Mr. S. R. Goel, Additional District Judge, dated 5th March, 1973, by which he has rejected the application of the petitioner for setting aside the abatement.

(2) The material facts of the case are that Major Virender Singh Mehta instituted a suit against the petitioner Corporation, which was decreed, against which the petitioner filed an appeal in the court below. The plaintiff was alleged to have died on 17th December, 1971 during the Indo-Pak war. During the pendency of the appeal the counsel for the deceased plaintiff made a statement on 24th April, 1972 about the death of the plaintiff. Consequently, by order dated 26th April, 1972, the appeal was 'dismissed as abated'. The petitioner Corporation filed an application on 16th May, 1972 for setting aside the abatement and bringing on record the legal representatives of the deceased. This application was followed five months later by an application under section 5 of the Limitation Act for condensation of dalay in moving the apphcation. Both these applications were contested and it was averred that the petitioner Corporation had acquired knowledge on 10th February, 1972 in the Court of Mr. J- D. Jain by the statement of Mr. C. L. Joseph, which had been made in the presence of the counsel for the petitioner Corporation. The court below found that there was no satisfactory Explanationn for the delay and dismissed the petition.

(3) Feeling aggrieved, the petitioner has filed this revision. The counsel for the petitioner has contended that the knowledge acquired by the agent of the petitioner in another proceeding could not be attributed to the petitioner in the instant proceedings and the reasoning and conclusion of the court below is erroneous.

(4) The facts disclosed on the record are that Mr. R. S.Bakshi was the standing counsel of the petitioner Corporation and the Corporation was a party to the proceedings before Mr. J. D. Jain as well as in the instant proceedings. In the other proceedings, Mr. C. L. Joseph, Advocate, gave a statement on 10th February, 1972 that Maj. Virender Singh Mehta, deceased plaintiff in the instant case, had died on 17th December, 1971 and this statement had been made in the presence of the counsel for the Corporation. This fact is also proved by the order of Mr. Jain, dated 10th February, 1972 (Ex. R2). The question that arises for consideration is whether the knowledge acquired by the petitioner Corporation through the counsel, Mr. R. S. Bakshi in the proceedings before Mr. J. D.Jain could be attributed to the petitioner Corporation in the present proceedings.

(5) Section 229 of the Contract Act lays down as follows :

'ANYnotice given to or information obtained by the agent, provided it be given or obtained in the course of the business transacted by him for the principal, shall, as between the principal and third parties, have the same legal consequences as if, it had been given to or obtained by the principal.'

This rule of law attributes the knowledge of the agent if acquired in the course of the business transacted by him to the principal. The statutory illustrations clearly bring out the point. In the first illustration, the knowledge is attributed to the principal, while in the second illustration, it is not attributed to the principal, since the knowledge had been previously acquired by the person, while he was not in the employment of the principal.

(6) The Judicial Committee in Raja Rampal Singh v- Balbhaddar Singh, 29 I.A. 203 observed that the aforesaid statutory provisions were only declaratory of the general principle of law and it was in a special sense applicable to legal proceedings which were usually conducted through an agent, and it would be impossible to conduct such business and it would lead to grave inconvenience and injustice, if it were required to prove afterwards that the client had personal knowledge of the contents of the pleadings, or of some documents in suit, or of general nature of the claim against him and it was not a mere question of constructive notice or inference of fact, but a rule of law which imputes the knowledge of the agent to the principal, or (in other words) the agency extended to receiving notice on behalf of the principal of whatever was material to be stated in the course of the proceedings.

(7) Mr. Balakrishnan, counsel for the petitioner, has placed a strong reliance on a single Bench decision of the High Court of Calcutta, Daulal Phumra v. Phani Bhusan Mandal, 71 C.W.N., 31. In that case the facts were that solicitors had acquired the knowledge of the death of a party in some proceedings to which the plaintiff was not a party and later on the plaintiff engaged the same solicitors in another proceedings and the question arose as to whether the knowledge acquired by the solicitors in the previous proceedings could be attributed to the principal in the subsequent proceedings. The court itself posed the question thus: 'If, however, the solicitors had knowledge of Sitanath's death in some other proceedings to which the plaintiff was not a party and in which the solicitors were not acting for the plaintiff, can it be said that the solicitors' knowledge of the death of Sitanath is, in law, knowledge of the plaintiff ?' The court answered the question in the negative.

(8) In my opinion, the facts of that case are clearly distinguishable. the proceedings in which the solicitors had acquired the knowledge the plaintiff was not a party and so at that time the solicitors cannot legally be said to be acting in the course of business of the plaintiff transacted by the solicitors. It was just an accident that the same solicitors were engaged by the plaintiff in that proceedings. Under these circumstances, the knowledge of the agent could obviously be not attributed to the principal and the statutory illustration (b) elucidates the point.

(9) In the instant case, there is no doubt that the petitioner Corporation was a party to the proceedings before Mr. J. D. Jain. It 'is also not disputed that Mrs. R. S. Bakshi was an advocate in those proceedings and he was the standing Counsel for the Corporation. Mr. Bakshi had, thereforee, knowledge of the death of the deceased. In the first appeal in the court below, it is again Mr. Bakshi who represented the petitioner Corporation. As such there is no doubt that the Corporation had acquired the knowledge through their agent, Mr. R. S. Bakshi in the course of the business transacted by him for the principal. The rule of law laid down in Daulal Phumra's case 71 C.W.N. 31 is, thereforee, not applicable to the facts of the instant case. I have no doubt that the knowledge of the death of the deceased must be attributed to the petitioner Corporation on the date its counsel received the information. The contention of the counsel, is rejected.

(10) The court below has, however, not decided the case on the point raised before me. It has held that the application was barred by time and there was no satisfactory Explanationn of each day's delay. The limitation during which the application for substitution to be made under Article 120 of the Limitation Act is 90 days from the date of the death of the party. The period of limitation prescribed for setting aside the abatement is 60 days under Article 121. The petitioner Corporation having learnt of the death of the deceased to have taken place on 17th December, 1971 must be deemed to have known the provision of law and ought to have moved quickly and explained each days delay. It even failed to explain the delay from the date of the knowledge of the death of the deceased acquired in the instant proceedings in April. 1972-

(11) In Firm Dittu Ram Evedan v. Om Pres Co. Ltd. , the Full Bench observed as follows:

'INconstruing the expression 'sufficient cause' the existence or otherwise of negligence of the applicant is always a governing factor, and this is because of the omission to perform a duty cast upon him by law. If the applicant has been prevented from making an application due to circumstances beyond his control or despite reasonable diligence, the courts in their desire to do substantial justice do ordinarily, condone the delay.'

The court further observed

'......BEFOREignorance of death can be deemed to be a good ground, there must exist good grounds for ignorance not attributable to negligence. When law imposes an obligation on a person to bring legal representatives of deceased opponent on record, within the prescribed period, mere want of knowledge of death, will be insufficient to secure him against consequences of abatement of his suit or appeal; he has further to show absence of want of care. When reasonable vigilance is a duty, unqualified ignorance cannot be deemed venial. Want of information may be overlooked if want was not induced by neglectful indifference or blameworthy remissness. Allowing oneself to remain in the dark cannot be treated as a pursuasive ground for condensation of delay.

'THEburden cannot be cast upon the opposite party who secures a valuable advantage by the lapse of period of limitation, to adduce proof of facts and circumstances showing negligence or want of good faith on the part of the applicant. In the absence of circumstances or proof of want of negligence, a bald statement that the applicant was ignorant of the death cannot be deemed sufficient for revival of the suit or appeal-'

These observations have been respectfully followed by a single Judge of the High Court of Punjab & Haryana in Bahadur Singh v. Smt. Har Kaur (deed), Air 1971 P & H 328.

(12) The Supreme Court in Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari, Air 1959 Sc 575, approved the rule of law laid down in Krishna v. Chatthappan, (1890) 13 Mad 269, with regard to the construction of section 5 of the Limitation Act and observed 'Section 5 gives the courts a discretion which in respect of jurisdiction is to be exercised in the way in which judicial power and discretion ought to be exercised upon principles which are well understood; the words 'sufficient cause' receiving a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice when no negligence nor inaction nor want of bona files is imputable to the appellant:' In Ramlal v.. Rewa Coalfields Ltd. : [1962]2SCR762 , the Supreme Court having reiterated the same rule of law proceeded to observe that it was the duty of the appellant to explain each day's delay.

(13) In the facts and circumstances of the case, the court below has found that the petitioner Corporation has failed to explain each day's delay. I am of the view that the order of the court below does not suffer from any jurisdictional or legal error and does not call for interference. I am in full agreement with the reasoning and conclusion of the cote below. As a result, I find that there is no merit in the revision and the same is dismissed. But, in the circumstances of the case, the parties are left to bear their respective costs.


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