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State of Punjab and anr. Vs. I.M. Lall - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectService
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberRegular First Appeal No. 59D of 1964
Judge
Reported inILR1975Delhi332
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Order 6, Rule 15
AppellantState of Punjab and anr.
Respondenti.M. Lall
Advocates: D.D. Chawla,; C.L. Choudhry and; A.R. Lal, Advs
Cases ReferredState of Bihar v. Abdul Majid
Excerpt:
.....of being familiar with or cognizant or aware of, the facts. should a person familiar with the facts be in personal knowledge of some of them, so much the better, but it is certainly not a requirement of law that only such persons, who is a witness to the event or has first hand knowledge of the facts that can make the verification. the expression 'acquainted with the facts that can make the verification. the expression 'acquainted with the facts of nothing to do with the relevant papers or the case and who can reasonably not be fixed with the responsibility for the allegations made in the plaint. but, if any person happens to authorised representative of the plaintiff and is familiar with eth relevant facts alleged in the plaint, then he certainly is allowed by the aforesaid..........on information received from others and it was not necessary for him to be in the know of the facts personally.(15) the counsel for the defendant respondent has submitted that if pleadings are verified by a party in person, it is true that he can verify either on his personal knowledge or upon information derived from any other source, but where the verification is made by any other person, it must be shown to the satisfaction of the court that such other person was acquainted with the facts of the case.(16) what does the acquaintance of the facts of the case mean the word 'acquaint' is not used in the sense of knowing personally or being a witness to the events alleged in the pleading. it is used in the sense of being familiar with or cognizant aware of, the facts. the word.....
Judgment:

B.C. Misra, J.

(1) The State of Punjab and the Union of India, plaintiffs, have filed this first appeal against the judgment and decree of the Subordinate Judge, I Class, dated 27th November, 1963, dismissing their suit against the defendant, which had been instituted for recovery of Rs. 19,173.57. The suit had been dismissed on the sole ground that in answer to issue No. 6, the court has returned a finding that the plaint has not been proved to have been validly signed on behalf of the Union of India and that the verification of the plaint on the part of the State of Punjab has not been made by a duly authorised person acquainted with the facts of the case.

(2) The material facts of the case are that the defendant-respondent, shri I. M. Lall, who was a member of Indian Civil Service (Punjab Cadre) was removed from service on 4th June, 1940. It is stated in the plaint that he had been reinstated in service with effect from 30th September, 1948, but this statement appears to be incorrect and we shall deal with it separately. According to the plaintiffs, after the reinstatement, the Government also paid the defendant ex-gratia compensation of Rs. one lakh and offered to the defendant during the period he had been out of service compassionate allowance at the rate of Rs. 4693.5.00 per annum, subject to minimum of 440.00 per annum. Part of the compassionate allowance was commuted and the other part was paid in Installments. The commuted amount came to Rs. 34,026.06, though what had been paid to him was Rs. 49,822.6.00 (besides Rs. one lakh). This amount had been paid to the defendant against an undertaking given by him to refund if he were found not entitled to it. Later on the Government discovered that in making the calculations of the payment, it had over paid a sum of Rs. 19,173.57 and it claimed refund of the same from the defendant, which he declined to pay. The Government of Punjab and the Union of India thereupon on 31st May, 1960 instituted the suit giving rise to this appeal, in which they prayed for a decree for payment of the aforesaid amount besides interest and costs. The defendant contested the suit and raised number of objections. One of the preliminary objections was that the plaint was not properly signed, verified or instituted by a duly authorised person, and the other was that the State of Punjab had no locus standi to file the suit. On the merits, the defendant contended in paragraph 4 that he admitted to have received a sum of Rs. 1,49,822.6.00 as alleged, but that he had been declared to be in service finally by judgment of the Privy Council in March, 1948 and that he was entitled to payment of his salary for the said period and that the payment made by the Government did not represent one half of his salary. The defendant had never accepted the payment in full and final settlement of the claim, but only accepted it as part payment and has reserved his right to obtain the balance. He also contended that the commuted value of the compassionate allowance was also part of the compensatory allowance. Replication to the written statement was filed and the preliminary objection of the defendant was controverter. On the pleadings of the parties, eight issues were framed :

'1. Whether the defendant was over paid to the extent of Rs. 34026.06 plus Rs. 7156.44 as alleged in para 5 of the plaint ?

2.Whether the defendant did not give a written undertaking to refund the excess payment as alleged in para 4 of the plaint ?

3.If issue No. 2 is not proved whether the said undertaking is legally binding and enforceable in a court of law? (onus objected to).

4.Whether the plaintiff No. 2 has locus standi to sue?

5.Whether the plaint discloses any cause of action in favor of plaintiff No. 1 against defendant No. 1 ?

6.Whether the plaint is signed and verified and the suit has been instituted by a duly authorised person on behalf of the plaintiff ?

7.To what amount besides the admitted amount of Rs. 719.62 np are the plaintiffs or any of them entitled to recover from the defendant ?

8.Relief.'

(3) The court below has proceeded to try the suit only on issue No. 6. It has found that the plaint has not been proved to have been signed by Mr. S. Narayanaswamy, Deputy Secretary, as having been authorised by the Union of India. It has held that it has not been shown that Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai, Chief Secretary of the Punjab Government was acquainted with the facts of the case and verification made by him had not been made by a duly authorised person. On findings recorded in answer to issue no. 6, the court dismissed the suit with costs.

(4) Feeling aggrieved, the plaintiffs have assailed the findings on issue No. 6. We have heard the counsel for the plaintiffs and the counsel for the defendant at some length. To appreciate the controversy raised before us, it would be necessary to state that the plaintiffs in the suit were the State of Punjab and the Union of India. The plaint is signed by Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai, Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab and on behalf of the Union of India by Mr. S. Narayanaswamy, Deputy Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. The verification is in the following language : '1, E. N. Mangat Rai, Chief Secretary to the Government, Punjab, verify that paras 1 to 9 of the above plaint are true on information received from official record and believed by me to be true. Verified at Chandigarh, this 2nd day of May, 1960.'

(5) During the trial of the issue, All India Civil Service list was filed showing a list of the executive authorities of the gazetted officers of the Union of India which showed that Mr. S. Narayanaswamy joined the service on 1st May, 1930. No other oral evidence was produced to prove the signatures of Mr. Narayanaswamy.

(6) So far as the Chief Secretary of the Punjab is concerned, oral evidence was given by Public Witness 2, Mr. Dalip Singh, who stated that he was Superintendent, Gazette, General Service Branch in the office of the Chief Secretary and during those days Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai was the Chief Secretary and the plaint in suit was signed and verified by him and his signatures were identified by the witness. He also stated that Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai was then in America, still busy with a Government job. The signatures of Mr. Mangat Rai on the plaint have been held by the court below as proved and so has the authority to function as the Chief Secretary. The rules of business issued by the Government of Punjab in Part 1 laid down that the general administration would be in the charge of the Chief Secretary, who would look after the Central Service matters, including the All India Service. This is clear from Ex. Public Witness 2/1. It is, thereforee, established that it was the official duty of the Chief Secretary to deal with the general service matters including the All India Service and that Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai was the Chief Secretary. The question then arises is whether the verification of the plaint made by him fulfillled the requirements of law.

(7) Before we proceed to consider this matter, it will be convenient to dispose of the objection with regard to the authority of Mr. Narayanaswamy. The plaintiffs had produced a complete list of directory of the gazetted officers of the Union Government. This had been printed and published under the authority of the Government of India. Mr. Narayanaswamy had been shown as a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs in April, 1960. The present suit was instituted on 31st May, 1960. Section 57 of the Evidence Act provides that the court shall take judicial notice of facts detailed therein. Among such facts enumerated occur in clause (7) the accession to office, names, titles, functions and signatures of the persons filling for the time being any public office in any State, if the fact of their appointment to such office is notified in any official gazette. In the present case, it had been established on record that the appointment of Mr. S. Narayanaswamy had been notified in the official gazette and as such the court was bound to take notice of his accession to office, his name, titles, functions as well as signatures in accordance with the aforesaid provisions. Section 56 of the Evidence Act lays down that no fact of which the court will take judicial notice need be proved. No proof was, thereforee, called for to establish the signatures of Mr. Narayanaswamy or his status as the Deputy Secretary. It is significant to notice that there is not the slightest rebuttal on the point on behalf of the defendant. The signatures on the plaint by Mr. Narayanaswamy, Deputy Secretary, Government of India, have, thereforee, been fully proved and the finding of the learned lower court to the contrary is erroneous and is reversed. As Deputy Secretary, he was entitled to sign and verify the plaint.

(8) This takes us to the consideration of the second question about the Chief Secretary. Here the court below accepts the correctness of the signatures of Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai as well as his status as the Chief Secretary and no arguments has rightly been advanced against the validity of the said finding.

(9) It is really the authority of the Chief Secretary to verify the plaint that has been objected to on the ground that he had not been proved to the satisfaction of the court to be acquainted with the facts of the case. As noticed above, the verification proceeds to verify as true the facts derived from the official records, which the Chief Secretary has believed to be true. Does the same fulfill the requirement of law

(10) Order 6 Rule 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure requires every pleading to be signed by the party as well as by his pleader. A provision is further made that if a party were absent or for any other cause were unable to sign the pleadings, it could be signed by any person duly authorised by the party to sign the same. The provision for verification is contained in rule 15 of Order 6, which reads as follows :

'15.(1) Save as otherwise provided by any law for the time being in force, every pleading shall be verified at the foot by the party or by one of the parties pleading or by some other person proved to the satisfaction of the court to be acquainted with the facts of the case.

(2)The person verifying shall specify, by reference to the numbered paragraphs of the pleadings, what he verifies of his own knowledge and what he verifies upon information received and believed to be true.

(3)The verification shall be signed by the person making it and shall state the date on which and the place at which it was signed.'

(11) Another relevant provision is contained in Order 27 Rule I of the Code which read as follows: '1. In any suit by or against the Government, the plaint or written statement shall be signed by such person as the Government may, by general or special order, appoint in this behalf, and shall be verified by any person whom the Government may so appoint and who is acquainted with the facts of the case.'

(12) Under the provision of law authority to sign and verify pleadings on their behalf has been conferred by various Governments. Vide Statutory Rules and Order No. 351 dated 25th Janaury, 1958, the Central Government has conferred this authority inter alias on the following officers: 'Any Secretary, Addl. Secretary, Jt. Secretary, Dy. Secretary......to the Government'. The Government of Punjab by notification No. 1073-J-37/13017-H-Judicial, dated 1st April, 1937 has conferred the said authority on the Deputy Commissioners of the District where the cause of action arises as well as on other Gazetted Officers of the department concerned, who is acquainted with the facts. This notification still continues to be in force.

(13) The statutory provision for verification is to fix responsibility on the party or person for statements made in the pleadings and to prevent false pleadings being recklessly filed or false allegations being recklessly made. Solemn pleading before a court must have some sanctity and for that purpose the rule makes provision by insisting upon the competency of the person verifying, where he is somebody other than the actual party concerned by requiring him to prove to the satisfaction of the court his acquaintance with the facts of the case. (See Raj Kumar Dhar and others v. Col. A. Stuart Lewis, : AIR1958Cal104 ). The same view has been expressed by the High Court of Allahabad in Devi Prasad v. Chairman of the Court of Election Tribunal, : AIR1956All19 , in a case relating to an election petition, wherein it observed that the object of directing the verification of the contents of plaints or petitions was that the person should be aware of the fact that he was undertaking a particular responsibility in mentioning the facts in the plaint or the petition and the object for having the lists verified was also the same. The Judicial Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh in Shiv Dutt and another v. State of Himachal Pradesh. , observed that the making of verification had been entrusted by Order 27 Rule I to an officer who was acquainted or 'took the trouble of acquainting himself' with the facts of the case.

(14) Verification can, however, be made either from personal knowledge or on information received and belived to be true. Information derived from the records of a case and believed by the deponent to be true is certainly a good verification of the pleadings as its object is only to fix the responsibility for the pleadings. In the Port Canning and Land Improvement Co. Ltd. v. Dharanidhar Sardar, 9 Cwn 608, (4) the Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta construing a similar provision in the old Code of Civil Procedure, repelled the contention that deposition to the facts of the case could not be made from information believed. The court observed that the provision of law did not require actual personal knowledge on the part of the verifier and that the verifier could very well depose upon his opinion that he had acquired from other sources and believed and this amounted to a sufficient verification. The judicial Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh in Shiv Dutt's case also took the same view that a party could verify the facts on information received from others and it was not necessary for him to be in the know of the facts personally.

(15) The counsel for the defendant respondent has submitted that if pleadings are verified by a party in person, it is true that he can verify either on his personal knowledge or upon information derived from any other source, but where the verification is made by any other person, it must be shown to the satisfaction of the court that such other person was acquainted with the facts of the case.

(16) What does the acquaintance of the facts of the case mean The word 'acquaint' is not used in the sense of knowing personally or being a witness to the events alleged in the pleading. It is used in the sense of being familiar with or cognizant aware of, the facts. The word 'acquaint' as defined in Shorter Oxford English Dictionary means 'to make known or become acquainted or familiar with, acquire experimental knowledge of a thing'. The word 'acquainted' according to the same dictionary also means 'familiar, through being known, or having personal or experimental knowledge'. To the same effect is the meaning given in Webster's Third New International Dictionary. It is 'to let know or inform'. 'Acquainted' means 'being known or having knowledge'. It further specifies that the word means 'being somewhat familiar with'. In other words, the expression, in our opinion, does include personal knowledge, but it is not confined to the same and would cover within its ambit the acquisition of familiarity with the facts from the records or other persons believed and a person verifying need not have been a witness to the events mentioned in the pleading. It is enough if he has handled the file and is familiar with the facts either from the records or from other persons. Should a person familiar with the facts be in personal knowledge of some of them, so much the better, but it is certainly not a requirement of law that only such person, who is a witness to the event or has first hand knowledge of the facts that can make the verification. If the submission of the respondent were accepted, as confining the acquaintance with the facts only to personal knowledge (apart from records), it would lead to an absured result as it would make it impossible to institute some of the suits in which the cause of action might have arisen so long ago that the actors in the drama or witnesses to the event might be dead or retired or were otherwise not available. This would be more so in the case of an institution like an incorporated company or the State which is a legal personality, but has of necessity to act through various human hands, who may or may not be available at the appropriate time. Surely, this could not be the intention of the legislature in using the expression 'acquainted' with the facts'. In our opinion, the expression is intended to exclude utter strangers who have absolutely nothing to do with the relevant papers or the case and who can reasonably not be fixed with the responsibility for the allegations made in the plaint. But, if any person happens to be authorised representative of the plaintiff and is familiar with the relevant files or the facts alleged in the plaint then, he certainly is allowed by the aforesaid provisions of law to make a valid verification. As we have seen, the verification can be made from personal knowledge or on information received and believed to be true. If this is permissible, in the state of law it necessarily follows that a person is competent to verify if he could do so without having the personal knowledge of the events, but is familiar with the relevant files or the facts of the case, through source whatsoever which he believes to be true. This fulfillls the object of the statutory provision of fixing the responsibility for the allegations made in the pleading and also enables the parties to institute their suits without any unreasonable fetters, which may. in view of the contention of the defendant, be otherwise impossible to institute. We are, thereforee, of the opinion, that the party himself or any other person who has made himself familiar with the facts of the case or the relevant papers and who has derived information stated in the pleadings from some other sources, which he believes to be true, is a fit and competent person to verify the pleadings. This would satisfy the requirements of the statutory provision.

(17) In the instant case, it has been established that Mr. E. N. Mangat Rai was the Chief Secretary of the State of Punjab at the relevant time, when the suit was instituted. The Chief Secretary is the Chief Executive Officer of the Government of the State. Under the rules of business, the matters relating to All India Services which would include the case of the defendant were under his charge. He has deposed in the verification that the facts alleged in the plaint are true on information received by him from the official record and believed by him to be true. This, in our opinion, satisfies the requirements of law and no legal infirmity can be found with the same. The finding of the lower court is, thereforee, not sustainable and is reversed.

(18) Another serious point has been noticed during the hearing of the appeal. Assuming for the sake of arguments (without holding the same) that the infirmity found by the court below in the verification was tenable, the court had, in our opinion, no jurisdiction to dismiss the suit. Irregular verification is an irregularity, which does not go to the root of the case and the court ought to have given the parties an opportunity to correct the irregularity by filing an affidavit or otherwise and if it found that still the irregularity was not corrected, it could in the case of the plaintiff stay the suit or if necessary reject his plaint as not fulfillling the requirement of law, but dismissal of the suit was clearly illegal and unwarranted. In All India Reporter Ltd. Bombay v. Ramchandra Dhando Datar, : AIR1961Bom292 , a Division Bench of the High Court of Bombay held that the provisions of Order 6 Rules 14 and 15 with regard to signing and verification of plaint were mere matters of procedure and it was open to the court at any subsequent stage on its own initiative or upon objection being taken by the defendant to require the plaintiff to sign and verify the plaint correctly. If the plaintiff refused to do so, the court could refuse to take any further steps and on the removal of the defects, the correct plaint related back to the original institution of the suit. It also observed at another place of the report that the omission to verify the pleading is a mere irregularity and a pleading which was not verified as required by law may be verified at any later stage of the suit, even after the expiry of the period of limitation. The Supreme Court was in Bhikaji Keshao Joshi and another v. Brijlal Nandlal Biyani and others, : [1955]2SCR428 , dealing with a case of election dispute arising under the Representation of People Act. There section 80 required the allegations in the plaint to be verified in accordancs with file procedure prescribed by the Code of Civil Procedure, viz. Order 6 Rule 15. The Tribunal below had dismissed the election petition. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the dismissal. There were two defects pointed out in the varification in the case, namely, it did not have reference to the numbered paragraphs and was not dated. The court observed that the entire pleading was based on information and so it was different from an affidavit which could be confined to facts derived from knowledge and in the nature of things there was no such limitation on the pleadings and the allegations in the petition were based only on information and so absence of any enumeration of various paragraphs could not be considered to be a defect. The court further found that there was a defect by the omission of the date. The court observed 'the question was whether the petition was liable to dismissal on that ground'. It proceeded to answer that 'though there may be cases where the date of the pleading and the verification may be relevant and important, it would be a wrong exercise of discretionary power to dismiss an application on the sole ground of absence of date of verification; in such a case the applicant should normally be called upon to remove the lacuna by adding a suplementary verification and the reason for the earlier omission'.

(19) In the instant case we have held that the decision of the court below on issue No. 6 is not legally sustainable. But, even if it were so, there is no doubt that the relief granted by the court in dismissing the suit on this ground was clearly illegal and unwarranted. The impugned decree must, thereforee, be set aside.

(20) We would now consider whether the statement of fact contained in the plaint that Shri I. M. Lall, defendant, had been reinstated on 30th September, 1948 is correct. He had been removed from service with effect from 4th June, 1940. Feeling aggrieved, he filed a suit, which resulted in the decision of his appeal by the High Court of Lahore reported as I. M. Lall v. Secretary of State, Air 1944 Lah 240. (7). Aggrieved by this decision, an appeal was taken before the Federal Court, which decided it in . An appeal against this was taken to the Privy Council. The final decision of the Privy Council in the matter is reported as The High commissioner for India and another v. 1. M. Lall, . In penultimate paragraph, the Judicial Committee held that 'removal of 1. M. Lall from service was void and a declaration was granted that on the date of the suit that is to say in June, 1942, he remained in service'. This decision was incorporated in an order in Council. In the eye of law, thereforee, Mr. Lall never had any break in service and his removal from service having been set aside and declared void and declaration having been granted that he continued to remain in service, the legal effect was to treat Mr. Lall as in service during the whole period from 1940 to the date of his suit and from the date of the suit till the decision of the Privy Council and, thereafter until legally terminated. During this period he would naturally be entitled to receive his salary and allowances as if there was no break in service. He had not filed any suit for recovery of the salary and allowances, although such suit could have been filed by him in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the State of Bihar v. Abdul Majid, : (1954)IILLJ678SC . But his failure to file a suit only had the effect of barring his remedy and not his rights. We are making this observation only to state that this statement of fact contained in the plaint on the subject is not according to law and the attention of the court below had not been directed to the plea raised by the defendant in paragraph 4 of the written statement, where he had claimed that he was entitled to the full salary a,nd allowances in view of the decision of the Privy Council and that the amount that had been paid to him was much less than the salary due to him and as such the suit of the plaintiff was liable to dismissal. It appears that no issue has been framed on the point. The parties may take such steps in the matter as they think fit and the court below will deal with it according to law. The plaintiffs have further relied on an undertaking given by the defendant to make refund if he was found not entitled to it. Whether there was or was not an undertaking, there is no doubt that in law the defendant would be bound to refund what was not legally due to him. Whether the amount claimed by the plaintiff is legally due or not and what is the construction and legal effect of the said undertaking is left to the determination of the court below and we do not express any opinion on this point.

(21) We asked the counsel for the parties if they wanted us to decide the remaining issues in the suit after we had reversed the finding of the court below on issue No. 6. But they submitted that they may still have to lead some evidence in the suit and if the other issues, which had not been decided by the court below, were decided by us without the benefit of the findings of the court of first instance, the parties would be prejudicially deprived of a review of the finding by a court of appeal. We find there is force in this submission and so we are constrained to remit this ancient suit (which was instituted on 31st May, 1960) to the court of first instance after a lapse of about 14 years for decision of the remaining issues.

(22) As a result, we allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and decree of the court below dated 27th November, 1963 and reverse its finding on issue No. 6. The suit is remanded to the court of first instance for decision of the remaining issues according to law. The costs of this appeal will abide by the result of the suit.

(23) Since the suit has been remanded to the court of first instance, the appellants will, under section 13 of the Court Fees Act, be entitled to the refund of the court fees paid on the memorandum of appeal.


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