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Keshavlal Manordas Patel and ors. Vs. Atmaram Dajibhai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1966)7GLR431
AppellantKeshavlal Manordas Patel and ors.
RespondentAtmaram Dajibhai and ors.
Cases ReferredChatrappa v. Dastgirsaheb
Excerpt:
.....came up before the district court in appeal against the final..........set aside an ex-parte decree. now according to the definition of 'decree' in section 2(2) of the code, 'decree' means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit. applying this definition, it is clear that where an award is made by the debt adjustment court in an application, for adjustment of debts under section 4 of the act, such award would not be a decree for though it would be the formal expression of an adjudication which conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy between them, such adjudication would not be in a suit. an application for adjustment of.....
Judgment:

P.N. Bhagwati, J.

1. The short question that arises in these Revision Applications is as to what is the period of limitation for an application to set aside an ex pane award under Section 36 of the Bombay Agricultural Debtors' Relief Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). The petitioners in these Revision Applications filed a suit being Civil Suit No. 377 of 1946 in the Court of the Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ahmedabad, for a declaration that a transaction relating to a field bearing Survey No. 121 situate in Vastrapur Village, City Taluka, Ahmedabad District, though ostensibly a sale was really a mortgage and for redemption of such mortgage. The transaction was effected by the ancestors of the petitioners and original opponent No. 6 in favour of Naranbhai Hirachand sometime in 1901 and the field forming the subject matter of the transaction was thereafter sold by Naranbhai Hirachand to the ancestor of Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 sometime in 1914. It appears that thereafter the respective parties to these transactions died and at the date when the suit was filed, Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 were the only heirs of the ancestor who purchased the field from Naranbhai Hirachand and Opponent No. 5 was the only heir of Naranbhai Hirachand and if the transaction was a transaction of mortgage, the petitioners and the original Opponent No. 6 would be the mortgagors. The suit was, therefore, filed by the petitioners against opponents Nos. 1 to 4 and 5 and since the original opponent No. 6 did not join as a co-plaintiff, he was impleaded as a party defendant to the suit. Subsequent to the filing of the suit the Act came into force in the Ahmedabad District and the petitioners thereupon filed an application for adjustment of their debts under Section 4 of the Act in the Court of the Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ahmedabad, which was the Debt Adjustment Court within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the Act. This application was numbered 1257/47 and on the filing of the application the suit which was pending in the Civil Court was transferred to the Debt Adjustment Court under Section 19 of the Act and was numbered as Application No. 19 of 1949. These two applications were thereafter consolidated and fixed for hearing on the same day for the decision of the preliminary issues referred to in Section 17 of the Act. On the date fixed for the hearing of the applications, both the petitioners were absent and the learned Judge of the Debt Adjustment Court accordingly dismissed the applications for want of appearance of the petitioners. The petitioners thereupon preferred two applications, one bearing Miscellaneous Application No. 5 of 1952 for setting aside the order of dismissal of application No. 1257 of 1947 and the other bearing Miscellaneous Application No. 6 of 1952 for setting aside the order of dismissal of Application No. 19 of 1949. The ground on which these miscellaneous applications were made was that the petitioners had sufficient cause for not remaining present on the date fixed for hearing of the aforesaid main applications and that the orders of dismissal of the main applications passed by the learned Judge should, therefore, be set aside. The learned Judge allowed Miscellaneous Application No. 5 of 1952 but dismissed Miscellaneous Application No. 6 of 1952. On review, however, the order made in Miscellaneous Application No. 5 of 1952 was set aside and that Miscellaneous Application was also dismissed. The result was that the orders dismissing both the main applications remained intact. The petitioners thereupon preferred Revision Applications to the High Court and the High Court set aside the orders of dismissal in regard to both the main applications and remanded the main applications to the Debt Adjustment Court for hearing on merits.

2. Now it appears that after the main applications were remanded, attempts were made to serve Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 but according to the petitioners those attempts were unsuccessful and ultimately notice of the hearing of the main applications was given by substituted service. Opponents Nos. 1 to 4, however, did not remain present at the hearing of the main applications and the learned Judge of the Debt Adjustment Court, therefore, proceeded ex-parte against Opponents Nos. 1 to 4. The learned Judge held in favour of the petitioners on the preliminary issues referred to in Section 17 of the Act and proceeded to make a final award dated 6th March 1959 disposing of both the main applications. By the award the learned Judge held that the transaction though ostensibly a sale was really a mortgage and he determined the amount due from the petitioners to opponents Nos. 1 to 4 under the mortgage by scaling it down in accordance with the provisions of the Act and directed opponents Nos. 1 to 4 to hand over possession of the field to the petitioners. According to opponents Nos. 1 to 4 they did not know about the date fixed for the hearing of the main applications after remand and they were, therefore, unable to remain present in order to defend the main applications. They alleged that it was only on 20th December 1959 that they came to know of the ex-parte award made against them on the main applications. They, therefore, preferred Miscellaneous Applications Nos. 16 and 17 of 1960 in the Debt Adjustment Court on 8th January 1960 for setting aside the ex-parte award and restoring the main applications on file for fresh hearing. Two Miscellaneous Applications were filed since the ex-parte award was made on both the main applications. At the hearing of the Miscellaneous Applications before the learned Judge, it was contended on behalf of the petitioner that the Miscellaneous Applications were barred by limitation since they were filed beyond the period of thirty days from the date of the ex-parte award provided in Article 164 of the Limitation Act. This contention was accepted by the learned Judge who held that the Article of the Limitation Act which governed the Miscellaneous Applications was Article 164 and since Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 had filed the Miscellaneous Applications on 8th January 1960 which was more than thirty days after the date of the ex-parte award namely, 6th March 1959, the Miscellaneous Applications were barred by limitation. In this view of the matter the learned Judge did not go into the question whether Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 had sufficient reasons for not remaining present at the date of the hearing of the main applications. The order passed by the learned Judge was a common order on both the Miscellaneous Applications since the point involved in both the Miscellaneous Applications was the same. Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 being aggrieved by the order of the learned Judge preferred appeals to the District Court, Ahmedabad (Rural) at Narol. The learned Judge who heard the appeals took the view that the Miscellaneous Applications being applications under Section 36 of the Act were governed by Article 181 and not by Article 164 of the Limitation Act and that the miscellaneous applications having been filed within a period of three years from the date when the right to file the applications arose to opponents Nos. 1 to 4, were there fore within the period of limitation. The learned District Judge in taking this view followed a decision of this Court given by Raju J., in Kasna Rupla v. Makan Khusal (1963) 4 G.L.R. 167. The learned Judge accordingly allowed the appeals, set aside the order passed by the learned trial Judge and remanded the Miscellaneous Applications to the learned trial Judge for disposal on merits. The petitioners thereupon preferred the present Revision Applications in this Court. At the time of admission of these Revision Applications, it appears, the learned Judge who admitted these Revision Applications felt that there was a conflict between two decisions of single Judges, one being the decision of Raju J., in Kasna Rupla's case and the other being the decision of Gajendragadkar J., as he then was in Mangilal v. Shivram A.I.R. 1956 Bombay 725 and he, therefore, made an order referring both the Revision Applications to a Division Bench for final hearing. That is how these Revision Applications are now before us.

3. The main question which arises for consideration in these Revision Applications is as to whether the Miscellaneous Applications filed by Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 for setting aside the ex-parte award mads against them by the learned Judge of the Debt Adjustment Court were barred by limitation. But a subsidiary argument was also advanced on behalf of the petitioners and that argument was that an application to set aside an ex pane award could be maintained only under Section 36 of the Act and not under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure and since the Miscellaneous Applications preferred by Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 were not under Section 36 of the Act but were under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code, they were not maintainable. Reliance was placed in this connection on the decision of Gajendragadkar J. as he then was, in Mangilal's case (supra). In that case an ex parte order was made by the Debt Adjustment Court under Section 24 holding that the transaction in question though ostensibly a sale was a mortgage and the creditor thereupon preferred an application for setting aside, the ex-parte order. The application was in terms made under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure and the learned advocate appearing on behalf of the creditor insisted that the application be dealt with as one made under Order 9 Rule 13. The Debt Adjustment Court as also the District Court in appeal took the view that the application based as it was on Order 9 Rule 13 was not maintainable and the matter was, therefore, carried further in revision to the High Court. Gajendragadkar J., as he then was, held that an order under Section 24 was not a decree and that an application to set aside an ex-parte order under Section 24 could not, therefore, be maintained under Order 9 Rule 13. Such an application, observed the learned Judge, could be made only under the provisions of Section 36 of the Act and since the application in the case before him was expressly and in terms an application under Order 9 Rule 13, he held that the application was incompetent. On this view being taken by the learned Judge, an application was made to him on behalf of the creditor that the application be treated as an application under Section 36 of the Act, but the learned Judge did not accede to this request since the learned advocate for the creditor had expressly stated by a Purshis that he wanted the application to be dealt with as one made under Order 9 Rule 13 and had requested the Court to try the issue of the competence of the application on that basis. We entirely agree with the view taken by the learned Judge in this case. This decision is plainly correct and in view of this decision it is clear that the Miscellaneous Applications of Opponents Nos. 1 to 4 for setting aside the ex-parte award could be sustained only if they were made under Section 36 of the Act and not under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code. Now the argument of the petitioners was that the Miscellaneous Applications were not under Section 36 of the Act but were under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code and they had been argued as applications under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code before the learned trial Judge and it was only at the hearing of the appeals before the learned District Judge that opponent Nos. 1 to 4 had changed their stand and tried to justify the applications under Section 36 of the Act. The Miscellaneous Applications being really and truly under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code, it was submitted, they were not maintainable and should, therefore, have been dismissed. This contention is in our opinion entirely devoid of merit. There is nothing in the Miscellaneous applications to show that they were made under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code. As a matter of fact the Miscellaneous applications did not show on the face of them as to what was the provision of law under which they were made but it is clear from the contents that they were made for setting aside the ex-parte award passed against opponents Nos. 1 to 4. Now if an application to set aside an ex-parte award could be made only under Section 36 of the Act and not under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code, the miscellaneous applications made by opponents Nos. 1 to 4 must be held to have been made under Section 36 of the Act which is the proper provision of law under which such applications could be made. Even when we turn to the judgment of the learned trial Judge, we do not find it stated anywhere in the judgment that the miscellaneous applications were made by opponents Nos. 1 to 4 under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code.

The parties undoubtedly proceeded on the basis that Article 164 applied to govern the period of limitation in respect of the miscellaneous applications but that might have been due to an assumption on the part of opponents Nos. 1 to 4 that even in regard to an application for setting aside an ex-parte award under Section 36 of the Act, the period of limitation was governed by Article 164. The learned District Judge in appeal clearly proceeded on the basis that the miscellaneous applications were made under Section 36 of the Act and there is no doubt in our minds that the miscellaneous applications were preferred under Section 36 of the Act and not under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code.

4. The question then arises as to what is the period of limitation applicable to these applications. The learned District Judge held that the miscellaneous applications were governed by Article 181 of the Limitation Act which provides as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Description of application. Period of Time from which

limitation. period begins to run.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

181 Applications for which no period Three years. When the right to

of limitation is provided elsewhere apply accrues,

in this schedule or by Section 48

of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is clear that Article 181 is a residuary Article and would apply only if there is no other Article under which an application for setting aside an ex-parte award under Section 36 of the Act falls. The petitioners however relied on Article 164 and their contention was that an application to set aside an ex parte award under Section 36 of the Act fell within this Article and, therefore, Article 181 was not applicable to such application. Article 164 is in the following terms:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Description of application. Period of Time from which period

limitation. begins to run.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

164 By a defendant, for an order to Thirty days. The date of the

set aside a decree passed decree or, where.

ex-parte the summons was

not duly served,

when the applicant

has knowledge

of the decree.

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On its plain terms Article 164 applies to an application by a defendant for an order to set aside an ex-parte decree and the period of limitation provided by that Article is thirty days to be computed from the date of the decree or where the summons is not duly served, from the date when the defendant has knowledge of the decree. Article 164 can, therefore, have application only where there is an application to set aside an ex-parte decree. Now according to the definition of 'decree' in Section 2(2) of the Code, 'decree' means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit. Applying this definition, it is clear that where an award is made by the Debt Adjustment Court in an application, for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act, such award would not be a decree for though it would be the formal expression of an adjudication which conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy between them, such adjudication would not be in a suit. An application for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act is not a suit and an award on the application would not, therefore, be a 'decree' within the meaning of Section 2(2) of the Code. If an award on an application for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act is not a 'decree', then obviously an application to set aside an ex pane award made on such application cannot fall within Article 164. The fact that the decree referred to in the first column of Article 164 must be a decree in a suit is emphasized by the word 'summons' used in the third column of that Article. Mr. N.C. Shah on behalf of the petitioners, however, placed reliance on Section 46 of the Act which provides that 'save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, shall apply to all proceedings under this Chapter'. But we do not see how this section in any way assists the argument of the petitioners. All that this section provides is that the provisions of the Code shall apply to all proceedings under Chapter II which include an application for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act and, therefore, the procedure on the application would be governed by the provisions of the Code except in so far as any provision to the contrary is made by the Act. But this section cannot have the effect of making an award on such an application a 'decree' within the meaning, of Section 2(2) of the Code. As a matter of fact it is clear from Section 38, Sub-section (3), Clause (iii) that the award made on an application for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act is not a 'decree', for the Legislature has in terms provided that where the award contains an order for delivery of possession of any property, such order shall be executed by the Court as if it were a decree passed by it. If the award were a decree within the meaning of the Code, it would have been totally unnecessary to use the words 'as if it were a decree passed by it'. Some reliance in this connection was also placed on behalf of the petitioners on a decision of a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Chatrappa v. Dastgirsaheb : AIR1952Bom80 but this decision if properly examined not only does not support the contention of the petitioners but actually goes, against it. The point that arose in this case was whether a party who did not challenge an order made by the Debt Adjustment Court under, Section 17 of the Act was precluded from challenging the correctness of that; order when he preferred an appeal against the final award made by the Debt Adjustment Court. The Bombay High Court held that the decision! of the Debt Adjustment Court under Section 17 was an order as that decision constituted the formal expression of a decision of a Civil Court on certain preliminary issues and an appeal did lie against such order under Section 43(1)(ii) of the Act but a mere failure of a party to appeal from such order did not preclude such party from challenging the correctness of that order when the matter came up before the District Court in appeal against the final award. The analogy of Section 105 of the Code was invoked in support of this view and Rajadhyaksha J., speaking on behalf of the Court observed:

It was argued by Mr. Datar that one cannot apply the analogy of the provisions of Section 105 because the award which is given under the Bombay Agricultural Debtor's Relief Act, 1947, is not a 'decree'. We are not impressed by this submission. The award made under Section 32 of the Bombay Agricultural Debtor's Relief Act is in the nature of decree. Just as a decree finally adjudicates the rights between the parties in an ordinary suit similarly, an award made under Section 32 of the Bombay Agricultural Debtor's Relief Act, 1947, finally adjudicates the rights of the respective parties to the proceedings before the Court. Section 46 of the Act states that save as otherwise expressly provided in the Act, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, shall apply to all proceedings under Chapter II of the Act. In our opinion, therefore, it would not be wrong to apply Section 105 of the Code of Civil Procedure to orders which have been made appealable under Section 43 of the B.A.D.R. Act, and the mere fact that the Act uses the word 'award' instead of the word 'decree' does not, in our opinion, make any difference to the principle involved in the application of Section 105 of the Civil Procedure Code.

These observations were strongly relied on on behalf of the petitioners and the argument that was based on these observations was that an award made by the Debt Adjustment Court on an application for adjustment of debts under Section 4 of the Act was treated by the Bombay High Court as a 'decree'. We do not agree that such is the effect of these observations. These observations far from laying down that an award on an application for adjustment of debts is a 'decree', recognized that it is not a 'decree' and, therefore, described it as 'in the nature of a decree' and since it is in the nature of a decree, the Bombay High Court applied the principle underlying the enactment of Section 105 of the Code. If the award were held to be a decree, the Bombay High Court would have straightway proceeded to apply Section 105 of the Code and would not have been constrained to invoke the analogy of that section. We are, therefore, of the view that this decision of the Bombay High Court far from supporting the contention urged on behalf of the petitioners, actually supports the view which we are inclined to take on principle. This view which we are taking is also supported by the decision of Raju J., in Kasna Rupla's Case (supra).

5. An application to set aside an ex parts award made under Section 36 of the Act is, therefore, not an application for setting aside an ex-parte decree within the meaning of Article 164 of the Limitation Act and such an application must, therefore, fall within the residuary Article 181 and the period of limitation provided for such an application under Article 181 being three years computed from the date when the right to apply accrues, it is clear that the miscellaneous applications made by opponents Nos. 1 to 4 were within time.

We, therefore, dismiss the Revision applications and discharge the rule ill each Revision Application with costs in favour of Opponents Nos. 1 to 4.


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