By – Devanshi Srivastava
In The Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||Sugandhi (Dead) and Another v/s P. Rajkumar|
|CITATION||Civil Appeal No. 3427 of 2020|
|DATE OF THE CASE||13th October 2020|
|APPELLANT||Sugandhi (dead) by Lrs. & Anr.|
|RESPONDENT||P. Rajkumar represented by his power agent Imam Oli|
|BENCH/JUDGE||S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna|
|STATUES INVOLVED||Civil Procedure Code|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS AND ARTICLES||Rule 1A (3) of Order 8 of Civil Procedure Code, Rule 1 (1) of Order 13 of Civil Procedure Code|
Fair and Just Procedural Methods are essential in providing the best judicial results. The stringent judicial process leads to the deprivation of reasonable and equitable justice. The Court of Law must abide by the established procedure of law but in certain cases, there arises a necessity in acting out of judicial procedure bases on cogent reason and sound judgement. The preservation of a basic code of conduct in providing equal opportunities is essential in bringing out equitable justice.
The case deals with the issue of leniency which is supposed to be practised by the Court in handling cases. The presentation of the relevant documents if not done on time, does not allow the parties to present it after the time allotted even after request. The application to present the documents by the defendant was dismissed even after stating viable reasons. It was, therefore, asserted that the Court should uphold a moderate approach in dealing with the application under Rule 1A (3) of Order 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
The case deals with the initial appeal directed against the Madurai Bench of 2018 of the Madras High Court passing an order on the date 19th February 2019. The High Court laid aside the review petition filed by the appellants (which is the defendant in this case) in challenging the dismissal of the application seeking leave to present the relevant documents under Order 8 Rule 1A(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
In the given case the defendant failed to put forth the relevant documents before the Court of Law with a written statement due to inevitable circumstances. These documents were essentially required to arrive at a just decision. The documents were later found, for which the defendant (appellant) applied to the presentation of such documents which was thereby, rejected by the Lower Courts.
Background of the Case
Order 8 Rule 1A(3) requires the defendant to produce the relevant documents along with a prescribed written statement before the Court of Law. The defendant is supposed to enumerate all the documents in possession and present the same on the date of the hearing. Failure to do so will list out the documents from the side of the defendant however, can only be allowed based on the grant of a leave application.
There arise certain unavoidable circumstantial situations wherein, the defendant may not be able to produce the said documents. The stipulated reason for the leave application should be taken into consideration before the dismissal of the leave application.
The leave application of the defendant for the presentation of the documents was rejected by the lower courts. Therefore, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court through a Special Leave to Appeal for the dismissal of the application for producing the documents.
Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the specific case is the respondent while the defendant is the Appellant. It is hereby noted that the plaintiff filed a suit for injunction with the claim that the defendant seeks to attain the suit schedule property. When the defendant was called upon to present the evidence, he failed in implementing the order with a written statement. The defendant filed an application requesting leave to produce the requisite documents. The defendant claimed to have found the said documents because which he was unable to present on the day of the hearing.
The plaintiff vehemently opposed the leave application filed by the defendant. The Trial Court dismissed the application on 11th October 2018. The Trial Court rejected the application because the defendant applied to exhibit the documents quite after the resolution of the dispute and at a later stage of the judicial proceedings. The High Court affirmed the order passed by the Trial Court. Therefore, the defendant moved a revision petition in the Supreme Court of India challenging the order of the lower courts.
Issue Raised before the Court of Law
- The appeal was raised before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through a revision petition by the defendant or the appellant seeking for a leave application to exhibit the requisite documents which was dismissed by the lower courts under Order 8 Rule 1A(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Arguments from the side of the Appellant
- The learned counsel appearing for the appellant-defendant, Mr. R. Anand Padmanabhan humbly submitted before the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the requisite documents are essential for a reasonable discernation of the particular case. The said documents could not be produced with a written statement by the defendant for unavoidable reasons.
- It was further contended that the lower courts have dismissed the application for leave on the basis of unsubstantiated grounds.
- The submission of documents at a later stage would not defy the aim of equitable and just procedure of law.
- It is asserted that the presentation of the documents by the approval of the leave application would not be detrimental for the plaintiff.
Arguments from the side of the Respondent
- The learned counsel appearing for the respondent-plaintiff, Mr. S. Mahendran, humbly submitted before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that the orders challenged of the lower court were absolutely just and equitable.
- Furthermore, it is asserted that the defendant has no right or discretion to produce the requisite after the day of the hearing, importantly when the plaintiff has concluded the presentation of the requisite documents on the day of the hearing.
- The later presentation of documents in part of the defendant would defy the established procedural law. The procedure of law is sacrosanct and holds supreme priority.
- It is further asserted that the delay in presentation of facts must be not be admitted as there exists no jurisdiction under this provision.
- The Rule 1A (3) of Order 8 of Civil Procedure Code stipulates the procedure for the presentation of the requisite documents by the defendant-
- It is stated as,“1A. Duty of defendant to produce documents upon which relief is claimed or relied upon by him
- Where the defendant bases his defence upon a document or relies upon any document in his possession or power, in support of his defence or claim for setoff or counterclaim, he shall enter such document in a list, and shall produce it in Court when the written statement is presented by him and shall, at the same time, deliver the document and a copy thereof, to be filed with the written statement.
- Where any such document is not in the possession or power of the defendant, he shall, wherever possible, state in whose possession or power it is.
- A document which ought to be produced in Court by the defendant under this rule, but, is not so produced shall not, without the leave of the Court, be received in evidence on his behalf at the hearing of the suit.
- Nothing in this rule shall apply to document—
- (a) produced for the cross examination of the plaintiff’s witnesses, or,
- (b) handed over to a witness merely to refresh his memory.”
- Subrule (1) mandates the defendant to produce the documents in his possession before the court and file the same along with his written statement. He must list out the documents which are in his possession or power as well as those which are not. In case the defendant does not file any document or copy thereof along with his written statement, such a document shall not be allowed to be received in evidence on behalf of the defendant at the hearing of the suit. However, this will not apply to a document produced for cross examination of the plaintiff’s witnesses or handed over to a witness merely to refresh his memory.
- Subrule (3) states that a document which is not produced at the time of filing of the written statement, shall not be received in evidence except with the leave of the court. It further provides a second opportunity to the defendant to produce the documents which ought to have been produced in the court along with the written statement, with the leave of the court. The discretion conferred upon the court to grant such leave is to be exercised judiciously. While there is no straight jacket formula, this leave can be granted by the court on a good cause being shown by the defendant.
- Rule (1) of Order 13 of C.P.C. again makes it mandatory for the parties to produce their original documents before settlement of issues.
The two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court opined that “Procedure is the outcome of justice. Fair and equitable justice requires the Courts to exercise a flexible approach in dealing with cases. This would enhance providing equal opportunities and promote the fair implementation of the established structure of law. The courts can bend the procedural law in cases when the adversary party is not at a position of the altar. The exercise of substantial and practical justice holds a more valuable position than the blind following to the procedural and established law. Bringing about the veracity of facts and issues in cases to be dealt with is the premier priority. Justice bases on truth are the true path of litigation, therefore, the truthfulness of circumstances should never be sacrificed based on stringent measures. The courts are required to take reasonable steps in bringing out true and equitable justice. Hence, the courts should take a liberal and lenient approach when an application is made for the production of the requisite documents under sub-rule (3).”
It held that the leave application should be accepted with a liberal approach by the lower courts. The lower courts must act in a magnanimous manner when faced with cogent and reasonable justifications for a leave application. The fact that needs to be highlighted is that the exhibition of documents does not keep the plaintiff in a position of jeopardy.
The leave application was ought to granted by the lower courts instead of the legitimate reasons stated by the defendant. The outcome of true and fair justice should not be forsaken due to stringent measures.
Therefore, the Bench affirmed the appeal of the defendant for a revision petition and thereby, allowed the leave of application for the presentation of the requisite documents. Secondly, the orders challenged by the lower courts were repealed.
The procedure of law is sacrosanct for the judicial proceedings, however, keeping in light the cogent reasons the courts should act in a manner consonance in bringing about fair justice.
The lower courts must take a lenient approach in handling the presentation of documents. This would promote the validity of the decision and the legitimacy of fair and reasonable judicial proceedings.