2013(6) ALL MR 843
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
A.P. BHANGALE, J.
Shri Prahladsingh Ramkhilaansingh (D) By His Heir And Lr.Vs.Sudhir J. Bhalekar & Anr.
First Appeal No. 830 of 2010,First Appeal No. 831 of 2010
26th September, 2013
Petitioner Counsel: Ms. Asha M. Bhambwani
Respondent Counsel: Mr. Atul G. Damle,Mr. Kavita Shah
Civil P.C. (1908), O.7 R.11, O.14 R.1 - Rejection of plaint - Written statement filed by defendants - 3 preliminary issues framed - Trial Court rejected plaint on ground that plaint does not show cause of action - No opportunity of adducing evidence was given to parties - Order liable to be set aside. (Paras 8 to 11)
Saleem Bhai and Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra And Ors, AIR 2003 SC 759 [Para 6]
JUDGMENT :- The question agitated in these appeals is as to whether the learned trial Judge erred in law to reject the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code? My answer is in the affirmative for following reasons.
2. The case of the appellant (Original Plaintiffs) is that they are legal heirs of Prahladsingh Ramkhilavan Singh. Their father claimed as Tenant of the premises described as 'Stable with surrounding open land at Final Plot No. 113 and 114 at TPS V Scheme Vile Parle (East)'. He disclaimed Lessor's right by refusing to pay rent for 12 years and claimed ownership by adverse possession. Second defendants in S.C Suit no 3856 of 1999 and S.C. Suit no. 3857 of 1999 were his servants residing in the stable permitted as gratuitous licensee. They were not in possession or occupation of any premises. They had filed suit against the plaintiffs in the court of small causes being suit no. 3164 of 1981 and 3165 of 1985. First Defendant decided to develop the property and had entered into agreements with second defendants in the suit to provide flats to them admeasuring 260 Sq. feet carpet area to each of them, in the proposed building of the proposed society. The Plaintiffs claimed declaration that agreements between the Defendant no.1 and second defendants are bad, illegal, unenforceable and will result in to loss, injury to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs also prayed for perpetual injunction against the Defendants. According to the plaintiffs, they will have allotment of three flats in the proposed building. Following issues were treated as preliminary issues to be decided by the learned Judge.
Issue No. 2:- Whether the agreement between the defendant no. 1 and defendant no. 2 affects civil rights of the plaintiff? If not, whether the suit is having any cause of action and whether the suit is maintainable?
Issue no. 2b:- Whether the plaintiff can challenge the agreement between the defendant no. 1 and 2 on behalf of the proposed co-operative society as a would be member? If yes, whether this court has subject wise jurisdiction to conduct the suit?
Issue no.3:- Whether the suit is properly valued and whether proper court fee is paid thereon? If not whether the suit is beyond pecuniary jurisdiction of this court? What order?
3. Learned trial judge without giving opportunity to the parties to adduce any oral evidence held that the plaintiffs are jealous of the second defendants that they will get two flats in the proposed building. According to the learned Judge of the trial judge the plaintiffs have no cause of action to sue the defendants .According to the learned trial Judge the plaintiffs were not entitled to challenge the agreement between the first and second defendants and therefore the learned Judge, without recording any evidence upon issues framed ordered rejection of the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 (a) of the Code of Civil procedure. Hence appeals.
The plaint shall be rejected in the following cases :
(a) Where it does not disclose a cause of action:
(b) Where the relief claimed is undervalued, and the plaintiff, on being required by the Court to correct the valuation within a time to be fixed by the Court, fails to do so :
(c) Where the relief claimed is properly valued, but the plaint is written upon paper insufficiently stamped, and the plaintiff, on being required by the Court to supply the requisite stamp-paper within a time to be fixed by the Court, fails to do so :
(d) Where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law :
(e) where it is not filed in duplicate
(f) where the plaintiff fails to comply with the provisions of rule 9.
Provided that the time fixed by the Court for the correction of the valuation or supplying of the requisite Stamp-papers shall not be extended unless the Court, for reasons to be recorded, is satisfied that the plaintiff was prevented by any cause of an exceptional nature from correcting the valuation or supplying the requisite stamp-papers, as the case may be, within the time fixed by the Court and that refusal to extend such time would cause grave injustice to the plaintiff.
6. The relevant facts which need to be looked into for deciding an application hereunder are the averments in the plaint. The trial Court can exercise the power at any stage of the suit - before registering the plaint or after issuing summons to the defendant at any time before the conclusion of the trial. For the purposes of deciding an application under clauses (a) and (d) of O.7, R. 11, the averments in the plaint are the germane: the pleas taken by the defendant in the written statement would be wholly irrelevant at that stage. In Saleem Bhai and Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra And Ors, AIR 2003 SC 759, the question whether the plaint discloses a cause of action or not should be determined on the basis of averments made in the plaint alone and in order to ascertain the same, the plaint has to be read as a whole in a meaningful manner and the Court cannot consider the merits of the matter at that stage and the onus is on the defendant to show that the plaint does not disclose the cause of action and the plaint is liable for rejection only if it does not disclose a cause of action, but the plaint cannot be rejected in a case where there is no cause of action because it is sufficient if the plaint discloses some cause of action and the weakness, if any, in the plaintiffs' case as perceived by the defendant or the remoteness of the chances of success for the plaintiffs are irrelevant.
7. Cause of action means every fact which it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove, if traversed, in order to support his right to the judgment of the court. It is to be noted that to submit a plea that there was no cause of action for a suit is different from the plea that the plaint does not disclose any cause of action. In the latter case, it is the duty of the Court to decide the question before issuing the summons. A cause of action is a bundle of facts which are required to be proved for obtaining relief and for the said purpose, the material facts are required to be stated but not the evidence except in certain cases where the pleadings relied on are in regard to misrepresentation, fraud, willful default, undue influence or of the same nature. Clumsy drafting of the plaint need to be avoided. But so long as the plaint discloses some cause of action which requires determination by the court, the mere fact that in the opinion of the learned Judge the plaintiff may not succeed cannot be a ground for rejection of the plaint. In the present case, the averments made in the plaint, as has been noticed, do disclose some cause of action and, therefore, the powers under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code cannot be exercised for rejection of the suit filed by the plaintiff appellants. In the present case written statements were filed in both the suits. The issues were also framed. As issues were required to be framed and decided in view of the procedure under Order 14 of Civil Procedure Code. As normal rule, all issues so framed are to be answered and decided. Order 14 Rule 2 reads thus:
Court to pronounce judgment on all issues:-
(1) Notwithstanding that a case may be disposed of on a preliminary issue, the Court shall subject to the provisions of sub-rule (2), pronounce judgment on all issues.
(2) Where issues both of law and of fact arise in the same suit, and the Court is of opinion that the case or any part thereof may be disposed of on an issue of law only, it may try that issue first if that issue relates to-
(a) the jurisdiction of the Court, or
(b) a bar to the suit created by any law for the time being in force, and for that purpose may, if it thinks fit, postpone the settlement of the other issues until after that issue has been determined, and may deal with the suit in accordance with the decision on that issue.
8. The rule of procedure mentioned as above would make it clear that the trial Judge would be careful normally to observe the principal rule unless he has justification to depart from it and to adopt a short cut method to reject the plaint by avoiding answering all other issues arising in the case. Once pleadings are completed by the parties, the trial Judge has obligation as normal rule to frame the issues in respect of the averments made in the plaint and traversed by the defendants in their written statements so as to to meet all the issues in real controversy between the parties by a well reasoned Judgment. Even if judge decide to depart from the normal rule and frame preliminary issues and postpone all other issues arising on the basis of pleadings submitted and completed by the parties, the preliminary issues framed are required to be decided as stated in exceptions alone i.e. relating to the jurisdiction of the court and if the suit is barred by any law. The normal rule is to answer all issue framed after offering the parties an opportunity to adduce evidence thereon. This care was not taken in the present case.
9. Furthermore, in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the trial court's approach was erroneous to reject plaint without any application/motion taken out in this regard from the defendants, particularly when defendants had appeared in the suit and proceeded to file written statements to complete their pleadings. Learned judge concluded 'the plaint does not show cause of action' without giving opportunity to the parties to adduce evidence although three preliminary issues framed by him.
10. Under VII, Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure has limited application. It must be shown that the suit is barred under any law. Such a conclusion must be drawn from the averments made in the plaint. Different clauses in Order VII, Rule 11, should not be mixed up unreasonably while framing preliminary issues as has been done by the learned Judge. An application for rejection of the plaint may be filed on more than one ground specified in various sub-clauses of Order 7 rule 11, but a clear finding to that effect must be recorded. What would be relevant for invoking clause (d) of Order VII, Rule 1 of the Code is the averments made in the plaint. For that purpose, there cannot be any addition or subtraction. Absence of jurisdiction on the part of a Court can be invoked at different stages and under different provisions of the Code. Order VII, Rule 11 of the Code is one, Order XIV, Rule 2 is another. For the purpose of invoking Order VII, Rule 11(d) of the Code, perusal of averments in the plaint is enough. But The issues on merit of the matter, which may arise between the parties, would not be within the realm of the Court at the stage of passing order under Order 7 Rule 11. The issues framed upon pleadings shall not be the subject matter while passing an order under the Order 7 Rule 11 to reject the plaint. For the aforesaid reasons and in the circumstances of the case, the ingredients of either clause (a) or clause (d) of Order VII Rule 11 CPC are not attracted to the present case so as to render the plaint liable for rejection. Learned Judge in the present case, after the pleadings were completed, had proceeded ahead to the advanced stage of the suit i.e. under Order 14 of the Civil Procedure Code, in such situation, when issues in the suit were already framed, learned judge unreasonably reverted himself to the preliminary stage of the suit i.e. examination of the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11. Metaphorically and logically speaking, the running train would advance ahead to the next station on the way of it's destination station and would not revert back to the station already left behind.
11. Impugned order therefore is required to be set aside. Since pleadings are complete, Learned trial judge may decide all the issues arising in this case, upon taking evidence adduced by the parties or if the learned Judge wants to depart from the principal rule (1) of the Order 14, he shall give opportunity to the parties to lead evidence upon the preliminary issues framed under order 14 Rule 2 (a) and (b) relating to jurisdiction of the court and bar to the suit by any law and then decide the suit according to law. Hence order:-
Impugned order dated 03-08-2006 in S.C suit no. 3856 of 1999 and S.C suit no. 3857 of 1999 passed by the Bombay City Civil Court, at Mumbai is set aside. Parties to attend the trial Court on 28-10-2013. If the trial court wants to avail of exception under Order 14 Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the trial court shall give opportunity to the parties to lead evidence upon the preliminary issues framed relating to jurisdiction of the court and bar to the suit by any law or as a normal rule stated in Order 14 rule 1 the trial court may call upon the parties to adduce evidence upon all the issues framed and to decide the suit on merits and in accordance with law. Appeals are allowed accordingly. No order as to costs.