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Mooriantakath Ammoo Vs. Matathankandy Vatakkayil Pokkan - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1940Mad817; (1940)2MLJ311
AppellantMooriantakath Ammoo
RespondentMatathankandy Vatakkayil Pokkan
Cases ReferredJogamma v. Ramalakshmi
Excerpt:
- .....this was in fact prevented by their being in the custody of the court and therefore the time fixed for the cancellation of the promissory notes must not be regarded as being part of the essence of the contract but a mere penal clause and the court could relieve against the penalty. the later case jogamma v. ramalakshmi (1915) 2 l.w. 635, was also a case in which it was held that the court could relieve against the enforcement of a penal clause in a contract which had been embodied in a decree of court. neither of these decisions purports to lay down any general rule that when under a compromise decree a certain time is fixed for the performance of an obligation under the decree the court has by virtue of section 148 of the code of civil procedure power to vary the terms of the.....
Judgment:

Wadsworth, J.

1. This appeal is preferred by the decree-holder against the dismissal of his petition for the execution of a compromise decree. The decree is dated 10th December, 1931 and it arose out of a suit for the eviction of a tenant under a Malabar Marupat. The terms of the compromise decree may be summarised as follows: The amount due from the defendant for arrears of rent was fixed at Rs. 89-3-5, the plaintiff agreeing to relinquish the balance of h s claim. The amount settled as due from the plaintiff for the value of improvements was Rs. 25-11-5. It was agreed that on the plaintiff depositing in Court before the 31st August, 1932, the sum of Rs. 236-8-0 (that is, Rs. 325-11-5 - Rs. 89-3-5) the defendant should surrender the property and should thereafter up to the date of surrender pay rent at a stipulated rate; any arrears of rent to be adjusted against the amount due for improvements. There was also a term regarding the settlement of a promissory note dispute between the parties.

2. Instead of making the deposit within the nine months allowed by the terms of the compromise decree the plaintiff did nothing until just before the date on which the decree would become barred under the ordinary law of limitation, the deposit being actually made in December, 1934 Without any explanation for the delay or any application to extend the time he sought to execute the decree, just as if it were an ordinary decree in an eviction suit passed after a full trial. The executing Court held that this was permissible. The lower appellate Court has dismissed the petition.

3. It seems to me a self-evident proposition that when there is a decree based on an agreement between the parties, an essential term of that agreement embodied in the decree cannot be changed by an act of the Court on the application of one only of the parties, but the consent of both parties to the original agreement would be necessary for its modification. The Court, after all, is doing nothing more than give judicial force to a contract and there is no basis for the decree other than the contract. It follows that the decree cannot be varied except by the consent of the contracting parties. It seems to me that this principle must apply to the terms of contract which fixes a definite period for the performance of an obligation as an essential part of the contract. So much has been recognised in an English case, Australasian Automatic Weighing Machine Co. v. Walter (1891) Weekly Notes Chan. p. 170. But two Indian cases have been quoted under the impression that they embody a different principle. The earlier case Venktaramanna v. Gurappa : AIR1916Mad1006 , related to a compromise according to the terms of which a sum of money was to be deposited in Court, promissory notes which were then in Court were to be cancelled and both these things were to be done within a certain time. The deposit was made within time but there was some delay in cancelling the promissory notes. The Court held that the provision for the cancellation of the promissory notes was intended merely as a safeguard against fraudulent negotiation. This was in fact prevented by their being in the custody of the Court and therefore the time fixed for the cancellation of the promissory notes must not be regarded as being part of the essence of the contract but a mere penal clause and the Court could relieve against the penalty. The later case Jogamma v. Ramalakshmi (1915) 2 L.W. 635, was also a case in which it was held that the Court could relieve against the enforcement of a penal clause in a contract which had been embodied in a decree of Court. Neither of these decisions purports to lay down any general rule that when under a compromise decree a certain time is fixed for the performance of an obligation under the decree the Court has by virtue of Section 148 of the Code of Civil Procedure power to vary the terms of the decree by granting an extension of time. I am of opinion that the Court has no such power and that if the time stipulated is an essential part of the terms of the contract embodied in the decree and not a mere threat of a penal nature, there is no power in the Court to make a new contract for the parties fixing some other time than that which has been stipulated.

4. Looking at the actual contract embodied in this decree we find that a very generous time is given to the landlord for the deposit of the value of improvements, that value being fixed at a definite figure without any provision made for it being varied in case the value of the improvements increases before the actual eviction. Any delay on the part of the tenant in surrendering possession is met by the provision that the landlord can adjust the arrears of rent subsequently accruing due towards the amount of his deposit. But there is no corresponding provision for adjustment in case of delay on the part of the landlord resulting in an alteration in. the amount due for improvements. It is suggested that the tenant has the right under Section 6 of the Malabar Compensation for Tenants' Improvements Act to demand a revaluation as on the date of actual eviction and to recover the excess value. But that amounts to importing into this contract which contemplates a fixed valuation of improvements, a statutory provision which really operates only when the value of improvements is left to be finally determined as on the date of eviction. Moreover under the prevailing view of this Court any claim of revaluation by the tenant would not bar the immediate eviction of the tenant when compensation at the rate fixed in the decree has been deposited. The position would therefore be that the plaintiff could utilise this compromise for his own purposes, that is to say, he might deposit only the amount originally fixed for improvements less the amount originally fixed as due for arrears of Vent less subsequent rents accrued due, the tenant being left to take proceedings through Court to recover any additional improvements the value of which would be payable owing to the delay on the part of the plaintiff. That is to say, the whole idea underlying the compromise whereby the plaintiff should pay a fixed sum and the defendant should forthwith surrender possession is thrown overboard and the plaintiff seeks to execute the compromise so far as it is favourable to himself and to throw the defendant back upon the statutory remedy in order to recover anything additionally due owing to plaintiff's own laches. It seems to me that having regard to the terms of the compromise fixing the value of improvements at a certain figure and allowing the plaintiff nine, months to deposit the value, it must be inferred that the parties contemplated that the deposit must be made within the time fixed and that the defendant is entitled not to be prejudiced by a prolonged delay on the, part of the plaintiff. To hold otherwise would amount to making out a fresh agreement between the parties the terms of which would be very largely inconsistent with the original basis upon which the suit was decreed. I find therefore that the date fixed for the plaintiff's deposit was an essential term of the compromise, that the Court has no power to vary it and that the plaintiff not having made, the deposit within the time allowed cannot execute the decree. The appeal is therefore dismissed with costs.


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