Karnataka High Court has said "Act of Registry (of court) is not an act of the court and therefore the immunity otherwise available to the court as such does not protect the Registry."
The court took this view while partly allowing a petition filed by an auction purchaser who had deposited amount in court pending completion of auction sale and even after two orders of the court, Registry did not deposit the amount in interest-earning scheme, in Nationalised Bank, leading the petitioner to suffer a loss of interest.
Petitioner S R Venkatesh Babu was the highest bidder on the auction process conducted in 2008, in regards to a property in Bengaluru. His bid having been accepted, he deposited a sum of Rs.77,00,000 with the respondent-Registry of the City Civil Court on January 12, 2009.
The Registry in terms of the court instruction, had executed and got registered a sale deed dated May 3, 2009, in favour of petitioner. However, the obstructors applications having been favoured by the Executing Court, a substantial part of the property comprised in the sale deed was ordered to be retained by the objectors. Petitioners, challenge in the high Court was negatived and only by granting some equitable remedy, petitioner retained a portion of the auctioned property, over which obstructors had no claim.
A recitification deed came to be executed in 2015, and the registry refunded an amount of sum of Rs.92,76,320, including the interest that had accrued due thereon, during period between August 1, 2012 and March 24, 2015.
Petitioner made an application under section 151 of CPC requesting the Executing Court to direct its Registry to pay him a sum of Rs.22,52,250, contending that his amount in deposit would have earned so much by way of interest, had the same been put in interest-earning-deposit in any bank since 2009. However, by the impugned order, the said application came to be negatived. This order was challenged in the high court.
Arguments by petitioner:
Advocate Abhinay Y T argued "There was a specific order by the court below directing the Registry to deposit his amount in an interest earning scheme in the Nationalized Bank, the Registry having not obeyed the same, is liable to reimburse the loss of interest, to the petitioner; although the court as such enjoys immunity, the same does not extend to the ministerial functionaries of it's Registry; after making good the loss, Registry can recover the same from it's erring officials."
The Registry opposed:
Addl. Advocate General R.Subramanya contended that the Registry acts as an extended arm of the Court and therefore, even if there is some mistake, that would not give a choate cause of action for maintaining the Writ Petition in the absence of a legal provision to the contrary; even otherwise also, there was lapse on the part of the petitioner in not seeking implementation of the lower court order for depositing his amount in bank; in any event, public law remedy does not avail to the petitioner.
The court said:
Despite these two orders, money of the petitioner was not invested in the bank deposit and no plausible explanation is forthcoming for not obeying the court order. During the period between 21.04.2009 and 31.07.2012, if petitioner's money was invested in the bank, it would have earned huge interest to his advantage and to the disadvantage of none; this having not been done by the Registry of the court below, petitioner is unjustifiably put to
loss of money and therefore, he is entitled to be suitably compensated; after all, act of the Registry is not act of the Court and therefore, the immunity otherwise available to the court as such, does not protect the Registry."
It added "Assuming for the sake of argument that the Registry is an extended arm of the Court, still it cannot claim immunity from the civil liability arising from it's inaction namely disobedience of the Court direction to invest petitioner's money in bank deposit."
As regards petitioners right to legal remedy: Court said "It arises from the 'maxim ubi jus ibi remedium,' which is a fundamental of any civilized legal system; he had the right to have his money invested in the bank deposit under the order of the Court below; the corresponding duty rested on the shoulders of the Registry of the Court below; petitioners right has been infringed and this act of infringement is a legal wrong from which the remedial right arises; it hardly needs to be stated that where there is a right, there has to be the remedy; a contra view militates against the notion of law and justice."
The court invalidated the order of the City Civil court and directed the Registrar City Civil court to "Calculate and pay to the petitioner within eight weeks [by way of damages] the interest at the rate of 4% per annum on a sum of Rs.60,82,869/- for the period between 1.07.2009 and 31.07.2012; this public money after payment to the petitioner shall be recovered in accordance with law from the erring officials of the Registry who are responsible for all this."
The court also requested Registrar General of High Court to circulate this judgment amongst all the Judges of Service Judiciary, so that accountability for the lapse is reinforced.
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