Sudhir Ranjan Patra (Dead) thr. LRs. vs Himansu Sekhar Srichandan

Sudhir Ranjan Patra (Dead) thr. LRs. vs Himansu Sekhar Srichandan 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3641 OF 2022
Sudhir Ranjan Patra (Dead) thr. LRs. & Anr.      ..Appellant (S)
Versus
Himansu Sekhar Srichandan & Ors.                    ..Respondent (S)
With 
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3642 OF 2022
J U D G M E N T 
M. R. Shah, J.
1. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
judgment and order dated 04.02.2022 passed by the High
Court   of   Orissa   at   Cuttak   in   CMP   No.   1423/2019,   by
which, though the High Court has confirmed the order
passed by the learned Trial Court setting aside the  exparte decree in exercise of powers under Order IX Rule 13
of   Code   of   Civil   Procedure   (CPC),   the   High   Court   has
observed and held that appellants herein – defendant Nos.
2 and 3 cannot be permitted to file their written statement,
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the appellants herein – original defendant Nos. 1 to 3 have
preferred the present appeals.
2. The facts leading to the present appeals in a nutshell are
as under: ­
2.1 That respondent No. 1 herein – original plaintiff instituted
a   suit   for   declaration   of   his   right,   title,   interest   and
possession over the suit schedule land being Civil Suit No.
1783/2011. The original plaintiff also prayed for a decree
to declare that original defendant No. 2 has no authority to
alienate the suit land and also to declare that the two
registered sale deeds bearing Nos. 3530 and 3533 of 2000
are   not   binding   on   the   plaintiff   as   well   as   proforma
defendant Nos. 4 and 5. A relief of permanent injunction
against original defendant Nos. 1 to 3 was also sought for.
The appellants herein – original defendant Nos. 2 and 3
appeared in the suit on 20.03.20212 and filed a petition
for time to file their written statement. However, in spite of
several adjournments, they did not file written statement.
That the appellants herein – original defendant Nos. 2 and
3 did not file their written statement. Thereafter, the issues
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were framed by the learned Trial Court. On 27.03.2017,
the plaintiff filed their evidence in examination in chief by
an affidavit. On 04.07.2017, when the suit was called on
for hearing, appellants herein – original defendant Nos. 2
and   3   were   absent   and   therefore,   were   set   ex­parte.
Thereafter, on behalf of the plaintiff, PW­1 came to be
examined.   The   case   was   posted   to   15.07.2017   for
argument. On that date, original defendant Nos. 1 to 3 also
filed an application for adjournment for which the suit was
adjourned to 17.07.2017, on which date, the argument
was heard and judgment was pronounced on 18.07.2017.
The learned Trial Court passed an ex­parte decree. 
Subsequently,   the   appellants   herein   –   original
defendant Nos. 2 and 3 filed CMA No. 31/2018 under
Order IX Rule 13 of CPC to set aside the ex­parte decree
along with an application under Section 5 of the Limitation
Act to condone the delay in filing the CMA. The appellants
herein – original defendant Nos. 2 and 3 also prayed to
allow the filing of written statement and to take up the suit
3
on merits. By order dated 05.12.2019, the learned Trial
Court allowed the CMA by condoning the delay.     
2.2 Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   order   dated
05.12.2019   passed   by   the   learned   Trial   Court   allowing
CMA No. 31/2018, the original plaintiff – respondent No. 1
herein filed CMP No. 1423/2019 before the High Court. By
the impugned judgment and order, though the High Court
has confirmed the order passed by the learned Trial Court
condoning the delay and setting aside the ex­parte decree,
the High Court has also passed an order that on setting
aside the ex­parte decree and consequently the suit being
restored   to   file,   defendant   Nos.   2   and   3   cannot   be
permitted to file their written statement and that they can
only   take   part   in   the   hearing   of   the   suit   without
propounding   their   own   case.   The   High   Court   has   also
observed that they can advance their argument on the
basis of the materials available on record only. 
2.3 Feeling aggrieved with the judgment and order passed by
the High Court to the extent of observing that defendant
Nos.  2 and  3 cannot   be  permitted  to  file  their  written
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statement and that they can only take part in the hearing
of the suit without propounding their own case, original
defendant Nos. 1 to 3 – appellants herein have preferred
the present appeals.      
3. Learned   counsel   appearing   on   behalf   of   the   appellants
herein – original defendant Nos. 2 and 3 has vehemently
submitted that in the facts and circumstances of the case
the High Court has committed a grave error in passing the
order that  appellants  herein  ­ defendant  Nos. 2 and  3
cannot be permitted to file their written statement.  
3.1 It is vehemently submitted that once the suit was restored
to file by setting aside the ex­parte decree which has been
upheld by the High Court, thereafter, it was not open for
the High Court to pass a further order that on setting
aside the ex­parte decree and restoring the suit to file,
defendant Nos. 2 and 3 cannot be permitted to file their
written statement. 
3.2 It is submitted that what was challenged before the High
Court was the order passed by the learned Trial Court
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condoning the delay and setting aside the ex­parte decree.
It is submitted that therefore, the impugned order passed
by the High Court observing that defendant Nos. 2 and 3
cannot   be   permitted   to   file   their   written   statement   is
beyond the scope and ambit of CMP filed before the High
Court.
3.3 It is submitted that once the suit was restored to file by
setting aside the ex­parte decree and no order was passed
by   the   learned   Trial   Court   on   whether   the   written
statement be permitted to be taken on record or not, the
High Court ought not to have observed anything on the
same and ought to have left it to the learned Trial Court. 
3.4 It   is   submitted   that   in   the   present   case   no   order   was
passed by the learned Trial Court on whether the written
statement be taken on record or not, the decisions relied
upon by the High Court in the case of Sangram Singh Vs.
Election Tribunal, Kotah and another; AIR 1955 SC 425
and  Arjun Singh Vs.  Mohindra Kumar and others; AIR
6
1964 SC 993 shall not be applicable to the facts of the
case on hand.      
4. Present appeals are vehemently opposed by Shri Nitesh
Bhandari,   learned   counsel   appearing   on   behalf   of
respondent No. 1 herein – original plaintiff. 
4.1 It is submitted that  despite the fact that  a number of
opportunities were given to defendant Nos. 2 and 3 to file
their written statement between 2012 to 2017 (till the exparte   decree   was   passed).   Hence,   the   High   Court   was
justified in passing the impugned order by observing that
defendant Nos. 2 and 3 cannot be permitted to file their
written statement on setting aside the ex­parte decree. 
4.2 It is submitted that as held by this Court in the case of
Sangram Singh (supra) and Arjun Singh (supra) when an
ex­parte decree is set aside and the suit is restored to file,
the defendants cannot be relegated back to the position
prior to the date of hearing of the suit and he would be
debarred from filing any written statement in the suit. It is
submitted that therefore, the impugned order passed by
the High Court is absolutely in consonance with the law
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laid down by this Court in the case of  Sangram  Singh
(supra) and Arjun Singh (supra).    
5. We have heard learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
respective parties at length. 
6. At the outset it is required to be noted that when the
appellants – original defendant Nos. 2 and 3 filed CMA No.
31/2018 under Order IX Rule 13 of CPC they prayed to
condone the delay as well as to set aside the ex­parte
decree and also to allow filing of the written statement and
to take up the suit on merits. By order dated 05.12.2019,
the learned Trial Court allowed CMA No. 31/2018 and
condoned   the   delay   and   set   aside   the   ex­parte   decree
subject to cost of Rs. 25,000/­ each to be paid to the
plaintiff. From order dated 05.12.2019, it does not appear
that any further order was passed by the learned Trial
Court on whether by setting aside the ex­parte decree,
defendant Nos. 2 and 3 may be permitted to file written
statement or not. The order passed by the learned Trial
Court condoning the delay and setting aside the ex­parte
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decree has been confirmed by the High Court by passing
the   impugned   judgment   and   order.   However,   the   High
Court   has   observed   that   on   setting   aside   the   ex­parte
decree and restoring the suit to file, defendant Nos. 2 and
3   cannot   be   permitted   to   file   the   written   statement.
Reliance is placed upon the decisions of this Court in the
case of Sangram Singh (supra) and Arjun Singh (supra).
However, it is true that as per the law laid down by this
Court in the case of  Sangram  Singh  (supra) and  Arjun
Singh (supra) when an ex­parte decree is set aside and the
suit is restored to file, the defendants cannot be relegated
to the position prior to the date of hearing of the suit when
he was placed ex­parte. He would be debarred from filing
any   written   statement   in   the   suit,   but   then   he   can
participate   in   the   hearing   of   the   suit   inasmuch   crossexamine   the   witness   of   the   plaintiff   and   address
arguments.   However,   in   our   view,   in   the   facts   and
circumstances of the case, the decisions of this Court in
the   case   of  Sangram   Singh  (supra)   and  Arjun   Singh
(supra) shall not be fully applicable. In the present case by
9
filing the CMA under Order IX Rule 13, appellants herein –
original defendant Nos. 2 and 3 not only prayed to set
aside the ex­parte decree but also prayed to allow them to
file written statement. As observed above, there was no
order and/or decision by the learned Trial Court on the
second prayer, namely, to allow defendant Nos. 2 and 3 to
file written statement or not. Therefore, once the ex­parte
decree is set aside and the suit is restored to file and even
as per the decisions of this Court in the case of Sangram
Singh  (supra)  and  Arjun   Singh  (supra)  the   defendants
cannot be relegated back to the position prior to the date
of hearing of the suit in that case also, it should have been
left to the learned Trial Court to consider the prayer of
defendant   Nos.   2   and   3   whether   to   allow   them   to   file
written statement or not, which was also prayed in CMA
No. 31/2018. 
As observed hereinabove, there was no order passed by
the learned Trial Court on the specific prayer made by
defendant   Nos.   2   and   3   to   allow   them   to   file   written
statement. The learned Trial Court while passing order
10
dated 05.12.2019 condoned the delay and set aside the exparte decree and the said order of condonation of delay
and   setting   aside   the   ex­parte   decree   was   the   subject
matter   before   the   High   Court.   Therefore,   the   further
observations made by the High Court that defendant Nos.
2 and 3 cannot be permitted to file their written statement
can be said to be beyond the scope and ambit of the CMP
filed before the High Court. Under the circumstances, the
impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court to
the extent of observing that defendant Nos. 2 and 3 cannot
be   permitted   to   file   their   written   statement   is
unsustainable and the issue/question whether defendant
Nos. 2 and 3 may be allowed to file their written statement
or not, shall have to be remanded to the learned Trial
Court. 
   
7. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the
impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court to
the extent of observing that though the ex­parte decree is
set aside, defendant Nos. 2 and 3 cannot be permitted to
file   their   written   statement   is   hereby   quashed   and   set
11
aside. The learned Trial Court to consider the prayer of
defendant Nos. 2 and 3 whether to allow/permit them to
file their written statement or not and as and when such
question/issue is considered by the learned Trial Court, it
will be open for respondent No. 1 – original plaintiff to
resist the same and the learned Trial Court to consider the
question/issue   whether   on   setting   aside   the   ex­parte
decree, defendant Nos. 2 and 3 may be allowed/permitted
to file their written statement, in accordance with law and
on   its   own   merits   for   which   we   have   not   expressed
anything in favour of either party. The learned Trial Court
to consider the issue/question with respect to the prayer
of defendant Nos. 2 and 3 to allow them to file their written
statement within a period of three months from the first
date of hearing of the suit, which shall be within a period
of one month from today. The present appeals are allowed
to the aforesaid extent. In the facts of the case, there shall
be no order as to costs.  
…………………………………J.
                (M. R. SHAH)
New Delhi,                                        …………………………………J.
17th May, 2022                                (B.V. NAGARATHNA)
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