PRAKASH CORPORATES VS DEE VEE PROJECTS LIMITED

PRAKASH CORPORATES VS DEE VEE PROJECTS LIMITED - Supreme Court Case 2022 - 

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 1318 of 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 13751 of 2021)
PRAKASH CORPORATES ……. APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
DEE VEE PROJECTS LIMITED …… RESPONDENT(S)
JUDGMENT
Dinesh Maheshwari, J.
Contents
Preliminary.................................................................................................................................2
Relevant background aspects and proceedings in the suit.........................................................3
Order of the Commercial Court dated 22.06.2021.....................................................................8
Impugned order dated 09.07.2021: the High Court declines to interfere.................................10
Rival Submissions....................................................................................................................12
Relevant statutory provisions...................................................................................................18
Impact of COVID-19:..............................................................................................................21
Orders passed in SMWP No.3 of 2020.................................................................................21
Administrative order issued by the High Court....................................................................29
Time limit for filing written statement and consequences of default.......................................32
Operation and effect of the orders passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020........................................35
Implication and effect of the administrative order issued by the High Court..........................47
Another error of procedure by the Trial Court.........................................................................51
Conclusion................................................................................................................................54
1
Preliminary
Leave granted.
2. By way of this appeal, the appellant has challenged the order
dated 09.07.2021, as passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh at
Bilaspur in WP No. 312 of 2021, whereby the High Court has upheld the
order dated 22.06.2021, as passed by the Commercial Court (District
Level), Nava Raipur, Chhattisgarh in Civil Suit No. 01-B of 2021, in
declining the prayer of the defendant-appellant for granting further time to
file its written statement. The prayer of the defendant-appellant came to
be declined on the ground that in view of the proviso to Order VIII Rule 1
of the Code of Civil Procedure, 19081
, as substituted by the Commercial
Courts Act, 20152
, such a right of the defendant to file the written
statement stood forfeited with expiry of 120 days from the date of service
of summons.
2.1. The defendant-appellant has questioned the orders so passed by
the Trial Court and by the High Court on various grounds, including those
with reference to the orders passed by this Court in Suo Motu Writ
Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 20203
, for extension of the period of limitation
prescribed under the general law of limitation or under any special law, in
1 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘CPC’.
2 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘the Act’.
3 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘SMWP No. 3 of 2020’.
2
view of the challenges faced by the country and difficulties of the litigants
due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Relevant background aspects and proceedings in the suit
3. Looking to the questions arising in this appeal on the appellant’s
prayer for an opportunity to file its written statement, dilation on all the
factual aspects of the subject suit is not necessary and only a brief
reference to the background would suffice.
3.1. It appears from the plaint averments and other submissions that
the parties to this litigation and their associated entities were having
business dealings, particularly in relation to the public contract works. The
present litigation relates to two such contract works: one being the work
awarded by the Chhattisgarh Road Development Corporation Limited for
“Construction of Two Laning with Hard Shoulder of Tara-PremnagarRamanunjnagar Road Section in the State of Chhattisgarh”; and the other
being the work awarded by the Public Works Department of the
Government of Chhattisgarh for “Rehabilitation and Upgradation of NH
111 in the State of Chhattisgarh”. It appears that certain portions of these
works were sub-contracted by the plaintiff-respondent to the defendantappellant under two work orders bearing Nos. DV/HW/03 dated
01.04.2017 and DV/HW/08 dated 01.07.2017 respectively. There might
be some divergence in the stand of the parties as to the manner of
awarding these contract works and as to the reasons for which certain
3
portions of these works came to be sub-contracted to the appellant but,
all those aspects are not of relevance for the present purpose.
3.2. The litigation pertains to the monetary liabilities arising from and
under the sub-contracts awarded to the appellant. It appears that the
appellant had raised various running account bills and the respondent
had made various running account payments but, each of the parties has
its own version of its claim against the other. It appears that on
01.07.2020, the appellant sent a demand notice to the respondent in
terms of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 20164
, demanding
payment of an alleged unpaid operational debt of Rs. 17,94,11,835/-.
The respondent sent a reply to the said notice on 13.07.2020, denying
the claim so made by the appellant and conversely making a claim of Rs.
3,73,24,821/- against the appellant on account of excess payment.
3.3. It appears further from the submissions sought to be made in this
appeal that on 11.09.2020, the appellant approached the National
Company Law Tribunal, Cuttack Bench5
 seeking initiation of corporate
insolvency resolution process against the respondent under Section 9 of
the Code with the allegations that the respondent (corporate debtor) had
failed to make payment of its unpaid operational debt. On the other hand,
on 21.12.2020, the plaintiff-respondent instituted the suit aforesaid
against the defendant-appellant for recovery of the said sum of
4 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘the Code’.
5 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘the NCLT’.
4
Rs.3,73,24,821/- along with interest @ 12% p.a., allegedly being the
excess payment made to the appellant. The plaintiff-respondent also filed
an application under Order XXXVIII Rule 5 read with Section 151 CPC,
seeking interim directions of attachment before judgment.
4. After a glance at the background aspects as above, it would be
worthwhile to take note of the relevant events pertaining to the
proceedings in the suit so filed by the plaintiff-respondent, in their feasible
chronology.
4.1. In the said suit instituted on 21.12.2020, the plaintiff-respondent
had also filed an application under Section 149 CPC, seeking time for
payment of court fees that was granted and the matter was taken up on
01.01.2021. On that date, the Trial Court found that the requisite court
fees had been paid and also referred to the submissions made on behalf
of the respondent regarding urgency of matter in view of the said
application seeking interim directions under Order XXXVIII Rule 5 read
with Section 151 CPC. Taking note of the submissions so made, the
Court granted another application moved by the respondent for
dispensing with the requirements of pre-institution mediation in terms of
Section 12-A of the Act; and issued summons to the defendant-appellant
for appearance and filing of written statement as also reply to the said
interim application.
5
4.2. The defendant-appellant was served with summons in the subject
suit on 06.01.2021.
4.3. The appellant did appear before the Trial Court in response to the
said summons on the date fixed, i.e., 18.01.2021 but filed an application
under Section 10 read with Section 151 CPC for stay of suit proceedings
on the ground that the proceedings between the parties were pending
before the NCLT. The appellant also sought time to file reply to the said
interim application. The Trial Court granted time to the parties to file
replies to the respective applications and adjourned the matter to
02.02.2021.
4.4. On 02.02.2021, the appellant sought time for filing written
statement and reply to the interim application on the ground of illness of
the partner of the firm. On the other hand, the respondent also sought
time for filing reply to the application moved on behalf of the appellant for
stay of suit proceedings. While adjourning the matter to 24.02.2021, the
Court directed the parties to file their respective replies to the pending
applications and also directed the appellant to file its written statement on
the next date.
4.5. On 24.02.2021, while the respondent filed its reply to the
application for stay of suit proceedings but, the appellant sought another
opportunity to file the written statement because of non-availability of the
senior counsel. The respondent raised an objection but, the Trial Court
6
granted another opportunity on costs of Rs. 200/-; and the appellant was
directed file its written statement as also reply to the application for
interim directions positively by the next date.
4.6. On the next date, i.e., on 15.03.2021, though a reply to the
application seeking interim directions was filed on behalf of the appellant
but, further time was sought for filing the written statement. It was
submitted that assistance of a Delhi-based Law Firm was being taken and
the necessary documents had been sent to Delhi for drafting the written
statement. In view of these submissions, the Trial Court granted yet
further time to the appellant for filing the written statement but, on costs of
Rs. 500/-. The Trial Court adjourned the matter to 15.04.2021 for
arguments on both the above-noted applications, moved respectively by
the appellant seeking stay of suit proceedings and by the respondent
seeking attachment before judgment.
4.7. In the ordinary and normal course, the matter would have
proceeded for the slated purpose on 15.04.2021 but, in view of an
administrative order dated 05.04.2021 issued by the jurisdictional High
Court for curtailed functioning of Courts as also in view of its own
administrative order dated 07.04.2021, the Trial Court adjourned the
matter to 22.06.2021, for arguments on both the applications.
Indisputably, the said administrative orders were issued under the force of
circumstances created by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, when
7
almost all the institutions suffered set-backs with disruption of their normal
functioning due to ailments, lock-downs and containment measures.
4.8. It would be apposite to notice at this juncture that in the ordinary
operation of the second proviso to Rule 1(1) of Order V and the proviso to
Rule 1 of Order VIII CPC, as substituted by the Commercial Courts Act,
2015, the appellant was required to file the written statement within 30
days from the date of service of summons, i.e., within 30 days from
06.01.2021. Further, the appellant could have been given time to file the
written statement by 120th day from the date of service of summons, for
reasons to be recorded in writing and on payment of such costs as
deemed fit by the Trial Court but, upon expiry of 120 days from the date of
service of summons, the right of the defendant-appellant to file the written
statement was to stand forfeited and the Court could not have allowed the
written statement to be taken on record. It is not in dispute that 120th day
from the date of service of summons expired on 06.05.2021.
Order of the Commercial Court dated 22.06.2021
5. Reverting to the suit proceedings, on 22.06.2021, when the Trial
Court took up the matter for consideration, another prayer for
adjournment was made on behalf of the appellant for filing the written
statement with the submission that limitation had been extended by this
Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020. This prayer was
opposed on behalf of the respondent with the submission that more than
8
120 days had expired since service of summons. The Trial Court referred
to the order-sheets of the case as also to the applicable proviso to Order
VIII Rule 1 CPC; and held that the appellant had forfeited its right to file
the written statement. The Trial Court, thereafter, adjourned the matter to
09.07.2021 for consideration of the aforesaid applications moved by the
parties.
5.1. This order dated 22.06.2021, being the bone of contention in this
appeal, could be usefully reproduced in extenso as under: -
“ 22.06.2021
Present: Shri Rishabh Garg Advocate for the Plaintiff.
Shri Neeraj Zaveri Advocate for the Defendant.
The counsel for the defendant prayed to grant an adjournment
for submission of written statement on the ground that Hon'ble
Apex Court in Suo Moto case has extended the limitation. The
prayer is vehemently opposed by the counsel for the Plaintiff on
the ground that more than 120 days has expired since the service
of summons on the defendants.
As per order-sheet of the present case, service of summons
was effected on the defendant by hand on 06.01.2021 and the
defendants firstly appeared before this Court on 18.01.2021. The
defendants have moved an application under Section 10 of CPC
on 18.01.2021 and filed reply of the application under Order 38
Rule 5 on 15.03.2021.
The proviso of Order 8 Rule 1 of CPC as incorporated by
Commercial Courts Act says that on expiry of 120 days from date
of service of summons, the defendant shall forfeit the right to file
written statement and the Court shall not allow the written
statement to be taken on record.
Therefore, the defendant in this case has forfeited his right to
submit written statement because more than 120 days have been
passed after 06.01.2021 i.e. date of service of summons on the
defendants. Now the defendants are not permitted to submit
written statement in the case file.
Now to come up on 09.07.2021 for consideration on application
under Order 38 Rule 5 CPC and on application under Section 10
CPC.”
9
Impugned order dated 09.07.2021: the High Court declines to
interfere
6. Seeking to question the aforesaid order dated 22.06.2021, the
defendant-appellant preferred a writ petition under Article 227 of the
Constitution of India before the High Court.
6.1. It was essentially submitted on behalf of the appellant that on
06.05.2021, the Court was closed due to imposition of lockdown in
pandemic control measures; and on 22.06.2021, the application was filed
seeking time for filing written statement on medical ground as the counsel
for the appellant was in quarantine. It was yet further submitted with
reference to the orders passed by this Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition
(Civil) No. 3 of 2020 that, while computing the period of limitation
prescribed under the general law or under special laws, the period
between 15.03.2020 to 14.03.2021 would stand excluded; and on
27.04.2021, the suspension of limitation was further extended by this
Court. Thus, it was contended that counting of limitation by the Trial Court
without taking into consideration the period of lockdown was erroneous.
Reference was made to various decisions of this Court, including those in
SCG Contracts (India) Private Limited v. K.S. Chamankar
Infrastructure Private Limited and Ors.: (2019) 12 SCC 210 and SS
Group Pvt. Ltd. v. Aaditiya J. Garg and Anr.: 2020 SCC OnLine SC
1050.
10
6.2. The petition so filed by the appellant was opposed on behalf of the
respondent with two-fold submissions. In the first place, it was urged that
the impugned order being an appealable one, the same could not have
been challenged by way of a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution
of India. Then, with reference to the decision in SCG Contracts (supra), it
was submitted that the Commercial Court had no power to extend the
time beyond the period of 120 days. Further, a decision of this Court in
the case of Sagufa Ahmed and Ors. v. Upper Assam Polywood
Products Private Limited and Ors.: (2021) 2 SCC 317 was cited in
support of the submission that the order in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 was only
for the purpose of extension of period of limitation and not for condonation
of delay. It was contended that the time for filing written statement was
that of prescribed period and, being not a matter of limitation, was not
covered under the order passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020.
6.3. After having heard learned counsel for the parties, the High Court
held in the first place that the order passed in terms of Order VIII Rule 1
was not an appealable one under Order XLIII CPC and hence, the
petition was indeed maintainable. However, as regards challenge to the
order passed by the Trial Court, the High Court referred to the aforesaid
decisions in SCG Contracts and Sagufa Ahmed and held that the
limitation provided in the enactment cannot be extended by any Court.
The High Court also observed that the present one was not a case for
11
condonation of delay as the written statement had not been filed at all.
Thus, the High Court found no reason to consider interference and
proceeded to dismiss the writ petition while observing as under: -
“Taking into consideration the view settled by the Supreme
Court and the applicability of the order of Supreme Court in Suomoto Writ (Civil) No. 03 of 2020, the glaring fact present in this
case is this, that the petitioners have till date not filed any written
statement, the prescribed time for filing written statement and the
time which can be extended by the Court both have expired. The
case was fixed for hearing on 22.06.2021 even on that date, the
petitioner was not ready and prepared to file the written statement,
therefore, it appears to be a case in which the petitioner is making
a prayer for extension of limitation. No Court can grant any
extension of limitation against the provisions of the enactment
under which the case is being considered and heard. Further, it is
not a case of condonation of delay as the written statement is still
not filed. Hence, I am of this view that the learned Commercial
Court has not committed any error in rejecting the prayer made by
the petitioner for granting time to file written statement.
Accordingly, no substance is found to be present in this petition,
hence, this petition is dismissed at motion stage.”
7. Seeking to challenge the order so passed by the High Court, the
defendant-appellant has approached this Court. The plaintiff-respondent
has appeared in caveat. Having regard to the subject-matter, we have
heard the learned counsel for parties finally at the admission stage itself.
Rival Submissions
8. While assailing the order dated 09.07.2021 as passed by the High
Court and the order dated 22.06.2021 as passed by the Trial Court,
learned senior counsel for the defendant-appellant has referred to the
record of proceedings in the subject suit as also various orders passed in
SMWP No. 3 of 2020 by this Court; and has contended that in the given
12
set of peculiar circumstances, prayer of the appellant for granting time for
filing the written statement ought to have been granted.
9. The main plank of submissions of the learned senior counsel for
the appellant has been that the impugned orders are flawed, being
contrary to the mandate and directions of this Court in SMWP No. 3 of
2020.
9.1. The learned counsel would submit that the subject suit itself was
filed by the respondent at the time when the order dated 23.03.2020
passed by this Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 was in operation; and
summons was also served on the appellant during that period. With
reference to various other orders passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, the
contention has been that the entire period from 15.03.2020 until
02.10.2021 stands excluded while computing the period of limitation and
that, obviously, covers the prescribed period for filing written statement in
the present case.
9.2. The learned senior counsel has contended that the intention
behind the orders in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 had been to protect the
litigants from complications stemming from the pandemic and to do away
with the need of explaining the individual circumstances in each and
every case; and no delay could be imputed in this matter on the appellant
because, any such question of delay in filing the written statement would
13
have arisen only after expiry of the extended period of limitation, as
provided by this Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020.
9.3. The learned senior counsel would also submit that the Trial Court
and the High Court have failed to consider the adverse circumstances
faced by the appellant where, apart from the entire district of Raipur
having been declared a containment zone and restriction/lockdown
having been imposed in the month of April, 2021, the fact of the matter
had been that the partners of the appellant firm as also their family
members suffered from COVID-19 and they were either in quarantine or
were attending on other family emergencies. Moreover, the appellant’s
counsel and his mother were in quarantine and, in fact, the counsel’s
mother passed away due to health complications. According to the
learned counsel, in these trying and unfortunate times, when the rigour of
limitation period had been under eclipse pursuant to the orders of this
Court, the Trial Court and the High Court ought not to have closed the
right to file the written statement.
9.4. The learned counsel has also referred to the fact that as per its
own administrative order dated 05.04.2021, the High Court of
Chhattisgarh had provided for restricted functioning of the Courts, where
only the matters of urgent nature were being taken up; and the suit in
question was not falling under any of those categories. In this view of the
matter too, it could not have been concluded that the right to file the
14
written statement conclusively came to an end by the operation of statute.
In other words, when such rigorous provisions in the statute were not in
full operation, the right of filing the written statement could not have been
taken as closed.
9.5. It has also been contended on behalf of the appellant that the Trial
Court has erred in not taking up and deciding the application filed by the
appellant under Section 10 CPC for stay of suit proceedings because the
proceedings as regards the subject-matter of the suit were already
pending before the NCLT. It has yet further been submitted that the
appellant had got the written statement prepared and notarised on
07.07.2021; and the same deserves to be taken on record.
10. While countering the submissions above-noted and while
supporting the orders impugned, learned senior counsel for the plaintiffrespondent has contended, with all emphasis, that the appellant cannot
claim the extension of period of limitation by reference to the orders
passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, particularly when its right to file the
written statement stands forfeited by operation of law.
10.1. With elaborate reference to the record of proceedings of the
subject suit, it has been submitted on behalf of the respondent that the
appellant, despite having appeared on 18.01.2021, did not choose to file
the written statement within 30 days of service of summons, as
permissible by law; and twice over, sought further time to file the written
15
statement during the extendable period of 90 days; and the Trial Court
indeed extended the time on 24.02.2021 and 15.03.2021. According to
the learned senior counsel for the respondent, the extendable period of
limitation for filing the written statement was available to the appellant
until 06.05.2021 but not beyond. The learned counsel would submit that
in the given fact situation, the alleged notarised written statement dated
07.07.2021 had been well beyond the extendable period of 90 days and
thus, no relaxation could be granted to the appellant when its right to file
the written statement stands forfeited.
10.2. Learned senior counsel for the respondent would submit that the
orders passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 cannot be of any aid or help to the
appellant because no indefeasible right accrues to claim in the
discretionary extendable period to be determined by the Court. The
learned counsel has emphasised on the submissions that in the orders
passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, the extension of period of limitation
commencing from 23.03.2020 to 02.10.2021 was for institution of suits or
applications; and even when Section 12-A of the Act was brought within
the purview of the extension of limitation period, there was no direction
that the period to file the written statement before the Commercial Court
would also be extended automatically, despite the defendant appearing
and participating in the proceedings. According to the learned counsel,
the defendant cannot take blanket immunity by not filing the written
16
statement and then, seeking cover of the orders passed in SMWP No. 3
of 2020.
10.3. With reference to the decision of this Court in the case of S. Kasi
v. State: Criminal Appeal No. 452 of 2020 decided on 19.06.2020
[(2020) SCC OnLine SC 529], it has been argued on behalf of the
respondent that a 3-Judge Bench of this Court has specifically ruled that
the said order dated 23.03.2020 in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 is not applicable
to all the applications; and benefit of the order of extension of limitation
cannot be taken by police while filing chargesheet under Section167(2) of
the Code of Criminal Procedure, 19736
. Further, with reference to the
decision in the case of Sagufa Ahmed (supra), it has been argued that
what was extended in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 was only the period of
limitation and not the period upto which delay could be condoned in
exercise of discretion conferred by the statute. The learned counsel would
also submit with reference to the decision of this Court in SCG Contracts
(supra) that where a defendant fails to file the written statement within
permissible time, it is beyond the Court’s power to condone the delay.
11. In his rejoinder submissions, the learned senior counsel for the
appellant has contended that S. Kasi’s case (supra) related to the
fundamental right of liberty, referable to Article 21 of the Constitution of
India read with Section 167(2) CrPC; and the observations of this Court in
the said case cannot operate in relation to the procedural law concerning
6 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘CrPC’.
17
civil litigation and more particularly, in relation to the right of filing written
statement in a civil suit. The learned counsel would further submit that the
decision in the case of Sagufa Ahmed (supra) is of no application to the
present case because the observations therein came to be made in the
setup of the facts that time for filing the appeal had expired even prior to
the order dated 23.03.2020 passed by this Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020.
12. We have given anxious consideration to the rival submissions and
have examined the record with reference to the law applicable.
Relevant statutory provisions
13. The principal question calling for determination in this matter is as
to whether the opportunity of filing written statement in the subject suit
has rightly been declined or the appellant could be extended further
relaxation in view of the orders passed and issued in the wake of COVID19 pandemic. However, before proceeding further, worthwhile it would be
to take note of the relevant provisions of law, particularly those dealing
with the right of filing written statement and default stipulations in that
regard, as applicable to the subject suit.
13.1. The suit in question answers to the description of ‘Commercial
dispute of a Specified Value’ and in its regard, the relevant applicable
provisions of CPC are those as amended by the Schedule to the
Commercial Courts Act, 2015 read with Section 16 thereof. Section 12-A
of the Act has also come under reference in the orders passed in SMWP
18
No. 3 of 2020. Thus, we may usefully reproduce Section 12-A and
Section 16 of the Act as under: -
“12-A. Pre-Institution Mediation and Settlement. – (1) A suit,
which does not contemplate any urgent interim relief under this
Act, shall not be instituted unless the plaintiff exhausts the remedy
of pre-institution mediation in accordance with such manner and
procedure as may be prescribed by rules made by the Central
Government.
(2) The Central Government may, by notification, authorise the
Authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act,
1987 (39 of 1987), for the purposes of pre-institution mediation.”
“16. Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in its
application to commercial disputes. – (1) The provisions of the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) shall, in their application
to any suit in respect of a commercial dispute of a Specified Value,
stand amended in the manner as specified in the Schedule.
(2) The Commercial Division and Commercial Court shall follow
the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as
amended by this Act, in the trial of a suit in respect of a
commercial dispute of a Specified Value.
(3) Where any provision of any Rule of the jurisdictional High
Court or any amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, by
the State Government is in conflict with the provisions of the Code
of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as amended by this Act, the
provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure as amended by this Act
shall prevail.”
13.2. By virtue of sub-clauses A, D(i) and D(iv) of Clause 4 of the
Schedule to the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, respectively the provisions
of CPC in Order V Rule 1(1), Order VIII Rule 1 and Order VIII Rule 10,
concerning the time period within which written statement could be filed
as also the consequences of default, stand amended in their application
to the suit of present nature. While incorporating these amendments, the
applicable provisions of CPC would read as under7
: -
7 Note: The provisos marked with asterisk (*) are the amended provisions, as applicable to
Commercial dispute of Specified Value i.e., the suit tried by a Commercial Court.
19
Order V Rule 1
“1. Summons. - (1) When a suit has been duly instituted, a
summons may be issued to the defendant to appear and answer
the claim and to file the written statement of his defence, if any,
within thirty days from the date of service of summons on that
defendant:
Provided that no such summons shall be issued when a
defendant has appeared at the presentation of plaint and admitted
the plaintiff’s claim:
*Provided further that where the defendant fails to file the
written statement within the said period of thirty days, he shall be
allowed to file the written statement on such other day, as may be
specified by the Court, for reasons to be recorded in writing and on
payment of such costs as the Court deems fit, but which shall not
be later than one hundred twenty days from the date of service of
summons and on expiry of one hundred twenty days from the date
of service of summons, the defendant shall forfeit the right to file
the written statement and the Court shall not allow the written
statement to be taken on record.
(2) A defendant to whom a summons has been issued under
sub-rule (1) may appear:-
(a) in person, or
(b) by a pleader duly instructed and able to answer all material
questions relating to the suit, or
(c) by a pleader accompanied by some person able to answer
all such questions.
(3) Every such summons shall be signed by the Judge or such
officer as he appoints, and shall be sealed with the seal of the
Court.”
Order VIII Rule 1
“1. Written statement.-The defendant shall, within thirty days from
the date of service of summons on him, present a written
statement of his defence:
*Provided that where the defendant fails to file the written
statement within the said period of thirty days, he shall be allowed
to file the written statement on such other day, as may be specified
by the Court, for reasons to be recorded in writing and on payment
of such costs as the Court deems fit, but which shall not be later
than one hundred twenty days from the date of service of
summons and on expiry of one hundred twenty days from the date
of service of summons, the defendant shall forfeit the right to file
the written statement and the Court shall not allow the written
statement to be taken on record.”
20
Order VIII Rule 10
“10. Procedure when party fails to present written statement
called for by Court.- Where any party from whom a written
statement is required under rule 1 or rule 9 fails to present the
same within the time permitted or fixed by the Court, as the case
may be, the Court shall pronounce judgment against him, or make
such order in relation to the suit as it thinks fit and on the
pronouncement of such judgment a decree shall be drawn up.
*Provided that no Court shall make an order to extend the time
provided under rule 1 of this Order for filing of the written
statement.”
Impact of COVID-19:
Orders passed in SMWP No.3 of 2020
14. The major deal of arguments in the present case has revolved
around the orders passed by this Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil)
No. 3 of 2020 and the effect thereof on the prayer of the appellant for
another opportunity to file its written statement. Having regard to the
questions involved, it shall be apposite to take note of all the relevant
orders passed by this Court.
14.1 The said suo motu petition was taken up by this Court in rather
peculiar and extraordinary circumstances in the wake of the outbreak of
COVID-19 pandemic, where the normal functioning of almost all the
institutions got disrupted due to serious illness of a large populace and
due to various containment measures taken by the administrative
authorities, including lockdowns. The functioning of Courts and other
juridical institutions also suffered set-backs and, in fact, with regular spike
21
in COVID-19 cases, when the Governments announced lockdowns in the
interest of public safety and health, it was obvious to this Court that the
litigants and their authorised agents would be facing serious hardships
and difficulties in relation to their litigations and more particularly, in
relation to the period of limitation when it would be well-nigh impossible
for them to file the proceedings within the prescribed period of limitation, if
the same was expiring during the period of such health emergencies and
enforcement of the measures of containment. Having regard to the
circumstances, this Court exercised its plenary powers under Article 142
of the Constitution of India and passed an order on 23.03.2020 in the said
SMWP No. 3 of 2020 that reads as under:-
“This Court has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the situation
arising out of the challenge faced by the country on account of
Covid-19 Virus and resultant difficulties that may be faced by
litigants across the country in filing their
petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within
the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of
limitation or under Special Laws (both Central and/or State).
 To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants
do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in
respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this
Court, it is hereby ordered that a period of limitation in all such
proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the
general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall
stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be
passed by this Court in present proceedings.
We are exercising this power under Article 142 read with Article
141 of the Constitution of India and declare that this order is a
binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all
Courts/Tribunals and authorities.
This order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for
being communicated to all subordinate Courts/Tribunals within
their respective jurisdiction.
Issue notice to all the Registrars General of the High Courts,
returnable in four weeks.”
22
14.2. Apart from the aforementioned order passed in general terms, this
Court also passed various orders from time to time in SMWP No. 3 of
2020 in relation to the specific classes and categories of cases. On
06.05.2020, this Court dealt with an interlocutory application and directed
that the limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act,
19968
 and under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
shall stand extended with effect from 15.03.2020 until further orders. It
was also provided that in case limitation had expired after 15.03.2020, the
period between 15.03.2020 and lifting of lockdown in the jurisdictional
area would be extended for a period of 15 days after the lifting of
lockdown. Then, on 10.07.2020, this Court took note of the submissions
made by the learned Attorney General as regards the proceedings in
terms of Section 29-A of the Act of 1996, which does not prescribe a
period of limitation but fixes the time for making an arbitral award. This
Court directed that the aforementioned orders dated 23.03.2020 and
06.05.2020 shall also apply for extension of time limit for passing of
arbitral award. This Court further dealt with the requirements of Section
23(4) of the Act of 1996, which provides for a time period of six months for
completion of the statement of claim and defence; and it was directed that
the aforesaid orders shall apply for extension of the time limit prescribed
under the said Section 23(4) too. Yet further, this Court also examined the
8 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘the Act of 1996’
23
requirements of Section 12-A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, which
prescribes the time limit for completing the process of compulsory prelitigation mediation and directed that the said time limit would also stand
extended from time to time and for 45 days after lifting of lockdown. The
relevant parts of the order dated 10.07.2020 could also be usefully
extracted as under:-
“I.A. No. 49221/2020 -Section 29A of the Arbitration and
Conciliation Act, 1996
Taken on Board.
In Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 3/2020, by our order dated
23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020, we ordered that all periods of
limitation prescribed under the Arbiration and Conciliation Act,
1996 shall be extended w.e.f. 15.03.2020 till further orders.
Learned Attorney General has sought a minor modification in
the aforesaid orders.
Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 does
not prescribe a period of limitation but fixes a time to do certain
acts, i.e. making an arbitral award within a prescribed time. We,
accordingly, direct that the aforesaid orders shall also apply for
extension of time limit for passing arbitral award under Section
29A of the said Act. Similarly, Section 23(4) of the Arbitration and
Conciliation Act, 1996 provides for a time period of 6 months for
the completion of the statement of claim and defence. We,
accordingly, direct that the aforesaid orders shall also apply for
extension of the time limit prescribed under Section 23(4) of the
said Act.
The application is disposed of accordingly.
Pre-Institution Mediation and Settlement under Section 12A of the
Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
Under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, time is
prescribed for completing the process of compulsory pre-litigation,
mediation and settlement. The said time is also liable to be
extended. We, accordingly, direct that the said time shall stand
extended from the time when the lockdown is lifted plus 45 days
thereafter. That is to say that if the above period, i.e. the period of
lockdown plus 45 days has expired, no further period shall be
liable to be excluded.”
24
14.3. The above-referred orders remained in operation for almost a year
but, when there had been some reduction in the severity of pandemic and
when normalcy was being gradually restored, this Court considered it
appropriate to dispose of the said suo motu petition by its order dated
08.03.2021, while making specific provisions concerning the future course
of action in relation to different eventualities, particularly those pertaining
to the period between 15.03.2020 to 14.03.2021. This order dated
08.03.2021 reads as under: -
“1. Due to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, this Court
took suo motu cognizance of the situation arising from difficulties
that might be faced by the litigants across the country in filing
petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings within the
period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or
under any special laws (both Central or State). By an order dated
23.03.2020 this Court extended the period of limitation prescribed
under the general law or special laws whether compoundable or
not with effect from 15.03.2020 till further orders. The order dated
23.03.2020 was extended from time to time. Though, we have not
seen the end of the pandemic, there is considerable improvement.
The lockdown has been lifted and the country is returning to
normalcy. Almost all the Courts and Tribunals are functioning
either physically or by virtual mode. We are of the opinion that the
order dated 23.03.2020 has served its purpose and in view of the
changing scenario relating to the pandemic, the extension of
limitation should come to an end.
2. We have considered the suggestions of the learned
Attorney General for India regarding the future course of action.
We deem it appropriate to issue the following directions: -
1. In computing the period of limitation for any suit,
appeal, application or proceeding, the period from
15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall stand excluded.
Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining
as on 15.03.2020, if any, shall become available with
effect from 15.03.2021.
2. In cases where the limitation would have expired during
the period between 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021,
notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation
remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90
25
days from 15.03.2021. In the event the actual balance period
of limitation remaining, with effect from 15.03.2021, is greater
than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
3. The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall also
stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed
under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and
Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12A of the Commercial
Courts Act, 2015 and provisos (b) and (c) of Section 138
of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and any other
laws, which prescribe period(s) of limitation for
instituting proceedings, outer limits (within which the
court or tribunal can condone delay) and termination of
proceedings.
4. The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for
containment zones, to state.
“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical`
emergencies, provision of essential goods and services, and
other necessary functions, such as, time bound applications,
including for legal purposes, and educational and job-related
requirements.”
3. The Suo Motu Writ Petition is disposed of accordingly.”
(emphasis supplied)
14.4. Even when it appeared to almost all the concerned that normalcy
was around the corner, the sneaky spread of virus continued for one
reason or the other or in one way or the other; and this led to a huge
surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. This phenomenon came to
be generally known as the second wave of pandemic. In the given
scenario, the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association moved
an application in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, seeking restoration of the order
dated 23.03.2020 while highlighting the surge of COVID-19 cases in
Delhi and the difficulties being faced by the lawyers and litigants to
institute their cases. This application was registered as Miscellaneous
Application No. 665 of 2021 in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 and was considered
by this Court on 27.04.2021. This Court took judicial notice of steep rise
26
in COVID-19 cases that had engulfed the entire country and found that
the situation required extraordinary measures to minimise the hardship of
litigant-public. Therefore, the order dated 23.03.2020 was restored and in
continuation of the order dated 08.03.2021, it was directed that the
period(s) of limitation, as prescribed under any general or special laws in
respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, whether condonable
or not, shall stand extended until further orders. Further clarification was
also made for exclusion of the period from 14.03.2021 in regard to the
other period(s) prescribed under different laws. In this order dated
27.04.2021, this Court took note of the orders earlier passed in the
matter and thereafter, observed and directed as under: -
 “Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA) has
now through this Interlocutory Application highlighted the daily
surge in COVID cases in Delhi and how difficult it has become for
the Advocates-on-Record and the litigants to institute cases in
Supreme Court and other courts in Delhi. Consequently,
restoration of the order dated 23rd March, 2020 has been prayed
for.
We have heard Mr. Shivaji M. Jadhav, President SCAORA in
support of the prayer made in this application. Learned Attorney
General and Learned Solicitor General have also given their
valuable suggestions.
We also take judicial notice of the fact that the steep rise in
COVID-19 Virus cases is not limited to Delhi alone but it has
engulfed the entire nation. The extraordinary situation caused by
the sudden and second outburst of COVID-19 Virus, thus, requires
extraordinary measures to minimize the hardship of litigant–public
in all the states. We, therefore, restore the order dated 23rd March,
2020 and in continuation of the order dated 8th March, 2021 direct
that the period(s) of limitation, as prescribed under any general or
special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings,
whether condonable or not, shall stand extended till further orders.
 It is further clarified that the period from 14th March, 2021 till
further orders shall also stand excluded in computing the periods
prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and
27
Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act,
2015 and provisos (b) and (c) of Section 138 of the Negotiable
Instruments Act, 1881 and any other laws, which prescribe
period(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings, outer limits (within
which the court or tribunal can condone delay) and termination of
proceedings. We have passed this order in exercise of our powers
under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India.
Hence it shall be a binding order within the meaning of Article 141
on all Courts/Tribunals and Authorities.
This order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for
being communicated to all subordinate courts/Tribunals within
their respective jurisdiction.
Issue notice to all the Registrars General of the High Courts,
returnable in 6 weeks.
List the Miscellaneous Application on 19th July, 2021.”
14.5. The aforesaid order dated 27.04.2021 remained in operation for a
few months in view of the prevalence of COVID-19 virus but, when the
situation again started returning to near normal, this Court found it
expedient to restore the aforesaid order dated 08.03.2021. Accordingly,
this Court passed the order dated 23.09.2021 in disposal of MA No.665 of
2021, while taking into account the previous orders passed in the matter
and while also taking into account the submissions made by the learned
Attorney General for India and the other learned counsel appearing in the
matter. The relevant part of this order dated 23.09.2021 could also be
profitably reproduced as under: -
“8. Therefore, we dispose of the M.A. No.665 of 2021 with the
following directions: -
I. In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal,
application or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 till
02.10.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance
period of limitation remaining as on 15.03.2020, if any, shall
become available with effect from 03.10.2021.
II. In cases where the limitation would have expired during the
period between 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021, notwithstanding the
actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall
28
have a limitation period of 90 days from 03.10.2021. In the event
the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from
03.10.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
III. The period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall also stand
excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections
23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996,
Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and provisos
(b) and (c) of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act,
1881 and any other laws, which prescribe period(s) of
limitation for instituting proceedings, outer limits (within
which the court or tribunal can condone delay) and
termination of proceedings.
IV. The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for
containment zones, to state.
“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical emergencies,
provision of essential goods and services, and other necessary
functions, such as, time bound applications, including for legal
purposes, and educational and job-related requirements.”
 (emphasis supplied)
Administrative order issued by the High Court
15. In another part of the arguments in the present case, an
administrative order dated 05.04.2021 issued by the High Court of
Chhattisgarh has also come under reference. That order was issued by
the High Court in the wake of alarming number of COVID-19 cases in the
State of Chhattisgarh; and, in the given circumstances, the High Court
was rather forced to provide for limited and curtailed functioning of the
Courts in its jurisdiction. The relevant parts of the said order dated
05.04.2021 could also be extracted as under: -
“HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH, BILASPUR
ORDER
 No. 66 (Mis.) / 11-14-1/2021
Bilaspur,
dated 05th April, 2021
Hon'ble High Court of Chhattisgarh has been pleased to make the
following arrangements in respect of functioning of the High Court
29
and Subordinate Courts of the State of Chhattisgarh in view of the
alarming and mounting number of COVID-19 cases in the State of
Chhattisgarh until further orders as under: -
**** **** ****
B-SUBORDINATE COURTS [District and Sessions Judge /
Principal Judge / Judge of the Family Court / Judge Commercial
Court / Special Judge (SC/ ST), Member Judge (Industrial Court),
Judge (Labour Court) etc.] - w.e.f. 06.04.2021:-
1. Filing of fresh cases shall continue.
2. In Durg, Raipur & Bilaspur, 02 (two) Courts of Higher
Judicial Service (HJS) Level and 04 (four) Courts of
Lower Judicial Service (LJS) Level are allowed to
function on rotational basis.
3. In station having 03 (three) or less than 03 (three) Courts
all the Courts shall function. In other station 50% of HJS
Courts and 50% of LJS Courts are allowed to function on
rotational basis.
4. These Courts shall function only during the first half of
the working hours meaning thereby that the Court
shall function only from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm, excluding
bail and remand matters, for which Court shall function
during full working hours.
5. The following type of cases shall be taken up for hearing
during the above restricted functioning of the Court:
1) Remand matters
2) Bail matters
3) Supardnama matters
4) Appeal & Revision (Both Civil & Criminal)
5)Matters relating to under trial prisoners
6) Cases pending for more than 05 (five) years (Both Civil
& Criminal)
7) Motor Accident Claim Cases
8) Matters relating to payment of amount deposited in
respect of Motor Accident Claim Cases
9) Matters under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C.
10) Matters directed to be disposed of within. time limit by
the Supreme Court or the High Court (Both Civil &
Criminal)
11) Other extreme urgent nature of Civil & Criminal
matters, which are found to be heard on urgent basis by
the Court
12) Trial of the cases concerning sexual assault against
women and children.
30
6. The number of cases to be taken up by each Court shall be
so decided, which would ensure less congestion in the
Court rooms while maintaining social and individual
distancing.
7.
to
10
**** **** ****
11. If the Court premises or the area in which the Court
premises is falling, has been declared Containment Zone
or the District Magistrate effects lockdown then the
functioning of Courts shall be bare minimal with minimum
support staff to be deputed on rotational basis, to deal with
only extremely urgent cases, as to be decided by the
District and Sessions Judge / Principal Judge / Judge of
the Family Court / Judge Commercial Court / Special
Judge (SC / ST), Member Judge (Industrial Court), Judge
(Labour Court) etc. under intimation to the High Court.
There will not be any regular listing of the cases during the
aforesaid period, however, as regards cases of utmost
importance / urgency, the District and Sessions Judge /
Principal Judge / Judge of the Family Court / Judge
Commercial Court / Special Judge (SC/ST), Member Judge
(Industrial Court), Judge (Labour Court) etc. shall decide as
to whether urgency exists or not and to take action as per
convenience. Remands and Bails of the arrested person
shall be done as per holiday practice……
12. Other COVID-19 related guidelines issued by the Supreme
Court, High Court, Central Govt., State Govt., and Local
authority, other competent Authorities shall be followed in
its letter and spirit.
13. The District & Sessions Judges / Judges concerned are
authorized to make any suitable charges according any
court in the prevailing situation of their jurisdiction for
smooth functioning of courts and also for management for
preventing the spread of Corona Virus in the matter of
entry and sitting of the advocates, litigants etc. in court
premises.
All the above arrangements shall be subject to further
modification, if any issued from time to time.
By order of Hon'ble the High Court
 Sd/-
 05.04.21
 (Sanjay Kumar Jaiswal)
I/c. Registrar General
Bilaspur.”
(emphasis supplied)
31
Time limit for filing written statement and consequences of default
16. For dealing with the rival submissions, in the first place, we need
to take into account the time limits for filing written statement in a suit
governed by the provisions of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. As
noticed, by virtue of Section 16 thereof, the Commercial Court is to follow
the provisions of CPC as amended by the Act in the trial of a suit in
respect to a Commercial dispute of a Specified Value. The relevant
provisions contained in Order V Rule 1, Order VIII Rule 1 and Order VIII
Rule 10 CPC, have been reproduced hereinabove; and it is manifest that
the said provisions not only envisage strict timelines for filing of written
statement but even provide for consequences of default, while restricting
the powers of the Court to extend the time for filing written statement
beyond the period prescribed. Tersely put, as per the mandate of the said
provisions: (a) the defendant is under an obligation to file the written
statement of his defence within 30 days of service of summons; (b) if he
fails to file the written statement within the said period of 30 days, he may
be allowed to file the written statement on such other day as the Court
may specify for reasons to be recorded in writing and on payment of such
costs as the Court may impose but this other day, in any case, cannot go
beyond 120 days from the date of service of summons; (c) on expiry of
120th day from the date of service of summons, the defendant forfeits the
right to file the written statement and no Court can make an order to
32
extend such time beyond 120 days from the date of service of summons.
These aspects were underscored by this Court in the case of SCG
Contracts (supra) in no uncertain terms. In that case, the Single Judge of
the High Court, after rejecting an application made by the defendant
under Order VII Rule 11 CPC, proceeded to grant some time to the
defendant for filing his written statement beyond the aforesaid mandatory
period of 120 days. Later on, the plaintiff’s prayer for not taking the written
statement on record was rejected by the High Court on the ground that
the earlier order permitting such filing of written statement had attained
finality. This Court disapproved the orders so passed by the High Court
with reference to the aforesaid amended provisions of Order V Rule 1(1),
Order VIII Rule 1 and Order VIII Rule 10 CPC. While explaining the
sweep and mandate of these provisions, this Court said, -
“8……...A perusal of these provisions would show that ordinarily a
written statement is to be filed within a period of 30 days.
However, grace period of a further 90 days is granted which the
Court may employ for reasons to be recorded in writing and
payment of such costs as it deems fit to allow such written
statement to come on record. What is of great importance is the
fact that beyond 120 days from the date of service of summons,
the Defendant shall forfeit the right to file the written statement and
the Court shall not allow the written statement to be taken on
record. This is further buttressed by the proviso in Order VIII Rule
10 also adding that the Court has no further power to extend the
time beyond this period of 120 days.”
This Court also made it clear that these mandatory provisions cannot
be circumvented even by recourse to inherent powers under Section 151
CPC while observing as under: -
33
“16……Clearly, the clear, definite and mandatory provisions of
Order V read with Order VIII Rule 1 and Rule 10 cannot be
circumvented by recourse to the inherent power under section 151
to do the opposite of what is stated therein.”
17. If the aforesaid provisions and explained principles are literally
and plainly applied to the facts of the present case, the 120th day from the
date of service of summons came to an end with 06.05.2021 and the
defendant, who had earlier been granted time for filing its written
statement on payment of costs, forfeited such right with the end of 120th
day, i.e., 06.05.2021. However, it is required to be kept in view that the
provisions aforesaid and their interpretation in SCG Contracts (supra)
operate in normal and non-extraordinary circumstances with the usual
functioning of Courts. It is also noteworthy that the above referred
provisions of CPC are not the only provisions of law which lay down
mandatory timelines for particular proceedings. The relevant principles, in
their normal and ordinary operation, are that such statutory timelines are
of mandatory character with little, or rather no, discretion with the
Adjudicating Authority for enlargement. The question in the present case
is, as to whether the said provisions and principles are required to be
applied irrespective of the operation and effect of other orders
passed/issued by the Courts under the force of aberrant, abnormal and
extraordinary circumstances? In our view, the answer to this question
cannot be in the affirmative for a variety of reasons, as indicated infra.
34
Operation and effect of the orders passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020
18. It is not a matter of much debate that, starting from or around the
month of December, 2019, the entire humanity faced a situation which
was unprecedentedly unfavourable and unpleasant to almost all the
persons and the institutions. It was the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic
that engulfed practically the entire globe; and the highly contagious virus
called SARS-CoV-2 started playing havoc with its rapid transmission from
one person to another. COVID-19 carried with it the scary possibilities of
irretrievable damage to the respiratory systems, even leading to deaths.
In fact, the number of fatalities due to this infection had been beyond
imagination with survivors also living under a constant threat. The
unprecedented health emergencies due to highly transmissible COVID-19
virus led the administrations to take various containment measures,
including those of travel restrictions and lockdowns as also of isolating the
infected persons while putting their close contacts in quarantine.
18.1. We need not elaborate on the havoc created by COVID-19 but the
relevant aspect for the present purpose is that with COVID-19, the
movement of persons and working of almost all the institutions landed in
such difficulties which were neither foreseen nor guarded against.
19. When the movements and gatherings of persons were fraught
with dangers and when lockdowns became inevitable, the institutions
related with the task of administration of justice were also required to
35
respond to the challenges thrown by this pandemic. In this regard, this
Court, apart from taking various measures of containment, also took note
of the practical difficulties of the litigants and their lawyers; and this led to
the suo motu order dated 23.03.2020 in SMWP No. 3 of 2020.
19.1. In the consciously worded order dated 23.03.2020, this Court,
while taking note of the difficulties likely to be faced by the litigants in filing
their petitions/applications/suits/appeals/proceedings within the period of
limitation, ordered that the period of limitation in all such proceedings,
irrespective of the limitation prescribed under general or special laws,
whether condonable or not, shall stand extended w.e.f. 15.03.2020 until
further orders. This order was passed in exercise of plenary powers of
this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, which are
complementary to other powers specifically conferred by various statutes.
Even if the above referred provisions of CPC had not been stated in
specific terms, the general mandate of the order dated 23.03.2020 was to
extend the period of limitation provided in any law for the time being in
force, irrespective whether the same was condonable or not, w.e.f.
15.03.2020 and until further orders. Noticeably, on 06.05.2020, when
special periods of limitation under different enactments like the Act of
1996 were referred to, this Court further ordered that the limitation
prescribed thereunder shall stand extended w.e.f. 15.03.2020 until further
orders. It was a time when the country was under the grip of lockdown,
36
and the Court provided that in case limitation had expired after
15.03.2020, the period between 15.03.2020 and lifting of lockdown in the
jurisdictional area would be extended for a period of 15 days after lifting of
lockdown.
19.2. Further, on 10.07.2020, this Court enlarged the scope of initial
order in relation to the timelines fixed in Section 29-A and Section 23(4) of
the Act of 1996. Significantly, Section 23(4) of the Act of 1996 mandates
that the statement of claim and defence shall be completed within a time
period of six months. Yet further, it was also provided that the time for
completing the process of compulsory pre-litigation mediation under
Section 12-A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 shall stand extended for
45 days after lifting of lockdown.
19.3. On 08.03.2021, suggestions were made before this Court about
lifting of lockdowns and likely return of normalcy and, therefore, this Court
considered it proper to dispose of the said suo motu petition with specific
directions that while computing the period of limitation for any suit,
appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 to
14.03.2021 would stand excluded. Though the said order dated
08.03.2021 was passed with a belief that the adverse effects of the
pandemic were receding and normalcy was returning but, the spread of
virus continued and this led to an exponential surge in COVID-19 cases;
and to the second wave of pandemic in the country around the months of
37
March-April, 2021. In this turn of events, this Court again took up the
matter in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 on MA No. 665 of 2021, as moved by the
Supreme Court Advocate-on-Record Association and passed the
necessary order on 27.04.2021 in revival of the previous orders.
19.4. At this juncture, we are impelled to refer to the fact that much
before passing of the order dated 27.04.2021 by this Court, the alarming
scenario due to the second wave of pandemic was indeed taken note of
by the High Court of Chhattisgarh; and that High Court issued the abovereferred administrative order dated 05.04.2021 for curtailed/truncated
functioning of the High Court as also the subordinate Courts. We shall
elaborate on this aspect in the next segment of discussion but, have
indicated the same at this juncture to highlight the fact that even before
passing of the order dated 27.04.2021 by this Court in SMWP No. 3 of
2020, the Trial Court dealing with the subject suit was already under
containment measures; and could not have functioned normally.
19.5. Reverting to the orders passed by this Court, noticeable it is that
on 27.04.2021, this Court restored the order dated 23.03.2020 and it was
directed, in continuation of the order dated 08.03.2021, that the periods of
limitation as prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all
judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, whether condonable or not, shall
stand extended. Ultimately, the said MA No. 665 of 2021 was disposed of
on 23.09.2021 with this Court issuing directions similar to those contained
38
in the order dated 08.03.2021 but while providing that in computing the
period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the
period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall stand excluded.
19.6. We are not elaborating on other directions issued by this Court
but, when read as a whole, it is but clear that the anxiety of this Court had
been to obviate the hardships likely to be suffered by the litigants during
the onslaughts of this pandemic. Hence, the legal effect and coverage of
the orders passed by this Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 cannot be
unnecessarily narrowed and rather, having regard to their purpose and
object, full effect is required to be given to such orders and directions.9
20. As regards the operation and effect of the orders passed by this
Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, noticeable it is that even though in the
initial order dated 23.03.2020, this Court provided that the period of
limitation in all the proceedings, irrespective of that prescribed under
general or special laws, whether condonable or not, shall stand extended
w.e.f. 15.03.2020 but, while concluding the matter on 23.09.2021, this
Court specifically provided for exclusion of the period from 15.03.2020 till
02.10.2021. A look at the scheme of the Limitation Act, 1963 makes it
9 To complete the scenario, we may indicate in the passing that even after we had heard this
matter, there had been re-surge of COVID-19 cases with spread of a new variant of the virus.
The drastic re-surge in the number of COVID cases has led this Court to again deal with the
matter in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 on an application bearing No. 21 of 2022; and by the order dated
10.01.2022, this Court again restored the principal order dated 23.03.2020 and in continuation
of the previous orders, has further directed that the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall
stand excluded for the purposes of limitation as may be prescribed under any general or special
laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings. Be that as it may, the fresh order in
SMWP No.3 of 2020 need not be elaborated for the present purpose.
39
clear that while extension of prescribed period in relation to an appeal or
certain applications has been envisaged under Section 5, the exclusion of
time has been provided in the provisions like Sections 12 to 15 thereof.
When a particular period is to be excluded in relation to any suit or
proceeding, essentially the reason is that such a period is accepted by
law to be the one not referable to any indolence on the part of the litigant,
but being relatable to either the force of circumstances or other
requirements of law (like that of mandatory two months’ notice for a suit
against the Government10). The excluded period, as a necessary
consequence, results in enlargement of time, over and above the period
prescribed.
20.1. Having regard to the purpose for which this Court had exercised
the plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India and
issued necessary orders from time to time in SMWP No. 3 of 2020, we
are clearly of the view that the period envisaged finally in the order dated
23.09.2021 is required to be excluded in computing the period of
limitation even for filing the written statement and even in cases where
the delay is otherwise not condonable. It gets perforce reiterated that the
orders in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 were of extraordinary measures in
extraordinary circumstances and their operation cannot be curtailed with
reference to the ordinary operation of law.
10 Vide Section 15 of the Limitation Act, 1963.
40
20.2. In other words, the orders passed by this Court on 23.03.2020,
06.05.2020, 10.07.2020, 27.04.2021 and 23.09.2021 in SMWP No. 3 of
2020 leave nothing to doubt that special and extraordinary measures
were provided by this Court for advancing the cause of justice in the wake
of challenges thrown by the pandemic; and their applicability cannot be
denied in relation to the period prescribed for filing the written statement.
It would be unrealistic and illogical to assume that while this Court has
provided for exclusion of period for institution of the suit and therefore, a
suit otherwise filed beyond limitation (if the limitation had expired between
15.03.2020 to 02.10.2021) could still be filed within 90 days from
03.10.2021 but the period for filing written statement, if expired during that
period, has to operate against the defendant.
20.3. Therefore, in view of the orders passed by this Court in SMWP
No. 3 of 2020, we have no hesitation in holding that the time limit for filing
the written statement by the appellant in the subject suit did not come to
an end on 06.05.2021.
21. It is also noteworthy that even before the scope of the orders
passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 came to be further elaborated and
specified in the orders dated 08.03.2021 and 23.09.2021, this Court dealt
with an akin scenario in the case of SS Group Pvt. Ltd. (supra), decided
on 17.12.2020. In that case, in terms of Section 38(2)(a) of the Consumer
Protection Act, 2019, 30 days’ time provided for filing the written
41
statement expired on 12.08.2020 and the extendable period of 15 days
also expired on 27.08.2020. Admittedly, the written statement was filed on
31.08.2020, which was beyond the permissible period of 45 days. The
Constitution Bench of this Court has held in the case of New India
Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hill Multipurpose Cold Storage (P) Ltd.: (2020)
5 SCC 757 that the Consumer Court has no power to extend the time for
filing response to the complaint beyond 45 days. After taking note of the
applicable provisions of law as also the mandate of Constitution Bench,
this Court referred to the orders until then passed in SMWP No. 3 of 2020
and held that the limitation for filing written statement would be deemed to
have been extended. This Court, inter alia, observed and held as follows:
-
“12: In the present matter, it is an admitted fact that the period of
limitation of 30 days to file the written statement had expired on
12.08.2020 and the extended period of 15 days expired on
27.08.2020. This period expired when the order dated 23.03.2020
passed by this Court in SMW(C) No. 3 of 2020 was continuing.
13: In view of the aforesaid, in our opinion, the limitation for filing
the written statement in the present proceedings before the
National Commission would be deemed to have been extended as
it is clear from the order dated 23.03.2020 that the extended
period of limitation was applicable to all
petitions/applications/suits/appeals and all other proceedings. As
such, the delay of four days in filing the written statements in the
pending proceedings before the National Commission deserves to
be allowed, and is accordingly allowed.”
22. The enunciations aforesaid do not support the case of the
respondent but, the learned senior counsel appearing for the respondent
has relied upon two other decisions in support of his contentions. We may
42
refer to the same to find out if they would apply and make out any case in
favour of the respondent.
22.1. The case of S. Kasi (supra) related to default bail plea of the
accused-appellant for the reason that the charge-sheet had not been filed
within the time permitted by Section 167(2) CrPC. The High Court took
the view that the said order dated 23.03.2020 in SMWP No. 3 of 2020
would eclipse all the provisions prescribing the period of limitation,
including that prescribed under Section 167(2) CrPC. This Court referred
to the reasons for passing the orders in the said suo motu petition and the
difficulties sought to be taken care of; and found that an investigating
officer was not prevented from such difficulties as were faced by the
lawyers and litigants; and the investigating officer could have submitted
the charge-sheet before the Magistrate (Incharge). This Court observed
and held as under: -
“17: The limitation for filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all
other proceedings was extended to obviate lawyers/litigants to
come physically to file such proceedings in respective
Courts/Tribunals. The order was passed to protect the
litigants/lawyers whose petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all
other proceedings would become time barred they being not able
to physically come to file such proceedings. The order was for the
benefit of the litigants who have to take remedy in law as per the
applicable statute for a right. The law of limitation bars the remedy
but not the right. When this Court passed the above order for
extending the limitation for filing
petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings, the order
was for the benefit of those who have to take remedy, whose
remedy may be barred by time because they were unable to come
physically to file such proceedings. The order dated 23.03.2020
cannot be read to mean that it ever intended to extend the period
of filing charge sheet by police as contemplated under Section
43
167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Investigating
Officer could have submitted/filed the charge sheet before the
(Incharge) Magistrate. Therefore, even during the lockdown and
as has been done in so many cases the charge-sheet could have
been filed/submitted before the Magistrate (Incharge) and the
Investigating Officer was not precluded from filing/submitting the
charge-sheet even within the stipulated period before the
Magistrate (Incharge).”
22.1.1. In fact, in the said case, this Court also noticed that a co-ordinate
Bench of the same High Court had already held that the said order dated
23.03.2020 did not cover the offences for which Section 167 CrPC was
applicable but, in the order impugned, the other learned Single Judge of
the same High Court took a view contrary to the earlier decision of the coordinate Bench; and that was found to be entirely impermissible. In any
case, the said decision, concerning the matter of personal liberty
referable to Article 21 of the Constitution of India and then, relating to the
proceedings to be undertaken by an investigating officer, cannot be
applied to the present case relating to the matter of filing written
statement by the defendant in a civil suit.
22.2. So far as the decision of this Court in Sagufa Ahmed (supra) is
concerned, a few relevant factors related with the said case need to be
noticed. In that case, the appellants had moved an application before
Guwahati Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal for winding up of
the respondent company. The petition was dismissed on 25.10.2019. The
appellants applied for a certified copy of the order dated 25.10.2019 only
on 21 or 22.11.2019 and received the certified copy of the order through
44
their counsel on 19.12.2019. However, the appellants filed the statutory
appeal before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal only on
20.07.2020 with an application for condonation of delay. The Appellate
Tribunal dismissed the application for condonation of delay on the ground
that it had no power to condone the delay beyond a period of 45 days.
Consequently, the appeal was also dismissed. In that case, it was
indisputable that even while counting from 19.12.2019, the period of 45
days expired on 02.02.2020 and another period of 45 days, for which the
Appellate Tribunal could have condoned the delay, also expired on
18.03.2020. To overcome this difficulty, the appellants relied upon the
aforesaid order dated 23.03.2020. This Court observed that the
appellants were not entitled to take refuge under the above order in
SMWP No. 3 of 2020 because what was extended was only the period of
limitation and not the period up to which delay could be condoned in
exercise of discretion conferred by the statute. This Court said thus: -
“17. …… What was extended by the above order of this Court was
only “the period of limitation” and not the period up to which delay
can be condoned in exercise of discretion conferred by the statute.
The above order passed by this Court was intended to benefit
vigilant litigants who were prevented due to the pandemic and the
lockdown, from initiating proceedings within the period of limitation
prescribed by general or special law. It is needless to point out that
the law of limitation finds its root in two Latin maxims, one of which
is vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt which means
that the law will assist only those who are vigilant about their rights
and not those who sleep over them.”
22.2.1. One of the significant facts to be noticed is that the said decision
in Sagufa Ahmed case was rendered by a 3-Judge Bench of this Court
45
much before the aforesaid final orders dated 08.03.2021 and 27.09.2021
in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 by another 3-Judge Bench of this Court. In those
final orders, this Court not only provided for the extension of period of
limitation but also made it clear that in computing the period of limitation
for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from
15.03.2020 to 02.10.2021 shall stand excluded. Such proposition of
exclusion, which occurred in the later orders, was not before this Court in
the case of Sagufa Ahmed (supra), which was decided much earlier i.e.,
on 18.09.2020.
22.2.2. Moreover, the extendable period in the case of Sagufa Ahmed
(supra) was up to 18.03.2020; and this Court found that lockdown was
imposed only on 24.03.2020 and there was no impediment in filing the
appeal on or before 18.03.2020. The present one is a case where the
prescribed extendable time for filing of the written statement expired on
06.05.2021. It is not the case of the respondent nor there is any
observation in the orders impugned that at the relevant point of time, the
area in question was not a containment zone or that such a normalcy was
available where the appellant could have filed its written statement.
22.2.3. Having regard to the orders subsequently passed by the 3-Judge
Bench of this Court in SMWP No. 3 of 2020 (and MA No. 665 of 2021
therein), as also having regard to the fundamental difference of facts and
46
the surrounding factors, the said decision in Sagufa Ahmed, in our view,
is also of no application to the present case.
23. On behalf of the respondent, much emphasis has been laid on the
submission that the appellant was regularly appearing in the Court and,
therefore, cannot take advantage of the orders passed in SMWP No. 3 of
2020. It is true that the appellant had indeed caused appearance in the
Court in response to the summons and sought time for filing its written
statement but at the same time, it is also undeniable that at the relevant
point of time, the second wave of pandemic was simmering and then, it
engulfed the country with rather unexpected intensity and ferocity. Then,
on 27.04.2021, this Court restored the operation of the order dated
23.03.2020 in SMWP No. 3 of 2020. Putting all these factors together, we
are unable to accept the submissions made on behalf of the respondent
that because of earlier appearance or prayer for adjournment, the
defendant-appellant would not be entitled to the relaxation available
under the extraordinary orders passed by this Court.
Implication and effect of the administrative order issued by the
High Court
24. Apart from the above, in our view, the impugned orders cannot be
approved for yet another major factor, being that of the implication and
effect of the administrative order issued by the jurisdictional High Court.
47
25. As noticed, on 15.04.2021, the Trial Court had specifically fixed
the matter for arguments on two applications: one being the application of
the appellant seeking stay of suit proceedings in terms of Section 10 CPC
and another being the application moved by the respondent seeking
interim directions of attachment before judgment in terms of Order
XXXVIII Rule 5 CPC. However, on 15.04.2021, the Trial Court could not
hear the parties on the said two applications and adjourned the matter to
22.06.2021 with reference to its own administrative order dated
07.04.2021 as also the High Court’s administrative order dated
05.04.2021. We have reproduced the relevant part of the said
administrative order of the High Court hereinbefore and it is but clear that
its effect was of providing truncated/curtailed functioning of subordinate
Courts in view of the pandemic; and the directions had been of limited
court functioning, even in terms of hours of working, essentially for the
purpose of the cases of urgent nature. The proceedings in the subject suit
were neither of urgent nature nor were considered so by the Trial Court. It
was for this reason that on 15.04.2021, the Trial Court simply adjourned
the matter beyond two months.
25.1. It is absolutely clear that during the operation of the said order
dated 05.04.2021, the subordinate Courts under the superintendence of
the High Court of Chhattisgarh (which include the Trial Court related with
the subject suit) could not have been considered functioning in a normal
48
manner and for the whole of normal working days and hours. The period
during which the said order dated 05.04.2021 was operative, could have
only been considered dies non juridicus, i.e., the days on which the
Courts do not ordinarily sit or carry-on business, particularly in regard to
any period of limitation. In P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Law Lexicon11 the
concept of dies non juridicus is explained, inter alia, in the following
terms: -
“Dies non. (Lat.) A day which is regarded by the law as one on
which no judicial act can be performed, or legal diligence used.
(Trayner)
(Shortened form of Dies non juridicius). A day not juridical, a day
exempt from Court proceedings, such as a holiday or a Sunday.
A day on which the Courts do not ordinarily sit or carry on
business; a day on which general business may not lawfully be
transacted.
A day on which a Law-Court is not held.
A day that is not counted for some purpose. For example,
Saturday and Sunday are not counted as days of the working
week.
xxx xxx xxx
An abbreviation of the phrase “dies non juridicus”, non-judicial
days-days during which the Courts do not transact any businessas Sunday or the legal holidays. (Havens v. Stiles, 56 LRA 736). It
is frequently said that Sunday is “die non juridicus”, but this means
only that process cannot ordinarily issue or be executed or
returned, and Courts do not usually sit, on that day. It does not
mean that no judicial action be had on that day. On the contrary, it
is laid down in books of authority that warrants for treason, felony
and breach of the peace may be issued and executed on that day,
(State v. Ricketts, 74 N.C. 187, 193)”
11 5th Ed., Vol. 2, p. 1505
49
25.2. The concept of limitation not coming to an end on a day when the
Court is closed, or is deemed to be closed, is precisely contained in
Section 4 of the Limitation Act, 1963 that reads as under: -
“4. Expiry of prescribed period when court is closed. - Where
the prescribed period for any suit, appeal or application expires on
a day when the court is closed, the suit, appeal or application may
be instituted, preferred or made on the day when the court
reopens.
Explanation.- A court shall be deemed to be closed on any
day within the meaning of this section if during any part of its
normal working hours it remains closed on that day.”
(emphasis supplied)
25.2.1. It is thus beyond cavil that if the prescribed period for any
suit/appeal/application expires on day when the Court is considered
‘closed’, such proceedings may be instituted on the re-opening day.
Significantly, the Explanation to Section 4 of the Limitation Act, 1963
makes it clear that a day when the Court may not as such be closed in
physical sense, it would be ‘deemed’ to be closed, if during any part of its
normal working hours, it remains closed on that day for any particular
proceedings or work.
25.3. As noticed from the relevant parts of the order dated 05.04.2021
(vide paragraph 15 hereinabove) that at the relevant time, limited number
of Courts were to function on rotational basis in Raipur and that too, with
curtailed working hours from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; and they were to
function during full working hours only for bail and remand matters.
Having regard to the situation prevalent at the relevant time and the
contents as also spirit of the administrative order issued by the
50
jurisdictional High Court, there is nothing to doubt that w.e.f. 06.04.2021,
the Court in question could not have been considered functioning
normally; and that period of operation of the said administrative order
dated 05.04.2021 could have only been considered dies non juridicus for
the purpose of the prescribed period for doing anything in the
proceedings in that Court. It has not been pointed out if, as on
06.05.2021, the said order dated 05.04.2021 had been withdrawn and the
situation had returned to such normalcy that the appellant should have
attended the Trial Court and should have filed the written statement. Quite
contrary to any such proposition, the submission on behalf of the
appellant, even on 22.06.2021, had been about the ailments of the
partners of the appellant firm as also their lawyer and their families, where
the lawyer lost his mother due to health complications. Any proposition,
which suggests that during such non-regular-business days of the Trial
Court, and rather bleak days for the humanity, the written statement ought
to have been filed, could only be disapproved as being impractical and
rather preposterous.
Another error of procedure by the Trial Court
26. Apart from the above, yet another significant feature is that on the
very first day of appearance, i.e., on 18.01.2021, the appellant moved an
application under Section 10 read with Section 151 CPC for stay of the
suit proceedings on the ground that proceedings between the parties
51
relating to the subject matter of the suit were pending before the NCLT.
The respondent had earlier moved an application seeking directions of
attachment before judgment in terms of Order XXXVIII CPC. Both the
applications as moved by the appellant as also by the respondent
remained pending and, on 15.03.2021, the Trial Court adjourned the
matter to 15.04.2021 for arguments on both these applications. On
15.04.2021, no business could be transacted and the matter was
adjourned to 22.06.2021, again for arguments on these applications.
Even when the matter was taken up on 22.06.2021 and the Trial Court
declined the prayer of the appellant for another opportunity for filing the
written statement, it did not take up the said applications for consideration
and adjourned the matter to 09.07.2021. We are not commenting on
merits of the application moved by the appellant under Section 10 CPC
but, it cannot be gainsaid that such an application, by its very nature,
required immediate consideration and before any other steps in the suit. It
needs hardly any emphasis that if the prayer made in the application
moved under Section 10 were to be granted, the trial of the subject suit
was not to be proceeded with at all. We find it rather intriguing that on one
hand, the Trial Court itself posted the matter for consideration of that
application along with the other application moved by the respondent but
did not take them up on 22.06.2021 and adjourned the matter after
declining the prayer for filing written statement. Even when the Trial Court
52
considered the step of filing the written statement to be of importance in
view of the time limit and consequences stated in the statute, there was
no justification that the Trial Court did not simultaneously take up the
application under Section 10 CPC for consideration.
26.1. We are constrained to reiterate the unquestionable principles that
the rules of procedure are essentially intended to subserve the cause of
justice and are not for punishment of the parties in conduct of the
proceedings. Of course, in the ordinary circumstances, the mandates of
Rule 1(1) of Order V, Rule 1 of Order VIII as also Rule 10 of Order VIII, as
applicable to the Commercial dispute of a Specified Value, do operate in
the manner that after expiry of 120th day from the date of service of
summons, the defendant forfeits the right to submit his written statement
and the Court cannot allow the same to be taken on record but, these
provisions are intended to provide the consequences in relation to a
defendant who omits to perform his part in progress of the suit as
envisaged by the rules of procedure and are not intended to override all
other provisions of CPC like those of Section 10. These comments are
necessitated for the reason that the Trial Court seems to have simply
ignored the requirements of dealing with the pending applications with
requisite expedition. We say no more.
53
Conclusion
27. For what has been discussed hereinabove, we are unable to
approve the order dated 22.06.2021 as passed by the Trial Court and the
order dated 09.07.2021 as passed by the High Court. In our view, the
written statement already prepared and notarised by the defendantappellant deserves to be taken on record and the Trial Court deserves to
be directed to proceed with the matter in accordance with law thereafter;
and for that matter, to deal with the pending applications without further
delay.
28. Accordingly, this appeal is allowed; the impugned orders dated
22.06.2021 as passed by the Commercial Court (District Level), Nava
Raipur, Chhattisgarh in Civil Suit No. 01-B of 2021 as also the order dated
09.07.2021 as passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh in WP No. 312
of 2021 are set aside; the written statement notarised by the defendantappellant on 07.07.2021 is ordered to be taken on record. After taking the
written statement on record, the Trial Court shall proceed with the suit in
accordance with law; and for that matter, shall deal with the pending
applications before taking any other steps in the suit.
……….……………………J.
 (DINESH MAHESHWARI)
…………………………. J.
(VIKRAM NATH)
New Delhi;
Dated: 14th February, 2022
54

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