The distress of Trial Courts

25 Jan 2019

In this instant case, a single application was filed before the Trial Court by the plaintiff under Order 6 Rule 17 read with Section 151 CPC for amending the plaint and Order 1 Rule 10 CPC for impleading proposed defendants. The Defendants of the original suit so aggrieved by the order on such application passed by the learned Trial Court approached the High Court for revision.

The issues taken up and discussed by the Punjab and Haryana HC are discussed below in chronological manner:

1.         Directions to the Trial Courts:

The High Court in its Judgement gave directions to the trial Courts to not allow any such application in which two requests are clubbed as one-

“As a prophylactic, trial courts should disallow acceptance of such clubbed applications at the threshold, and if insisted, they should be returned forthwith to their owners with liberty to file them afresh by removing such patent defects. The mode adopted by the plaintiff in presenting two requests in one application can create havoc on the lis by impairing a Judge to think rationally and purposively when he is already overburdened with judicial work weighed in units. One application one order should be the norm scrupulously followed in the trial courts without any exception. If insisted, the Trial Courts should feel free to invoke their powers under Section 35B CPC to impose Costs.”

2.         Which application should be filed first?

The Court made it clear that in question of filing two separate applications, which one should be filed first-

“In the very nature of things the application under Order 1 Rule 10 CPC would have to be decided first to determine who should be added as parties in an ongoing suit. Once that is decided and if such parties are introduced each one of them would have a right to file their defence by presentation of a written statement admitting or denying the facts on which the plaintiff relies upon to obtain a decree. All such newly added parties would have a right to do many things including filing or presenting set offs and counter claims, applications under Order 7 Rule 10 & 11 CPC, raising issues of limitations, seeking recall of witnesses examined by the plaintiff in their absence to face cross-examination, demanding reframing of issues, relying on burden and onus, and god knows-what, and other lurking steps in the proceedings not known or imagined even to a trained legal mind.”

3.         The High Court should not be stressed-out!

The Court expressed it agony as every minute of the Court’s time squandered involves colossal expenditure which is incapable of calculation and therefore recompense-

“The High Court should not be stressed-out to deal with such a combined application compressed into one impugned order needlessly to unravel causing sheer wastage of its precious time in trying to separate what was so casually and mindlessly mixed-up in a cocktail by virtue of bad advice given by some trial lawyer to his client clubbing two disparate legal elements in a portmanteau application claiming amendment in pleadings and at the same time,in the same papers, seeking to introduce third parties in the pending litigation.

4.         ‘A Lawyer knows the law’; a presumption in law:

Bad legal advice tendered leading to filing of interlocutory applications is a judicially unacceptable legal principle or ground itself for generosity in interference-

“Poor legal advice given to a client may result in paralyzing many cases for years together causing incalculable injury to just causes needing prompt attention.”

If the Judge is expected to do his job so is the lawyer expected to assist the Court to the best of his ability. There is a presumption in law that a lawyer knows the law but there is no absolute presumption that a judge should know law. A judge is only called upon to balance the two sides of an argument presented before him.

5.         Suggestion to confer several powers on subordinate Judges:

The trial Courts can contribute in a large measure to this end by finding workable solutions thinking on their feet to do summary justice-

“But the bane is that the trial court unfortunately is not empowered to exercise summary jurisdiction of dismissal of misconceived,vexatious, frivolous, and mala fide applications designed only to obstruct the sound rhythm of a suit to achieve its target milestones within a reasonable time and bring it to fruition. Such power should deservedly be conferred on subordinate judges to deliver justice at the doorstep in limine without compromising the quality of justice delivered. But this is for Parliament to remedy and devise ways and means to achieve removal of obstructions designed to impede the life of a suit or wilt its many leaves.”

6.         Conclusive remarks:

“The predecessor trial Judge should have returned the joint application in 2010 itself from the dais to its owner and saved valuable time of the court.” “For the variety of reasons recorded above, I find no cogent ground to support the impugned order or to sustain it and to the contrary I think it is eminently fit to be set aside to avoid a failure of justice. It is accordingly so ordered. The matter is remitted back to the trial Judge for are-consideration. The respondent/plaintiff is left free to file two separate applications, one under Order 6 Rule 17 and one under Order 1 Rule 10 CPC.”

Hence, one application one order should be the norm scrupulously followed in the trial Courts without any exception. Because by separating the twin prayers, the Judge will get a single window view to deal with the facts of each of the applications separately and then he can properly apply relevant legal principles as may be involved to help him in arriving at just conclusions before any final opinion is expressed on each of them on their merits.

This would also help the appellate authority to see ultimately as to what weighed in the mind of the learned trial Court.

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