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Des Raj Chopra and ors. Vs. Pooran Mal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Miscellaneous (Main) Appeal No. 164 of 1974
Judge
Reported inAIR1975Delhi109; 11(1975)DLT63
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 137; Constitution of India - Article 227
AppellantDes Raj Chopra and ors.
RespondentPooran Mal and ors.
Advocates: T.N. Sethi,; H.C. Dhal,; M.R. Jain and;
Cases ReferredEvidence Vol. v. Third Edition Article
Excerpt:
evidence act - section 137--examination of a witness--right of opposite party to cross-examination--latter denied exercise of that right--constitution of india article 227--power and scope of.; in the instant case the additional rent controller delhi refused permission to the petitioners to cross-examine witness produced by respondent no. 3, the new super consumer co-operative stores on the ground that as the defense of the petitioners as well as respondent no. 3 was identical, the said right could not be exercised by the petitioners as their rights cannot be said to be in any way adverse to that of the respondent no. 3.; that, it is well settled that the evidence of the party cannot be received as evidence against another party unless the latter has had an opportunity of testing it by..........controller, delhi dated 16th of july, 1974 by which he refused permission to the petitioners to cross examine witness by respondent no. 3 the new super consumer co-operative stores (hereinafter called the store).(2) respondent no. 1 is the landlord of premises in dispute. he has filed an eviction application on the allegation that the premises were originally let to ram swarup respondent no. 2 who has sublet and parted with possession to one des raj (who was predecessor in interest of the petitioners being the husband of the petitioner no. 1 and the father of the petitioner no. 2 to 4. it was also alleged that premises were subsequently collusively sub-let to respondent no. 3 the stores and that the store is running its business there. as no consent has been given in writing by the.....
Judgment:

Rajindar Sachar, J.

(1) This is a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India against the order of the Additional Rent Controller, Delhi dated 16th of July, 1974 by which he refused permission to the petitioners to cross examine witness by respondent No. 3 the New Super Consumer Co-operative Stores (hereinafter called the Store).

(2) Respondent No. 1 is the landlord of premises in dispute. He has filed an eviction application on the allegation that the premises were originally let to Ram Swarup respondent No. 2 who has sublet and parted with possession to one Des Raj (who was predecessor in interest of the petitioners being the husband of the petitioner No. 1 and the father of the petitioner No. 2 to 4. It was also alleged that premises were subsequently collusively sub-let to Respondent No. 3 the stores and that the store is running its business there. As no consent has been given in writing by the landlord, the Stores as well as other persons are liable to be evicted.

(3) In the written statement filed by the petitioners sub-tenancy has been denied. It is stated that the tenant was a firm of Ram Swarup & Co. of which their predecessor Desraj was a partner. It is also alleged that the store has been accepted as a direct tenant and landlord also received rent from the said tenant.

(4) The store Respondent No. 3 has also filed a separate written statement and has taken the plea that it is a direct tenant under the landlord and has independent title as a tenant and Ram Swarup has got nothing to do with the tenancy.

(5) The written statements by the petitioners and respondent No. 3 have been filed separately through separate advocates. Evidence was led by the petitioners; its witnesses were either cross-examined or opportunity given for cross examination by respondent no. 3, without any objection having been raised by the respondent No. 1, landlord. Thereafter the store produced its witnesses, and the last witness produced was R.W.7 Birdi Chand. Prior to the examination of the said witness in the court, the petitioner had given notice for production of the accounts books of the stores. It appears that the petitioners wished to show from the cross examination, of the witnesses with reference to the books that the store was accepted as a direct tenant by the landlord, and the various entries in the books are supposed to support the case of the petitioners. This was so stated by the counsel for the petitioners. But when R.W.7, the witness of stores was sought to be cross examined by the counsel for the petitioner, it was opposed by the counsel for the landlord. The Additional Rent Controller by the impugned order accepted the plea of the landlord and has disallowed the petitioner from cross examining the witness produced by the Stores. Aggrieved against this order the petitioners have moved this application under Article 227 of the Constitution.

(6) The main ground on which the Additional Rent Controller has refused to grant permission to the petitioners to cross examine the witness is that as the defense of the petitioners as well as the stores is identical, the said rights cannot be exercised by the petitioners as their rights cannot be said to be in any way adverse to that of the respondent No. 3.

(7) Section 137 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 describes that the examination of a witness by the adverse parties shall be called cross examination. Mr. Jain the learned counsel for the respondent maintains that as the interests of the petitioners are not averse to that of respondent No. 3, Stores, no right of cross-examination can be exercised by the petitioners.

(8) It may be noted that though undoubtedly the petitioners as well as respondent No. 3 have taken the stand that respondent No. 3 is the direct tenant of the landlord and to that extent this defense and plea is common to both of them. But it does not mean that their interests are totally common in the sense that whatever the decision on the eviction application it will affect the petitioners as well as the stores in identically the same manner. Mr. Sethi pointed out that if in the eviction application, it was held that respondent No. 3 store was a direct tenant, it may follow that the petitioners cannot be held liable for any alleged unauthorised occupation or for alleged sub-letting the premises to respondent No. 3. But that if on the other hand it was held that respondent No. 3 the stores was not a direct tenant, it may be open to the landlord to proceed against the petitioners for damages for occupation or allowing respondent No. 3 to occupy the same. He contends that the petitioners are vitally interested in proving that the respondent No. 3 is a direct tenant of the landlord for the success of their plea. And for this purpose it is open to the petitioners to prove the same by direct evidence as well as by the evidence obtained by cross examination of the witness produced by the respondent No. 3 Stores. Mr. Jain referred me to a number of cases in support of his plea.

(9) During proceedings under insolvency Act one creditor's claim was resisted by opposing creditor firm named Pitambar Nalambar Shah and others, whose counsel cross examined the creditors of the insolvent. It was later on found by the court that those people who appeared as opposing creditors were not creditors at all, and consequently not being creditors they were not parties to the proceedings, and as such they should not have been allowed to appear at the enquiry. The court, thereforee, held that they could not have been allowed to intervene in the proceedings and to take part in the cross examination of the witnesses. The case is clearly distinguishable.

the petitioners are very much necessary parties.

(10) In a suit was brought to recover an amount due on a promissory note. Defendants 1 and 2 did not appear and defendants 3 to 5 were minors and represented by a Court Guardian; defendant No. 6 alone contested the suit. The witnesses were also called by the defendant No. 6 after examining five witnesses, 6th witness called was defendant No.1, and he was put into the witness box not as defendant 6's witness, but as defendant 1's witness, apparently with the idea of cross-examining him so as to obtain favorable replies for defendant No. .6. This procedure by the trial court was rightly commented upon by the Court because as defendant No. 6 was contesting the suit on behalf of all the defendants, he could not be permitted the devise of putting defendant No. I as awitness on behalf of defendant No. 1 so as to cross examine him. The facts were obviously different. Here the petitioners and respondent No. 3 are fighting their own respective battle separately.

(11) In matrimonial suit was brought by husband against his wife asking for divorce on the ground that she had committed adultery with the co-defendant. After the plaintiff had closed his case, the wife examined herself as her witness. She was thereafter cross examined by the husband's counsel. Thereafter the co-defendants counsel waited to cross examine the wife. This was disclosed by the learned judge with the observation that defendant may cross examine his co-defendant or his witness, if the co-defendant's interest is hostile to his own. The court found that the interest of both the defendant and co-defendant are similar. Moreover the Court noted that the request to cross examine by the co-defendant was made after the real adverse party, the plaintiff has finished his cross examination and permission was given. The co-defendant if allowed to cross examine the defendant will be able to practicably nullify the effect of the plaintiff's cross examination. This case is distinguishable. In the present case a request for cross examination has been made immediately after R. W. 7 has finished his examination in chief. The landlord has still to cross examine this witness which he will do after the cross examination by the petitioners. Thus there is no question of nullifying the effect of the cross examination by the respondent No. 1. Rather an opportunity will be available to the landlord to cross examine the witness after he has come to know of the case of the petitioners and the answers given by this witness in the cross examination conducted by the petitioners.

(12) It was held that if a witness for a defendant makes any statement which is injurious to the co-defendant they have a right to cross examine him.

(13) In Phipson on Evidence (Eleventh Edition, page 647) it is stated that a defendant may cross examine a co-defendant or any other witness who has given evidence against him and reply on such evidence, though there is no issue joined between them.

(14) Any party is entitled to cross examine any other party who gives evidence, or his witnesses; and no evidence affecting a party is admissible against that party unless the latter has had an opportunity of testing its truthfulness by cross examination (See Halsbury's Laws of England, Third edition Vol. Xv para 809), (5).

(15) In the Court of appeal held that the evidence of one party cannot be received as evidence against another party in the same litigation unless the latter has had an opportunity of testing it by cross examination. Further on it was observed 'If a defendant may cross examine co-defendant's witness, a fortiori, he may cross examine codefendant, if he gives evidence. If it is objected that there is no issue between a respondent and a co-respondent, the answer is that in most cases there is no issue between co-defendants but still the right to cross examine exists. In our judgment no evidence given by one party affecting another party in the same litigation can be made admissible against that other party, unless there is a right to cross examine and we are at a loss to see why there should be an deviation from that rule in the Divorce Court'. It is, however, well settled that the evidence of one party cannot be received as evidence against another party unless the latter has had an opportunity Of testing it by cross-examination.

(16) It has been further held that all evidence taken, whether in examination-in-chief or cross-examination, is common and open to all the parties. It follows that if all evidence is common and that which is given by one party may be used for or against another party, the latter must have the right to cross-examine, Woodroffee & Ameer Ali's 11th Edition page 2940 Note 38.

(17) It will thus be seen that the view of the Additional Rent Controller that simply because one of the pleas taken by the respondent No. 3 and petitioners is common, the later can be denied the basic right to cross examine the witnesses produced by respondent No. 3 is supported neither by precedent nor by any principle or law and must be rejected. It may also be noted that the evidence that is being taken is common to all the parties in the case, and if the evidence of Rw 7 is to be treated as admissible, the same can only be done if an opportunity has been given to all the parties including the petitioner to cross examine him. Once the petitioner is refused permission to cross examine R.W. 7 his evidence would be inadmissible. That is the another reason why I feel that denial of opportunity to the petitioner to cross-examine R.W. 7 was not only manifestly illegal but would have created complications and would really amount to permitting evidence to be taken which later on would have to be declared inadmissble. This would really make all this an exercise in futility. Counsel for the respondents however urged that in spite of disposition this court cannot interfere under Article 227 of the Constitution, as the impugned order is not without jurisdiction, and referred to. In order of the Competent Authority under Delhi Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956 was challenged on the ground that he had not determined the financial status of the tenant. Rejecting this the court observed that a careful study of the order of the Competent Authority would show that he declined to determine the status of the petitioner No. 1 because there was no need to do so as the petitioner No. 1 was not established as being person in possession of the shop in questioner a person carrying on businees at Delhi. If that be so his eviction from the shop in question cannot create a slum. It was in this context that the learned judge did not consider that the order suffered from such gross infirmity as to call for interference under Article 227 of the Constitution. Though it is relevant to point out that the court observed that the power of superintendence of the court extends to correcting manifest errors or law and juristdiction.

(18) It is true this Court does not interfere with a mere wrong order passed by the trial court. It is also true that this court will not interfere in the exercise of discretion by the tribunals, provided it is not arbitrary or capricious if it was a mere case of trial court not summoning any witness, for reasons which the trial court in its discretion thought proper, it may not have been possible to interfere with that discretion. I can also accept that if the trial court had disallowed the asking of the certain questions to a witness on the ground that it was irrelevant or for any other reason, the same would be immane from challenge under the extraordinary jurisdiction of this court, under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. But the present is not a case of that kind. Here the trial court is denying the basic right to cross-examine a witness given to a party to litigation and thus acting against settled notions of jurisprudence and fair trial.

(19) Wigmore on Evidence Vol. v. Third Edition Article 1367 (page 29) has highlighted the importance of the right of cross-examination and has described it as beyond any doubt the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth. It is also stated therein 'for two centuries past, the policy of the Anglo-American system of Evidence has been to regard the necessity of testing by cross-examination as a vital feature of the law. The belief that no safeguard for testing the value of human statements is comparable to that furnished by cross examination, and the conviction that no statement (unless by special exception) should be used as testimony until it has been probed and sublimated by that test, has found increasing strength in lengthening experience'. Cross examination has also been described as a great and permanent contribution of Anglo-American system of law to improved methods of trial procedure. And the same must apply in India where the procedure has been borrowed from English system. Cross-examination form an element of rules of natural justice and as stated in rules of natural justice require that a party should have the opportunity of adducing all relevant evidence on which he relies that the evidence of the opponent should be taken in his presence, and that he should be given the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses examined by that party

(20) Thus the order of the Additional Rent Controller is not a discretionary order but is an order which strikes at the root of a fair trial, under our system of jurisprudence. To allow any evidence to be treated admissible without giving a right of cross-examination not only perpetuates injustice but is shocking to a judicial conscience apart from being manifestly illegal and perverse. In such circumstances not only it is within the power of this court to correct such illegality but it is incumbent on it to do so as to prevent further mischief and stop the trial from becoming a mockery.

(21) I would thereforee allow the petition and quash the impugned order, and direct that the petitioner have the right and be given an opportunity to cross-examine R.W. 7. It may take it clear that this order is only restricted to giving an opportunity to the petitioner to cross-examine the witness R.W. 7. Whether the questions asked are relevant or not and which documents, if any are admissible, are all matters which will have to be decided by the trial court, if and when raised before him. My order is not to be taken to deal with those matters, as they do not arise out of impugned order.

(22) As a result the petition is allowed as above. There will be no order as to costs.


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