1. This petition relates to Small Cause Suit No. 1912 of 1926 on the file of the Subordinate Judge of Madura. That suit was tried by the Subordinate Judge with another Small Cause suit between the same parties, No. 1530 of 1926. The plaintiff in each case was the brother of the defendant, a Hindu widow, who, it appears, was engaged in litigation with the representatives of a deceased co-widow about the property of her late husband. In Small Cause Suit No. 1530 of 1926, the plaintiff sued for the value of certain moveables, which his sister, the defendant, had recovered in a suit against her co-widow's representatives on the strength of an alleged agreement, under which according to him, as he had given security for her in that suit, he was entitled to have possession of the moveable property which she recovered or its value, if she recovered its value in money. In Small Cause Suit No. 1912 of 1926, he sued for arrears of salary claimed by him under a clause of the same agreement for his services to the defendant in connection with that suit and with other litigation and other matters and interest on the arrears of salary. The two suits were tried together, and the learned judge eventually, after a number of hearings and a great many more adjournments, disposed of them by one judgment. In that judgment he set out the pleadings at very considerable length. He then set out eight points for determination, which in the judgment he called 'issues'. But, though the trial had occupied him a long time, about fifty documents had been exhibited and eleven witnesses had been examined, he disposed of the whole matter in the briefest: possible way. He said nothing more than this in the effective part of his judgment:
I find issues 1, 2 and 6 in the affirmative and issues 3 to 5 and 7 in the negative and on issue 8, 1 find that the plaintiff is entitled to interest at 6 per cent per annum only by way of damages under the Interest Act.
2. That certainly in the circumstances appears to be a rather surprising judgment as the result of so much judicial labour as has been devoted to the trial of these two suits.
3. Revision Petitions against the decrees made by the learned Judge in accordance with those findings in favour of the plaintiff in both suits were preferred to this Court by the defendant. Civil Revision Petition No. 1.43 of 1928, against the decree in Small Cause Suit No. 1530 has already been dismissed, and we have nothing to do with that now. The present Civil Revision Petition. against the decree in the other suit, i.e., the suit for the arrears, of salary, came on first before Wallace, J. It was urged by the defendant in this petition that the judgment recorded by the learned Subordinate Judge was not in proper compliance with the provisions of law on the subject. Wallace, J., finding that different views have been taken by different Judges of this Court on different occasions as to what must be contained in the judgment in a Small Cause suit, referred the petition to a Bench, expressing the opinion that it was desirable to have the ruling of a Bench on the question whether, when points of law arise for decision in a Small Cause suit, the Judge is bound to give some reasons for his decisions. That is how the matter has come before us.
4. The direct provision of law regarding the contents of a Small Cause Court judgment, so far as Provincial Small Cause Courts are concerned, is to be found in Order 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Rule 4(1) of that order lays down that the judgment of a Court of Small Causes need not contain more than the points for determination and the decision thereon. But, although that is the only direct provision regarding what a judgment in a Small Cause suit should contain, we cannot leave out of consideration altogether on this question the provision in the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act itself which gives the High Court power to interfere in revision in a case like this. That is to be found in Section 25 of that Act, which runs:
The High Court, for the purpose of satisfying itself that a decree or order made in any case decided by a Court of Small Causes was according to law, may call for the case and pass such order with respect thereto as it thinks fit.
5. As I have mentioned, there has. been some divergence of opinion about the exact interpretation of the first part of Rule 4 of Order 20 of the Code, which I have quoted. Mr. Ramaswami Aiyar, who appears for the petitioner in this case, has referred to several decisions on the question. He relies on a strong expression of opinion given by Seshagiri Aiyar, J., in Kandasami Chetty v. Rantalinga Chetty (1920) 12 L.W. 285. The learned Judge in that case, having before him a very curious judgment in a Small Cause suit, which contained nothing more than this--'Point; is the plaint claim true? I find the plaint claim true'--not only decided that that was an entirely insufficient judgment but expressed himself at some length upon the subject. What he said was:
Speaking for myself, I have been under the impression while at the Bar that in this Court it had always been insisted upon, that the Judge of the Small Cause Court should give some reasons which would satisfy the High Court that he had applied his mind to the materials placed before him. Brought up in that tradition, while sitting in the Admission Court, I have always insisted upon the Lower Court exercising Small Cause jurisdiction giving some indication as to what was in its mind, so that I may be in a position to say whether its conclusion is right or not. There are three reasons for this attitude of mine. First of all, the High Court in exercising its powers of revision under Section 25 is really supervising the work of the Lower Court. In order to enable it effectually to do its work, the Lower Court must give us some materials upon which we can say that it has done its duty properly. Otherwise, we will have to go into the whole record to see whether the work has been properly done. That is from the point of view of the Judge of the High Court revising the work of the Small Cause Judge. Secondly, a party who has adduced evidence--it may be one or two witnesses in a case or half a dozen witnesses in another--must have some satisfaction that the Judge really has come to the conclusion whether his witnesses should be believed or not and whether his documents should be accepted as genuine or not. If after the examination of all the witnesses and documents a particular point is decided in a particular manner, the party will be able to see whether what he did has the approval of the Judge or not. Thirdly what is most important is that the High Court should not encourage this habit of mind in the Lower Court
the habit of mind, as indicated further on the judgment, being a slack habit in disposing of such cases. That is a strong expression of opinion that Rule 4 of Order 20 of the Code should not be interpreted literally. But not long after that the question came before a Bench in K.M. Koppa Kurup v. Velayicheittichiar : AIR1922Mad360 this decision of Seshagiri Aiyar, J., was quoted, and the learned Judges very definitely dissented from it. They said:
We think that the learned Judge's judgment was based on his opinion of what the practice should be in such matter rather than on what the law of procedure actually is. It seems to us that Order 20, Rule 4(1), is self-contained and does not need any expansion or explanation by judicial rulings.
6. After that a similar question came before Srinivasa Aiyangar, J., in Moideen Koya v. Moideen Kutti Haji : AIR1925Mad1229 . In that case the learned Judge had to deal with a Small Cause suit for damages for breach of contract. He felt himself bound by the decision in K.M. Koppa Kurup v. Velayichettichiar : AIR1922Mad360 which I have quoted. But in the particular case before him he found that, though the District Munsif, who tried the Small Cause suit had set out the points for determination, he had not troubled to give a separate decision or finding on each one of them but had clubbed them all together and had found them all for the plaintiffs. Among other things that implied that he found that the defendants in the suit had committed breach of contract. But Srinivasa Aiyangar, J., found from the record that it was impossible to understand how the District Munsif had come to that decision. He, therefore, regarded that method of writing a Small Cause judgment as improper and remanded the suit for fresh trial. More recently Sundaram Chettiar, J., has considered the question in C.R.P. No. 1758 of 1927. There he had to deal with a complicated Small Cause suit, in which, as in this case, the pleadings had not set out at considerable length and then the Trial Judge had merely said, as has been said in this case, that he found issues so and so in the negative and so and so in the affirmative. Sundaram Chettiar, J., in remanding that case for fresh trial, said:
But in cases though triable by a Small Cause Court if the facts are somewhat complicated and the points involved require a due consideration of mixed questions of law and fact, it goes without saying that any reasonable Judge would consider it his duty to express himself in the judgment in such a way as to give the indication that he has come to the conclusion after judicially applying his mind to the real points of controversy. If his judgment is contrary to law, that would be a ground for interference in revision. On complicated questions of law, if the Small Cause Court Judge contents himself with giving a finding in a monosyllable 'Yes' or 'No', it would be extremely difficult for a Court exercising revisional powers to understand how the learned Trial Judge came to arrive at such a finding. It may be said that it would be strictly within the words of Rule 4 of Order 20 even if he did not give any reason for the finding, but yet one would expect him to give some reasons in justification of the finding arrived at by him.
7. So it will be seen that even after the decision of the Bench in K.M. Koppa Kurup v. Velayichettichiar : AIR1922Mad360 learned Judges of this Court have not found it always possible or proper to interpret Rule 4 of Order 20 of the Code literally. Though these are the only cases of this Court which have been quoted before us, I think it is well known that there have been other instances in which the same divergence of opinion on this question has been shown as in the cases which I have mentioned.
8. For myself I think we must be careful not to strain the interpretation of Rule 4 of Order 20 in any way nor to impose any undue burden upon Judges of Small Cause Courts, who are intended by the law to dispose of their cases in a rapid and simple way. But, when we are interpreting Rule 4 of Order 20, we ought not in my opinion to divorce that rule from general principles which are applicable to all Courts. It is a principle of our administration of justice that Courts should conduct their work in public. The object of that is, not that the Courts or Judges sitting in them should be a show to the public, but that the public should be assured that decisions are not arbitrary. Now, neither the public nor the parties concerned can be assured that decisions are not arbitrary unless they are made intelligible to those who follow them and, where revisional powers are given to superior Courts, the record is made intelligible to those revisional Courts. And every conscientious Judge must wish to make his decisions intelligible, not only out of consideration for the parties whose rights and claims are laid before him for decision between them, but out of a sense of duty to the public, whose servant he is. Remembering that principle, is there anything against it in Rule 4 of Order 20 of the Code as it stands? I think, if we examine that rule, we shall find indication in it that the principle is to be maintained even in the judgments of Small Cause Courts. The rule does not provide that a Judge of a Small Cause Court can dispose of a suit by saying merely, 'Judgment for the plaintiff' or 'Judgment for the defendant.' It is laid down that his judgment must contain the points for determination and the decision thereon. What is the object of that? Obviously to make his judgment intelligible to those who are interested in it and to those who have to deal with it. And that fits in with Section 25 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act. Under that section the High Court is given the power of revising the decrees or orders of Small Cause Courts and it may call for the record of the proceedings of such a Court in order to satisfy itself that the decree or order made in any case is according to law. It may be observed that that provision means, not only that the High Court may take action when seme party moves it to do so, but that the High Court has the power and the duty in proper cases of taking such revisional action, even though not moved to do so by any party, when the matter comes to its notice. That provision is a strong indication to my mind that there is no intention that Small Cause Court Judges any more than other Judges should be allowed to deliver unintelligible judgments. But I have been referring so far only to the first part of Rule 4 of Order 20. Rule 4(2) deals with judgments of other Courts, and its wording is important because it provides such a marked contrast with the wording of Sub-rule (1). Sub-rule (2) is 'judgments of other Courts shall contain a concise statement of the case, the points for determination, the decision thereon, and the reasons for such decision'. There it is laid down that in Courts other than Small Cause Courts reasons for the decisions must be given. There is nothing said about reasons for the decisions in Sub-rule (1) dealing with Small Cause Courts. In my opinion we should certainly not interpret the rule, so far as it applies to Small Cause Courts, in such a way as to obliterate the very marked distinction drawn between the two classes of Courts by the omission of the words 'and the reasons for such decision' in Sub-rule (1). Any interpretation of the rule which laid down that Small Cause Courts must always give reasons in their judgment would in my opinion be entirely unjustifiable. And I should be very reluctant to say anything which laid any unnecessary burden upon Small Cause Judges, who are expected to do a large amount of work at high speed.
9. I think the solution of the question before us is to be found in the difference between the various kinds of points which may come up for decision in a Small Cause suit. The rule is that the judgment need not contain more than the points for determination and the decision thereon. There is nothing in the rule to the effect that the judgment may not contain more. Applying that rule reasonably without forgetting the principles which should govern the administration of justice in all Courts, my own opinion is that, when the Judge has to deal with a question of fact, we cannot demand that he should give anything more than his actual decision on that question--his answer to it--if he does not think more to be necessary. In a Small Cause suit the Judge has to record a memorandum or note of all oral evidence given before him. The documents exhibited by the parties are in the record of the case. In a great majority of instances, if the Judge states briefly what the contentions of the parties are and then mentions the points for determination, the answer to any question of fact raised as a point for determination will be quite intelligible, even if monosyllabic, when taken with the notes of evidence and the exhibits in the record. And in Small Cause suits a great many of the questions of law which have to be stated as points for determination are, when the facts are once settled, very simple to answer. I see no reason why in a very large proportion of cases the Judge should not be able to give quite an intelligible answer, sufficient for all purposes, to a simple question of law in a word or two. But. in a Small Cause Court, as in other Courts difficult questions of law may arise; and, when a more difficult question of law or of mixed law and fact arises, in my opinion a Small Cause Judge cannot perform his duty of making his judgment intelligible, unless he at least sets out so much of his reasoning as will make clear the road by which he has reached his conclusion. Personally I do not think it necessary to express any more definite opinion than that. The test whether Rule 4(1) of Order 20 has been used or abused appears to me to lie in the answer to the question whether the judgment has been made intelligible. If with the aid of the record the judgment, however brief, shows that the Judge has grasped the questions for decision and has answered them, not arbitrarily, but for reasons which can be readily understood, then he has complied with the provisions which regulate his procedure.
10. But we are concerned immediately with the case before us. How is the interpretation of the rule which I have adopted to be applied to this particular case? It is often easier to set out a general principle than to apply it to particular cases. Fortunately this is not a very difficult case in that respect. As I mentioned, the learned Judge set out eight 'issues,' Before going further I may refer to one contention raised by Mr. Ramaswami Aiyar, vis., that in this particular case the learned Judge did not mean to record merely the points for determination, as is done in an ordinary Small Cause suit, but actually framed issues for trial in the case. Mr. Ramaswami Aiyar argued that, as issues had been framed, Rule 5 of Order 20 and not Rule 4 applied, and therefore it was quite clear that reasons ought to have been given for the findings. But on examining the record I feel no doubt that, although the learned Judge called the points for determination in the suit 'issues', he did not mean issues in the sense of issues framed before the trial of the suit in order to guide the parties as to the points on which evidence or argument was required. The notes-paper in this case does not show any sign that regular issues were ever framed, and there would surely be a record of it, if such issues had been framed. The learned Judge, I think, obviously used the word 'issues' merely as an abbreviation for the expression 'points for determination'. Of the eight points for determination in the two suits tried together, only five relate to this particular suit for arrears of. salary. They are Nos. 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Point 1 is 'Is the agreement set up in the plaint true?' That is a question of fact. Point 5 is 'Did the defendant terminate plaintiff's service prior to 31st August, 1926?'--another question of fact. Point 6 is 'Has the plaintiff actually performed service for the defendant after 31st July, 1925?'--another question of fact. A large amount of evidence was recorded in this case, and it cannot be suggested that the evidence does not support the learned Judge's findings on those questions of fact. In my opinion, although he answered those questions merely with 'yes' or 'no', we certainly cannot say that his answers are unintelligible or such as we could properly interfere with Point 7 runs: 'Is the plaintiff bound to render accounts under the agreement, and, if so, is S.C. No. 1912 of 1926, not maintainable?' and Point 8 'Is the plaintiff entitled to interest?' Point 8 is a simple question of fact and law, and on that the learned Judge's answer is that the plaintiff is entitled to interest at 6 per cent by way of damages under the Interest Act. It is suggested by Ramaswami Aiyar that that is a mistake; but no one can say it is unintelligible. The answer to the simple question' in point 7 depends directly upon the interpretation of the agreement, Ex. A. There is no doubt that the learned Judge is right in finding that under Ex. A itself the plaintiff was not bound to render accounts. It has been urged by Mr. Ramaswami Aiyar that, if the defendant was bound to pay-salary to the plaintiff, the plaintiff as her agent was bound to render accounts to her. Well, if the defendant wished to sue the plaintiff for accounts, she could have done so, but not in a Small Cause suit. There is nothing unintelligible or, so far as I can see, against the law in the learned Judge's finding on point 7. Therefore, examining this particular case in the light of my view how Rule 4(1) of Order 20 of the Code should be interpreted, I do not find that the learned Judge's judgment is unintelligible or insufficient or such as we can properly interfere with in revision.
11. In my opinion this petition should be dismissed with costs.
Anantakrishna Aiyar, J.
12. This revision petition has been referred to a Bench by Mr. Justice Wallace by the following order:
While no doubt a Judge in a Small Cause case is not bound to write a judgment, it is obvious that, if points of law arise for decision, Judges should give some grounds; otherwise it is impossible for a Court of Revision to say whether the Court has. decided 'according to law', as it is bound to do under Section 25 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, unless 'according to law' means nothing else than in accordance with the law of Civil Procedure. On the other hand it is difficult to say that the Judge has erred in law when his reasons for his decision are unknown because he is not bound to give reasons at all.
I understand that there is no Bench ruling on the point and that several cases of the same kind are pending in this Court. It is better to have a definite ruling once for all, instead of having different single Judges : giving different rulings. I refer the case to a Bench for decision.
13. In order to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the question, it is necessary to bear in mind that the main object of the legislature in creating Courts of Small Causes is that in suits |, of small value, except when expressly excluded, the trial should I be summary and justice should be speedily administered. Un-like judgments of ordinary Civil Courts in original suits, the decrees from which are open to appeal, and, in which, for obvious reasons, the legislature has directed that the judgments should contain the points for decision, the decision thereon and the reasons for the findings, the legislature has specifically provided that in case of suits tried by Courts of Small Causes, the judgments need contain only the points for determination and the decision thereon. See Order 20, Rule 4(1) and compare it with the wording of Order 20, Rule 4(2). See also O. SO, Rule 1, Civil Procedure Code. Thus the provision in Order 20, Rule 4(2) that judgments should contain the reasons for the findings does not apply to judgments of Courts of Small Causes. The points for decision,--called 'the issues' in cases of original suits,--may raise questions of fact in dispute between the parties or questions of law that may arise on the findings of Courts on questions of fact. As there is no appeal against findings of fact arrived at by a Court of Small Causes, it would ordinarily be enough that on points raising pure questions of fact, mere definite intelligible findings are recorded without giving reasons for the findings. The evidence in the case has to be recorded though not fully and in the manner prescribed in the case of original suits; but 'notes of evidence' have to be recorded by the Court, and any finding arrived at in the absence of any evidence could be dealt with by the Court of Revision as it thinks fit. Similarly, if the notes of evidence could not reasonably, or possibly, lead to the finding recorded, apparently on its basis, then too, the Court of Revision could deal with it in any way it deems proper.
14. Points of law may involve mere 'abstract' questions of law, or 'mixed questions of fact and law.' Under Section 25 of the provincial Small Causes Courts Act, the High Court is given power 'for the purpose of satisfying itself that a decree or order made in any case decided by a Court of Small Causes was according to law to call for the case and pass such order with respect thereto as it thinks fit.
15. We have thus two provisions of law to bear in mind, with reference to points raising questions of law in a Small Cause suit. While on the one hand the provision applicable to judgments in ordinary suits that reasons for findings should be given does not apply to judgments passed by Small Cause Court, yet there is also the circumstance that High Court is given the right 'to call for the records of a case to satisfy itself that a decree or order made in a case decided by a Court of Small Causes was according to law.' The two provisions could not be treated quite independently as if one has nothing to do with the other. It is a sound rule of interpretation that the various provisions of a statute should, if possible, be so construed as to give a consistent and harmonious result.
16. As regards points raising 'mixed questions of fact and law,' it is obvious that the High Court should know what the finding of fact is, and also what the finding on the question of law involved is. Difficult questions of law do sometimes arise, though I may say that even there the particular aspect in which and the circumstances under which the question of law arises may, with advantage, be stated, and is capable of being stated in simple terms, in a large number of cases.
17. To see whether a finding in the simple affirmative or negative would be enough, I will take, for example, a question of limitation. The defendant might have pleaded that the suit is barred by limitation.
(1) Limitation might have been pleaded on the ground that the acknowledgment alleged to be contained in a particular document was in fact not made by the defendant, and, in any event, is insufficient to operate in law as a valid acknowledgment.
(2) Part-payment of principal or interest may be pleaded by plaintiff while denied by the defendant.
(3) The defendant might have pleaded that the plaintiff became major more than three years prior to the date of the plaint.
18. I need not multiply instances, if the 'point' noted in the judgment simply be 'Is the claim time-barred,' and the finding be a simple 'yes' or 'no,' the High Court could not properly exercise its powers of revision in such a matter. In such cases, such a finding could not be said to satisfy the requirements of a proper finding even in a Small Cause case.
19. When the High Court is given the jurisdiction to examine the correctness of the decree or order passed by a Court of Small Causes, it seems to me that a correlative duty is also placed on the Small Cause Court to record its finding on the question of law in such a way as would enable the High Court to appreciate the exact finding on such a point on the face of the judgment, with a view to decide whether it is right or not. No doubt, questions of law could be discussed 'very elaborately,' and also 'succinctly.' How much of discussion is necessary in any particular case regarding any particular point of law will largely depend upon the circumstances of each case and on the nature of the question of law that arises. But I am not able to accept the view that a Court of Small Causes does its duty legitimately--and in all cases--with reference to a point raising a question of law by simply saying 'yes' or 'no' as its finding thereon, irrespective of any other consideration. I am not just now considering whether even in the matter of doing bare justice to the judgment of the Lower Court, mere recording 'yes' or 'no' on such points by the Lower Court would ordinarily be really helpful; but the adoption of such a procedure by the Small Cause Court would often leave the High Court in a difficult, position in the matter of discharging its duties under Section 25. Revisional jurisdiction conferred by Section 25 is similar to a right of appeal, but limited to consideration of questions of law only. See generally about the nature of revisional jurisdiction--the Full Bench decision--Chappan v. Moidin Kutti : AIR1922Mad360 . I should not forget that the High Court could call for the records of a case under Section 25 even without a petition from the parties if it chose to do so. See Andrew Anthony v. Rev. J.M. Dupont, Baikanta Nath Goswami v. Sita Nath Goswami I.L.R. (1911) 38 C. 421 and Batcha Sait v. Abdul Gunny : (1913)25MLJ507 .
20. No case directly deciding the point now before us has been quoted to us. I do not propose to; discuss the cases which have got only a remote bearing on the point now before us. I am of opinion that as regards points raising questions of law in a Small Cause suit, the judgment recording--simply in 'the affirmative' or in 'the negative'--the finding on such a point is not ordinarily a proper judgment within the meaning of the Small Causes Courts Act. The actual extent of the discussion, or of the reasoning, which led to the finding, would depend upon the circumstances of each case; and this is the inference that I draw from the provisions which lay down what the judgments of Courts of Small Causes; should contain and from the provisions which confer powers of revision on the High Court 'to satisfy itself that a decree or order made in such a case was according to law.' I do not think it advisable to say anything more than what I have said.
21. The only decision of a Bench of this Court binding on us--Koppa Kurup v. Velayichettichiar : AIR1922Mad360 --supports the view that we are inclined to adopt regarding questions of fact arising in Small Cause suits. As regards questions of law, or mixed questions of fact and law, certain decisions by single learned Judges were cited. They are generally in consonance with the view I am inclined to take on such questions of law or mixed questions; of fact and law.
22. On the merits of the case before us, fortunately the findings of the learned Judge in this particular are intelligible and there is evidence to support the same. No doubt, the judgment speaks of '8 issues' but we have satisfied ourselves by a reference to the 'Notes paper' that they were no more than 'points' noted by the Judge at the time of writing the judgment, the findings on which would have a material bearing on the actual decree to be passed. The Court did not 'frame issues' in this case, as one understands the expression in connection with original suits. The present is not a case where, for any particular reasons, the Court thought it proper to frame 'issues' and have them tried in the usual way under Order 14 and 15, Civil Procedure Code. I need not therefore say anything more about Mr. Ramaswami Aiyar's contention based on Order 20, Rule 5, Civil Procedure Code.
23. I therefore agree that the Civil Revision Petition should be dismissed with costs.